Over the past few days, Miguel Das Queah has become a common name in Guwahati after he showed the real face of a Guwahati-based doctor couple, who were arrested on May 5 for allegedly assaulting a minor.
Miguel Das Queah is a child rights activist from the northeastern state of Assam who helped the minor to get all forms of support after being freed from the clutches of the accused doctor couple, identified as Dr. Waliul Islam and Dr. Sangeeta Dutta.
It has been alleged that the couple tied their little daughter on their terrace in the blaring summer heat in the name of punishment. However, when the same came into the notice of Das, he made sure that the issue gained frontline focus as the offenders are an influential couple.
Being a victim of child abuses himself, Queah always wanted to work with children or issues around all forms of violence, especially on the issue of child sexual abuse.
Queyah shared detail about his revelation of the recent Guwahati child abuse case and many more with this publication.
How did you start your work as a child rights activist?
Though I don't like to speak about it too often, as that incident does not define me or my work, I have myself been a victim of sexual abuse as a child, and therefore I understand the suffering. I had always wanted to work with children on issues around all forms of violence, especially on the issue of child sexual abuse.
In 2011, my state didn't have a strong system to assist victims of violence. So, I started to work with affected children and their families to help them through the entire process of justice delivery, especially in cases of child sexual abuse. Victims and their families neither have the knowledge capacity nor are they in a psychological state to navigate the complex procedures of the law, and therefore I thought I should start a Support Person services programme in Assam.
Did you face any obstacles in your work as a child activist?
Obstacles were very few actually. In most cases that I handle, the offenders are generally people with influence. In the initial years, friends of powerful offenders would try to send across veiled threats. However, those issues stopped as these offenders clearly got the message that threats wouldn't work on me. So, personally, I didn't have to face any grave challenges.
My challenges are linked mostly to the bottlenecks that children have to face in their journeys for justice, which ignites some amount of anxiety in me. For victims, situations become challenging at times due to threats from the families of the accused. Since the Witness Protection Scheme of 2018, has not been implemented in Assam, I have to approach the Police every time there is a threat situation to the child.
Speedy disbursal of Interim Compensation, for victims of child sexual abuse is an area that is still a huge problem. Due to a lack of funds with the Legal Services Authorities, victims are not being able to access these welfare funds on time which is their right and can help in the rehabilitative process.
Other challenges are linked to the quality investigation, delayed chargesheets, and unending trial timelines. However, this area is being addressed progressively, after my close engagement with the Police and the Judiciary on various aspects of improving the child protection response system.
You have exposed the child-abusing doctor couple of Guwahati, Can you share the detail?
Since the 11th of March, 2023, I started to get information from anonymous sources that Dr. Waliul Islam and Dr. Sangeeta Dutta would keep their adopted child tied to a pole on their terrace on hot afternoons.
However, for me, it becomes difficult to intervene unless the informant is willing to identify themselves. They are crucial witnesses in the case.
Previously, I used to act upon all cases without any thought; however, after a few experiences of informants turning hostile and a defamation suit against me, I have made it a policy to respond to cases only when the informant is ready to identify themselves and are willing to testify against the accused during police investigation and trial.
In this particular case, I kept on urging upon the informants to have the courage to report. I assured all of them that once they report, I will support them to be protected from any form of threat from the doctor couple.
In fact, I also sent written information to the Child Welfare Committee, so that necessary steps can be immediately rolled out in case of an emergency.
Finally, one of the informants reported the incident to the Police, after which Dr. Waliul Islam was arrested.
Thereafter, I have been providing all forms of technical and procedural assistance to the Police and the Child Protection system to ensure that the child gets justice and rehabilitative support.
This case is one of the worse cases of violence against children that I have ever seen in my entire career. From illegal adoption, child battering and sexual abuse - these two children have had to endure the worst form of suffering in this Guwahati's house of horror.
How did you fight the influentials regarding this case?
I have been fighting influential people from the first day of my career. Be it in cases of child labour or child sexual abuse; the rich and the powerful, who are on the wrong side of the law and have harmed children, have always disliked me. But my aim is to focus on children, not on processing thoughts about the probability of harm from powerful offenders.
The Dr. Waliul and Sangeeta Dutta child abuse case has only started and I have been vocal as I have always been in all the other cases. There is still a long way to justice. So, I have to wait and watch what tricks they have kept hidden up their sleeves. But I think since they are the criminals, they should be scared of me rather than me being worried about what they are going to do to me.
I am here to fight for the rights of children and I always knew that it isn't going to be an easy task. I am not a very liked person in many circuits, due to my vocal nature.
Could you elaborate on the Assam Police's role in this case?
I believe Assam Police is one of the best in the country. And under the leadership of the Assam Chief Minister, this organization has grown by leaps and bounds.
I am a long-time partner with the Assam Police, through the Assam Police Sishu Mitra Programme, which is one of the largest child-friendly policing programmes in the country. I can undoubtedly say that through all its ups and downs, the Assam Police is still rife with officers who care for and are compassionate about children.
As is evident, the role of Guwahati Police under the leadership of Commissioner Diganta Barah has been nothing short of remarkable. Officers like DCP Akshat Garg, ADCP Nandini Kakati, and OC of Paltan Bazar Police Station Dipanta Phukan have been outstanding in all aspects of the investigation. Now, we look forward to a strong chargesheet that can bring justice for the child.
DGP GP Singh, Special DGP Harmeet Singh, and DIG Partha Sarathi Mahanta are also working in tandem to ensure justice and rehabilitation for the little child in this particular case - which is so encouraging for the little child.
What are your future plans?
I want to work with children across communities of Assam and the Northeast of India so that I can bring about a narrative of empowerment among children. I would like to work towards educating each and every child about their right to protection from all forms of violence.
I would also like to expand my social services to victims of child sexual abuse across Assam and provide them with exceptionally high-quality psychosocial and legal support services.
I also want to strengthen my partnerships with the Police, the Judiciary, the Health Departments, and the Social Welfare Departments across the Northeastern region - to work together for the implementation of child-related laws and to achieve the common goal of making child protection an absolute reality in the Northeast of India.
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