You'd expect the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to be an approachable, welcoming body, right? You'd expect it to have people who are benign, learned and kind, right? You'd expect it to be headed by persons who truly believe in an egalitarian society, right? And most of all, you'd expect it to have people willing to listen, right? Wrong.
I called the State Human Rights Commission in Chennai and asked to speak to one of its members - Justice S Thangaraj (former judge of the Madras High Court). When he came on the line, I wished him good afternoon, very politely, and introduced myself. Anyone who doesnt wish you back is strange. And he was. Undeterred I proceeded to ask him the status on a particular complaint and enquired when the investigation would be complete.
But instead of answering my questions, he began to yell at me! He ticked me off for nosing around and said I had no business filing such stories. Also, he made the bizarre allegation that I ought not to be calling him, but coming in person. So, if I was to land up at the SHRC office and find the venerable Justice S Thangaraj out of his seat, thats alright. Afterall, I have no business to try and speak with him on the phone before that!! It took me a moment to understand the ludicrous comment he had just made but when I finally recovered, to defend myself, he hung up on me mid-sentence and didnt pick up that line despite many attempts to call back.
My rationate is very simple - if this is how he treats me, this is probably how he treats people who appear before the Commission with complaints. And people who do are generally very poor, politically voiceless and deeply wronged. Upon such people we have unleashed the likes of Justice S Thangaraj.