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An honour for a humanist

February 9, 2011

Shri Chamanlal is one of the distinguished officers of Indian Police Service (IPS). While in service, he served in different capacities from being the Director General of Police of Nagaland state, to the Deputy Director General of Border Security Force and other similar positions in different parts of the country. He is very well-known for his efforts in arresting a large number of terrorists holed up in the Golden Temple at Amritsar without firing a single bullet. For this act of his, the nation responded by conferring the Padma Shri award on him. Chamanlalji continued his public service after his retirement and joined the National Human Rights Commission as its Special Rapporteur. During his tenure there, he worked to reduce bonded labour, set up standards for mental health institutions, and also established institutional frameworks for programs preventing starvation deaths in the KBK region of Orissa.

Shri Chamanlal is possibly one of the most humane persons that I have met. His concept of human rights goes beyond the traditional interpretations and extends to include not just civil and political rights, but also social and economic rights. In every program that he evaluates or interacts with, he constantly challenges traditional views and goes beyond mere numbers to understand whether human dignity and esteem are integral to these programs.

It is indeed apt that the Nani A. Palkhivala Memorial Trust conferred the Civil Liberties Award for the year 2010 on Shri Chamanlal. Nani Palkhivala, apart from being one of India’s leading jurists, was another strong votary of human rights. His arguments have not only been quoted in the Supreme Court of India, but also form the basis of many judgments in other apex courts worldwide. It was a privilege and an honour for me to represent SVYM at the award ceremony at Mumbai on the 7th of February 2011.

In a very noble gesture, Shri Chamanlal refused to accept the award money for himself and immediately distributed it to two organizations of his choice – one was the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and the other was the Bombay Mother & Child Welfare Society.

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