The room was suffused with a dim golden light emanating from a low- voltage bulb dangling from the roof. Her face looked dull and tired; slender neck circled by a scarf. Her gaze fixed at the bulb, she seemed to have fallen into a deep reverie.
This had been the usual scene of the Filori Jan’s room for the past 23 years since a stray bullet snapped her spinal cord and left her motionless. She got injured in a mysterious incident that took place in her village Mirbazar in Southern Kashmir’s Kulgam district in early 90s.
“She is bed-ridden ever since,” Saima Jan, her sister told NewsClick, adding “We had moved the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) that recommended that she should be provided compensation. They were planning to recommend it to the High Court. She had hopes to get compensation that would have helped her spend the rest of her life.”
It was six years ago that they appealed to the government for compensation through the SHRC and were hopeful. But all Filori Jan’s hopes dashed when the Centre decided to wind up the commission under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act that laid the framework for the reorganisation of J&K into two Union territories.
There are around 600 cases in the SHRC whose fate lies uncertain. “Nothing can be said about the future course of action regarding these cases, the record of which has been put under lock and key,” an official said.
Apart from SHRC, there are six other statutory bodies, including women’s commission, information commissioner, disability commission, consumer disputes redressal commission, electricity regulatory commission, that were closed down.
On October 23, 2019, the General Administration Department issued different orders mentioning “that consequent upon repeal of several state acts by Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, sanction has been accorded to the winding up of seven state commissions with effect from 31 October, 2019”-- the appointment date for the formation of Union territory of J&K and Union territory of Ladakh. The former will have a legislative Assembly whereas Ladakh will be administered by a Lieutenant Governor.
According to figures available with NewsClick, there are more than 4,000 cases of varied nature that are pending with these commissions, the fate of which hangs in balance owing to the non-serious attitude of the administration that has ordered the winding up of these commissions.
The staff associated with these commissions, in accordance to the order that has been issued, has been asked to report back to the parent departments, but there is as yet no indication of what the fate of these pending cases will be.
Sources told NewsClick that even if these commissions are reconstituted after October 31, the validity and the existence of cases stand nullified. As a result, the work that the commissions have so far executed or the cases that were to be followed up, have been brushed aside.
“No mechanism has been put in place to act as substitutes in the absence of the commissions, which could take care of pending cases,” the source said.
Shayees Ahmad Ganair, 29, had asked for a standard limb that could minimise his disability and was pursuing the case for the past seven years. “I met with an accident in 2012 resulting in the amputation of my right arm. The prosthetic limb was too heavy for me and I had applied for a lighter one. It weighed around 10-20 kilograms and was difficult to carry” he told NewsClick. Ganair was pursuing MA in political science at the time of accident. “I was normal and were pursing my career but am physically dependent now.”
Along with several other physically challenged persons. Ganair had filed an application that would have helped people with severe disability. “The final judgment was yet to come. So, all our work has been washed away,” he said.
Javeed Ahmad Tak, who represents the disabled community in Kashmir, told NewsClick that they had received no word from the government regarding the fate of their cases. “We have received no assurances from the government on whether we would get a replacement or not. We think we have to wait again, as disability is not the government’s,” he said.
Tak was worried about the funds that the government received under the Accessible India Campaign, “which was started by the Prime Minister and some funds were released. Under the programme, buildings would be made accessible by constructing lifts and ramps. The money remains unutilised,” he added.
Apart from the pending cases, there are several cases where the commissions had taken suo motu cognizance and had asked the agencies concerned to report to them with details. However, soon after the August 5 decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two UTs, work came to a grinding halt. The agencies that were to report to the commission adopted a laid-back attitude with regard to the cases, leaving the hapless. people in the lurch
The writer is an independent journalist based in Kashmir.