Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Ritscher sieht Fortbestand gesichert

Zusammen fördern wir den Kampf der Dalit-Gemeinschaft – der untersten Kaste in der dortigen Gesellschaft – für gleiche Rechte und ihre Anerkennung als vollwertige Menschen“, beschreibt die Remscheiderin, die sich seit 25 Jahren dafür einsetzt, häufig in Varanasi am Ganges gewesen ist, der heiligsten Stadt für Hindus.

Dort hat die PVCHR ihren Hauptsitz und zur dortigen Jubiläumsfeier eine Broschüre herausgegeben, die Helma Ritscher am 3. Juni auf Deutsch vorlegt. Sie unterstreicht die Anerkennung „Unterprivilegierter“ als Gleichberechtigte und die Zielrichtung der Hilfe: Bildung. Ritscher steht in engem Kontakt mit PVCHR-Präsident Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi; beide setzen sich auch für den Bau von Schulen in Indien ein,

#u4humanrights #pvchr #humanrights

Friday, May 20, 2016

Neo dalit concepts cited as example in context of masculinity, love, and music by http://www.humiliationstudies.org/

From Alban Berg’s Lulu, and the Journey from Humiliation to Dignity, from the “Machine Principle” to the “Life Principle” Evelin Lindner November 22, 2015

Khan concludes that the terrorists’ antipluralist mission is aimed at breaking the world into two opposed camps, jihadis and crusaders, locked in an apocalyptic battle, that fits into their own, reductive world view. Indeed, many analysists believe that the Paris attacks were deliberately designed to increase xenophobia and resentment. And they succeeded; attacks upon Muslims have increased in France and elsewhere. As former Islamic State captive Nicolas Hénin explains it: “They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.” The second example comes from the so-called Neo-Dalit movement in India, which identifies two main problems facing the country: a culture of impunity, and the context of market democracy and economic globalization: “…the Neo-fascist Hindutva project is used to perpetuate caste domination and allow the Indian leaders to realise profit by selling the country to national and international companies… this economic deregulation marginalised lower castes, and therefore, strengthened social division based on castes.” The suggested call for action goes as follows: In the final analysis, we wish to emphasise three ways that the Neo-Dalit movement must take to improve their political, economic and social conditions. First, we may fight against political repression and impunity by legal process. Many human rights organisations are already fighting the system to transform the Brahmanical ‘rule of the lord’ by coercing them respect the imperfect ‘rule of the law’. Secondly, the social impunity should be defeated by changing cognitive weakness. It made some people victim of their inferiority complex and other tormentors due to their superiority complex. We need to create commons forums for NeoDalit, in order to break the wall of silence, which leads to the acceptation of this situation. We Alban Berg’s Lulu 11 Evelin Lindner, 2015 need to launch a speech (read dialogue) process, which will teach them that they are equal and that they share common interest. PVCHR is developing nearly two hundred model villages based on concept of Neo-Dalit movement. The Neo-Dalit movement is a sign of hope, honour and human dignity for the most marginalised people facing discrimination based on race, caste, religion and gender. The Nelson Mandela model is the path for PVCHR’s Neo- Dalit movement to bring unity of different communities against the caste system, feudalism, communal-Fascism and Neo-Liberalism, through reconciliation for justice and human dignity against the culture of impunity based on silence. It promises to contribute, in posterity, to the pluralistic democracy in the world.

Read full article:

This is a story of an opera and how it applies to deep questions about the nature of reality, of what is and what ought to be. These questions pertain also to modern-day topics ranging as far as terrorism, gender relations, or music theory. This text starts with a brief description of the opera, and then addresses its relevance to concepts of masculinity, love, and music.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Lenin, my Friend: Empowering the Marginal, Restoring Dignity

Lenin, my Friend: Empowering the Marginal, Restoring Dignity



Veteran
journalist Mr. Arindam Roy profiles the life and times of the human rights
activist, Lenin Raghuvanshi, who has been working tirelessly to empower and
emancipate the lowest of the low among Dalits, the Musahars and Nuts. A
caste-driven society that functions on the exclusion of the Sanathan Dharma has
to be replaced with the democratic and secular Sramana traditions. He has been
championing the cause of the marginal and the voiceless, restoring dignity and
helping them with their identity as respectable human beings.
Please
find link as follows:






#u4humanrights
#pvchr #dalit #india #bharat #pluralism

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Towards Dawn: Combating Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Brick Kilns

Here's a story of pain, struggle and triumph.Looking into the world of oppression and slavery of those who build the bricks of our homes.This article is based on the work of our organisation PVCHR. Please find follows link;

Towards Dawn: Combating Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Brick Kilns

Lenin takes us through the sordid and macabre accounts of contemporary slavery in brick kilns, based on actual accounts of the hapless victims. Driven by hunger and starvation, many children die of malnutrition. When the bonded labourers ask for money for the treatment of sick children, they are beaten up, blue-black. Children die, young girls and women are sexually exploited. People cannot escape the debt traps and clutches of the brick kiln owners. They are hounded. Police are hand-in- gloves with the brick kiln owners. Against all odds, his organisation, Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), has stood up for the cause of the Dalit and Musahar victims. There is a new dawn of dignity and identity for hopeless victims. Here’s a special story, an in-depth report to combat and resolve the problems, on the occasion of May Day by Different Truths (DT) and PVCHR.
I pleaded before him several times and said my wife may die due to lack of medication but he remained cruel. I had no money and was worried. I thought to run away but his men were  around watching me so could not run away. At least my wife too died. We were crying and trying to wake up my wife but she didn’t. She died, weeping in pain. Whenever I remember those days, I weep and fear grips me from inside. I had to give my wife improper cremation, since I could not buy adequate wood for her. My two sons, who had lost their mother and sister, were also  broken. They wept and wailed.
I was broken and could not even support my sons emotionally.
It is due to the brick kiln owner that my daughter and wife are not in this world. He is responsible for what has happened. The unburnt portion of their bodies was eaten by dogs and I was cursing my poverty. Had the brick kiln owner given the labour charge, both would have been living with us. As we came back, the owner showed no humanity and both my sons were put to job without even having anything to eat. I too started work but spending every moment at that brick kiln was a pain. I thought had I not come here, my wife and daughter would have been alive… (from the testimony of 50 years old Patiraj Musahar, who spent his whole life working as bonded labour in a brick kiln).
This is not only the story of one Patiraj Musahar, but thousands of bonded labourers like Patiraj, who faced brutality, while demanding their wages and making the final closure of accounts. They are forever in debt traps.
Bonded labour is the worst form of human rights violation and contemporary form of slavery. It is violation of Right to Life, Right to Equality and Right to Individual Dignity, which are far more important. Landless poor, agricultural labourers, some artisans (who have no employment) are the main victims of this system. Workers employed in brick kilns are members of Schedule Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST) and minorities. They are mostly non-literate and non-numerate. They do not easily understand the arithmetic of loan/debt/advance and the documentary evidence remains with the creditor and its contents are never made known to them.
The provisions contained in Article 23 of the constitution prohibit all forms of forced labour, including beggary. It makes no difference whether the person, who is forced to give his labour or service to another, is remunerated or not. Even if remuneration is paid, labour put in by a person would be hit by Article 23. Particularly, if it is forced labour, i.e. the service has been rendered by force or compulsion. Article 23 strikes at all form of forced labour, even if it has its origin in a contract voluntarily entered into by the person obligated to provide labour or service. The legislation defining and banning bonded labour was approved by parliament, in 1976. The Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976, stipulates that the monitoring of labour violation and their enforcement are responsibilities of the state.
Living Conditions
A number of workers were not allowed to leave the brick kiln premise and were providing forced labour. Living conditions at brick kilns are very basic. Labourers lives in jhuggies (shanties) with bricks piled upon one another as walls and straw covering the top, which do not afford anyprotection against sun and rain. These are tiny hovels, where one has to sit to enter. And they are unable to stand inside. Generally, size of a shanty is 4 feet x 5 feet. Its height is 4 feet. In the name of shelter this is provided to each family. In this tiny room they have to manage their kitchen and keep their household goods. In the room, while sleeping workers cannot stretch their legs. This is more problematic for the pregnant mothers. In the morning, while getting out of the hovels, pregnant mothers get unbearable pain, while stretching their body. It also creates complications for them.
The provisions of ventilation, drainage, lighting, drinking water and sanitation facilities are absent. Workers have to relieve themselves in the open. Female workers have to bathe in the open. Absence of adequate privacy, particularly for married women workers causes psychological stress.
The employers’ unions and the representatives linked with brick kiln industry have signed a Code of Conduct to ensure proper documentation of the workers and basic facilities at worksite. As a part of Code of Conduct, they shall help and facilitate education of children of the workers, open of bank account, ensure availability of clean and safe drinking water. But, there is no implementation of the Code of Conduct in brick kilns:
  • Only one hand pump are in brick kiln to quench the thirst of 70 bonded labourers, on an average.
  • No crèches for children below 5 years. There is not statistic of children in the brick kiln with their parents.
  • No construction of room by the brick kiln owners and children are drop outs.
  • No facilities of health services
Women’s Conditions
Women workers comprise about half of the total work force in every brick kiln. Women workers are deprived of all statutory benefits and amenities like maternity benefits, creche, fixed working hours, etc. The health and the dignity of the women are entirely neglected at the brick kiln. Furthermore, the female workers face sexual abuse and violence. Health facilities are completely neglected there.
Women experience violence because they are women, and often because they do not have the same rights as men. No woman in a brick kiln is exempt from violence and exploitation. In the worst situation at kilns, women are raped or economically forced or left with little choice but to serve as sex slaves.
The clerks take advantage of the situation because drinking water and fuel (wood) are next to his office. While availing these facilities, female workers are abused by the clerks. The most common thing women face is, “You take the wood and you will give nothing in return.” The brick kiln is not only to earn for their livelihood by such clerks or owners, but also to enjoy with the women (from testimony). These inhuman acts of clerks increase the domestic violence within the family. When these women share their agonies with their husbands, they are subjected to domestic violence. And this conflict provides opportunity for the clerks for making women workers their sex slaves.
The pregnant mothers are allowed to leave the work and the brick kiln a day before delivering the child. Till then they get no reprieve in the work and are even ill-treated by the brick kiln employers with abusive words such as, “You will deliver a child like a bitch (Kutiya biyan ketarah baccha paida karbu)”. After 15 days of delivering a child, the mother has to return back to their work.
As far as social security and development is concerned, female workers in brick kiln factories are far away from attaining the benefit under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). During the time of pregnancy they are not immunised and do not get iron pills. The ANM (Auxillary Nurshing Mother) and Asha never visit their brick kilns. The mothers have to leave the job for a day and carry her children for many kilometers for getting them immunised in hospitals. Due to lack of medical facilities Kila Musahar lost her three-year-old child.
Children
The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is a Government of India sponsored programme. It is 
Indi’;s primary social welfare scheme to tackle malnutrition and health problems in children below 6 years of age and also their mothers.

Its programme for the three-to six years old children in the Anganwadi is directed towards providing and ensuring a natural, joyful and stimulating environment, with emphasis on necessary inputs for optimal growth and development.
Children between age group 0-6 years spend 9 months along with their mother in the brick kiln industry. Lack of employment opportunity and helplessness of the parents force them to stay in the brick kiln, in the absence of social security. The pressure for higher productivity does not provide time to mothers to take care of their young children. The small children are compelled to nurture their childhood in the worst inhuman conditions.
I, with my small children, haul the bricks from early morning 4 am to noon and from 2 pm to 6 pm. The ration I get from PDS shop is only sufficient to feed the family for 10- 12 days. So, to overcome the shortage of food for more than half a month, we eat very little (adha pet khana). My children drive the loaded sagadi (trolley) and adults push it. We strive hard in heat waves and when we feel hungry then we take a small sip of water and console ourselves. In that condition, I keep my two small children (Melhu and Rani) nearby so that I have an eye on them.
When I pass in front of them, looking at me Melhu and Rani used to cry for food. Feeling the hunger of the children, I hold back my tears and start to concentrate on the work. Even after backbreaking, hard labour, we are unable to feed our children or ourselves properly.
Meanwhile, both children crawl and come to me. But, due to the fear of the clerk and to complete the work, I thrash them and force them to sit at their assigned place. I tried to concentrate on work but all I see are the hungry and wailing faces of my two children. I can’t even cry. My tears have dried.
Slowly Rani became malnourished. I took her to a nearby doctor but I saw no improvement in her condition. At last I took her to primary health center, in Pindra, where the doctor advised me to give nutritious diet to her. I have no penny to feed her. I took advance from brick kiln owner. I again took her to a hospital where the doctor said that your daughter is so weak that it is impossible for her to survive. During treatment Rani died (from testimony of Kamla).
Children in and around the brick kiln areas are drawn into labour, as they tend to help their parents by arranging the bricks for drying and collecting the broken and improperly moulded bricks. Due to the tenancy system, the women and children are not counted as workers. It is the trend by the employers to show men as employees. It provides opportunity to escape from ensuring the service to women and children. Once they get older, they are drawn into the trade,having being trained from a young age. This age group is the most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The National Policy of Children 2013 declares that all children from 0 to 18 years need to be protected and provided with all the facilities of health, education, nutrition and protection.

Under the Right to Education Act, 2009, it is responsibility of the government school situated near to the brick kiln and also the government school in their home town to enroll these migrant children. But due to the lack of awareness, it nurtures to create a bulk of labour. (Indian childhood: How to grow without Perspective).
Human Trafficking
Trafficking of children (half of whom are between 11 and 14 years of age) and women is a plague of the poor. Trafficked children are subjected to physical and sexual abuse and treated as slaves, with debt bondage being one of the many tools employed to trap children into perpetual servitude. Radha (name changed), who is originally from a tribal community in Jharkhand state, is among India’s vast population of trafficked children, who are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse.
I was with my family when a woman called Shanti visited us. She told me to accompany her. She was from our village, so I trusted her. She said she was going to take me to a fair. But this woman had tricked me and forced me to go to the brick kiln factory. There I had to work for the owner, do his cooking and cleaning, and also massage him. Two days after I arrived he forced himself on me. He used to give me a tablet and then he would violate. My room was next to where the owner worked and every time he wanted me, he would come to my room. He would come two or three times a day. I told that woman Shanti that I didn’t like it, and she said that “If you tell anyone, the owner will kill you.” One day I opposed it, and the owner beat me up brutally. I was so scared. The brick kiln owner was in his sixties, had no teeth, used to drink a lot, and force me to drink alcohol as well. When I refused, he used to hit me. I’m still in pain from the rapes (from Radha’s testimony).
Low Wages
The wage rates vary from one brick kiln to another. It starts from Rs. 250 to as high as Rs. 350 for making 1000 bricks. In a day, a couple with the help of their children makes 1000 of bricks.Now, the record for making brick in a day is kept with the clerk. Earlier, the worker used to get acopy. In the weekend they get small money for food and other necessities and final settlement done in the end of season. In between, the brick kiln owner does not pay a single penny.

I pleaded before him several times and said my wife may die due to lack of medication but he remained unmoved and cruel. I had no money and was worried. I thought of running away but his men were around watching me. I could not escape from them(testimony of Patiraj Musahar).
Most of the workers do not receive final settlement from the brick kiln owners. While demanding their remaining amount they face torture and threat.
Working Hours
The brick kiln does not have fixed working hours. In summer they work for the whole night and in winter throughout the day. They have one day weekly off. On that day they take bath and buy the necessary things from market. During the peak season they are forced by the brick kiln owner to work for the longer hours. Sometimes they work 16 hours a day, between 4 am and 8 pm. The labour at the brick factory is exhausting. All the more tragic is the fact that even the children are made to work.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
Everything had been fine there for initially three months. One day, Santara aged about 7 years, daughter of Bholu, one of the labourers, got ill. Bholu asked for money for her medicine. The owner said the he had no money. He asked Bholu to do his work and began to beat him mercilessly. The owner was drunk. He trashed Bholu so ferociously that he was seriously injured.
But he continued his work, and when he got his weekly wage then went for medical treatment of his daughter. But the health condition of Santara had deteriorated, as she had been suffering from fever. Again I, along with Bholu, went to the owner and told to him that his daughter has been suffering from fever for last three days and requested him to give some money. Hearing this, the owner abused us and commanded us to continue with our work. We felt insulted and wanted to quit the work but we could not do that because the owner has employed a person to watch us, so that we could not go away. The owner used to threaten us very often. He used to threaten by saying, “If you people ever try to run away, I will throw you in the brick kiln furnace.” He used to abuse our women, using filthy language. We were in great difficulties and were looking for a chance to get away from there.
When the incidents of atrocities increased, one day at 3.am, early in the morning, we decided to leave the place. We went on foot 8 km. to reach Ayar Bazaar. From there we went to Pindra. During this time, we were so frightened that even today we can’t forget it. For two days, without eating anything, we were hiding ourselves. Then a man from our community told our story to a local leader and he gave us shelter for two days. Meantime, we tried to phone a number of persons. First of all, we contacted Santosh Patel, who provided us with the telephone No. of Station Officer of Phulpur police station and Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM). We contacted them but nobody came forward to help us. One activist of PVCHR assured us not to be worried and asked us to come to the Tehsil, on Tehsil Divas. But we were afraid of the brick kiln owner and told him if the owner would see us he would beat us and would take us to the brick kiln by force. Then he came to us and after knowing the facts he lodged complain with the concerned officials. We went to our hovels, but we were afraid of a heavy attack on us by the brick kiln owner.
Even after a month of our complaint, the owner continued to search us. Whenever he used to come to our village on his vehicle, we used to run away from our homes. Two persons among us always used to watch whether or not any vehicle of brick kiln owner was spotted in the village. In the morning, when we used to wake up, the fear of brick kiln owner haunted us. But after one month, when we met with the District Magistrate, Varanasi, and complained to him in writing about our problems, there was relief.
But, whenever we think or talk about our sufferings, we feel our head ache and throb, and it seems that everything is moving around us. When we remember the threatening of the brick kiln owner or when we see him, we turn numb.
We went to Tehsil and told our difficulties to the Station Officer (SO) of Phulpur police station. Having heard everything from us and after knowing about the owner, he assumed us to go home and to live without fear. After few days some policemen came to our Basti and talked with our women and then they told us to strike a compromise with the brick kiln owner, otherwise we would have to face problems. When we came back to our community, we were informed of the police threatening. We are still living under fear and have been deprived of employment (from testimony of Ram Dayal).
Sometime few bonded labour manage to escape from the brick kiln factory but it takes a long time to attain the release certificate after identification and release and there is no effective, meaningful and permanent rehabilitation of these labours. They run from pillar to post to get rehabilitation amount of Rs. 20, 000/- but due to the apathy from the administration their conditions remain vulnerable.
After eight continuous years, on 23-11- 2008, the SDM of Varanasi had given order to release us from bonded labour. I received a copy of order of court. A copy of that order was sent to police station Adampur. So the SHO made a call for Altaf ur Rahman. At this two men of Altaf ur Rahman came to me and took me to his gaddi (office). Abusing me, he forcefully made me put my signature on stamp. He threatened that he would make me homeless and my family helpless. He also admonished me that I have teenage daughter. He warned me to think about my all family. Hearing this, I became afraid and signed on the stamp paper. My statement had been taken in the CO office, in Kotwali, and police station Adampur.
Today, I am free. However, he continuously threatens me. Presently, I am working according to my will. If I get rehabilitation compensation, I will set up my own loom and bring raw material, so that I might start my traditional occupation. Now family is very happy. I am feeling unlimited pleasure after telling you my story and I feel an internal relief. Now, I believe that there is someone, who cares for deprived and poor people like me (from testimony of Amirullah).
Amirullah’s father Sidiqullah died but he did not receive the rehabilitation amount of Rs 20,000/- The gap between identification and release, on the one hand, and release and rehabilitation, on the other, is clear and pronounced. One account of such a gap, the freed bonded labourers lapse back to the vulnerable conditions. Their situation is precarious.
The influence and muscle power of brick kiln owners are the main reasons in the hurdle for identification, rescue and rehabilitation, which is sharp due to the evils of caste system in India.
After looking at me he started to abuse me, using filthy words, “I will throw you and human rights off”The SO slapped me and gave his mobile to call Mahatim. When I was taking with him, Arvind Yadav snatched the phone and started to abuse him, “You have became the father of Human Rights, you have grown up, you became a leader, you bastard.” The SO also abused me, “You have became a Human Rights Officer bigger officer than me. I was detained in the police station for two hours and during that time I had to clean the police chowki.
Around 5 pm, Arvind Yadav took me, with him, to his house and shoved his small gun on my head and said, “Your father is not caught.” He abused me. He took me to his aunt house and locked me in a room, where foodgrain was stored. Around 11 pm, an old lady gave me a mat. There was no light in the room. I could not sleep the whole night due to fear.
Next day morning, around 5 am, Arvind Yadav came and took me to do the work. He again locked me in that room after 6 pm. That time he only gave me a little food to eat. He asked me to ease in the same room.
The following day, on April 9, 2012, morning they took me to Saidpur district court and took my thumb print on a blank paper. Around 1 pm, I returned and got engaged in the work.
On April 10, 2012, when I was working, he called me and gave his mobile to talk with my father and demanded a ransom of Rs 2 lakhs. Meanwhile, he started to beat me up brutally and the phone got disconnected. After beating me again he rang and abused my wife, Guddi, and threatened. He added, “I will also see Mahatim.” Now, it’s our (read Dalit) rule and the government is also ours.
Again he took me to the same labour officer and forcefully recorded my statement that my father took an advance of Rs 2 lakhs, and said that he will hand over me to the office of Human Rights.
Both Arvind and Pappu Yadav parked the car near PVCHR office and after half an hour they returned. After sitting in car, they threatened me again. When we all started to move towards Gazipur, I saw the lane of PVCHR office and I jumped off from the running car and rushed to the PVCHR office. When the owner came to PVCHR office and did not find me there, they returned back (testimony of Tinku Musahar).
On December 16, 1983, the state government drew up a scheme or programme for rehabilitation of the freed bonded labourer in the light of the guidelines set out by the secretary (L), GOI. in his circular letter dated 02.09.82.
Not only these survivors require rehabilitation to cope with a host of emotional, physical,  and psychological needs, they also grim face economic difficulties. But most of them do not even have a proper place to live. They continue to live in slums, without any access to water, electricity, sanitation, etc.
Challenging the impunity through breaking the silence is based on eliminating fear, phobia, hopelessness and fragmentation of the survivors in an empathetic, safe and secure environment. Their fragmented story changed into consolidated one, which convinced the district administration to grant the release certificates.
The release certificate is not only a legal document for the physical release of the survivors but it is a symbol of their identity and dignity. After receiving release certificate from ADM (Administration), Varanasi, Siddiquillah took a long breath of relief and said, “I will not die as a bonded labour”.
The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, provided punishment for compelling a person to engage in bonded labour. In addition to the prescribed punishment for forcing persons into bonded labour, the act, by a declaration, frees everyone from bonded labour and prohibits contractual agreements, facilitating bonded labour, and continuation or extension of any pre-enactment agreement of similar nature.
PVCHR Initiative
PVCHR started its journey from 1996 to work on the child labour free village, and, in 2002, I, the founder and CEO of PVCHR, was appointed member of District Vigilance Committee on Bonded Labour, under the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976, by the then Governor of UP.
PVCHR released and rescued 243 bonded labourers, in continuation of releasing nearly three thousand bonded labour by PVCHR. All released bonded labourers belong to Dalits, tribal, OBCs and minorities communities. So, elimination of slavery of bonded labour is eliminating of caste system, fascism, communalism and patriarchy.
Psycho-social and legal support to survivors
PVCHR provides psychological and other direct assistance to the survivors. The survivors are able to transform their private pains into a meaningful political campaign. This contributed to the breaking of the culture of silence and brokenness of the survivors. They are transformed as human rights defenders. The nature of honoring the victims, in society, becomes the driving force for them to pursue their cases and become survivors and human rights defenders. As a survivor, the person manages to reclaim his/her voice. Survivors become empowered and they defend fellow victims, who still might not have overcome their untold agonies.
After the honour ceremony, the survivors expressed satisfaction with the process and this ritual became a ‘turning point’ in the healing process. Seemingly, the ceremonial element represented the much needed social recognition. It re-connected the survivors with their community and ensured that their private truths became part of the social memory. The ceremonies organised are as follows:
  1.  A public demonstration in front of Government Head Quarters
  2.  At “Folk School” meetings – popular schools for the poor and marginalised meetings
  3.  At community center’s meetings in the villages
  4.  At street plays & singing
  5.  Peoples’ tribunals that is hearing bringing attention to critical human rights issues
  6.  At religious institutions (for creating broader solidarity)
  7.  At forum for survivors
Meta Legal Intervention
Complaints in a standard complaint format from victims of torture and organised violence (TOV) are taken by trained Human Rights workers. Torture victims needing assistance, go to one of the workers associated with PVCHR, where their complaint is recorded. Thereafter, this complaint is drafted into letter by the Human Rights workers and sent to the relevant government authorities such as the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), District Magistrate (DM), the headquarters of the police officers, in the relevant province, and also to the Human Rights institutions at provincial and national level.

The same letter is forwarded to the PVCHR central office. Afterwards, the central office of the PVCHR contacts the relevant Human Rights worker, who has sent the letter, gets further information, and thereafter, writes the complaints, as a petition as meta legal intervention and  sends it to regional organisations, such as Forum Asia and international organisations like frontline, OMCT, FIDH, Amnesty International, etc by email. The PVCHR also drafts letters for the relevant UN Rapporteurs and other UN agencies, and informs them about the incident. The PVCHR appeals to the local government authorities and Human Rights Institutions at national and provincial level. In urgent cases, PVCHR releases Urgent Appeal (UA).UA is created a lot of pressure on government from national and international forums.
In cases involving female victims, exceptional care is taken to ensure that the victims are handled by human rights defenders and lawyers from the same sex. The network group has already evolved solidarity strategies to keep the victim away from public curiosity during court hearings by accompanying the victim to the court or to the police stations. Care is given for separate testimonial therapy to the victim by experts, who are aware of the gender sensitivity in the issue.
Legal Intervention
In the past, PVCHR has filed cases of public importance before the High Court, under Article 226 of the Constitution, on the basis of violation of the fundamental rights, particularly violation of Article 21, which guarantees rights against torture cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment under right to life.
Medical Support to Victims of TOV
PVCHR provides medical assistance to many bonded labourers because often the victims are re-victimised, at the time of treatment. In order to avoid this, and if circumstances warrant, support are provided for the victims to undertake medical treatment to help them heal their injuries. However, it doesn’t mean that the project provides medical treatment to all survivors.
The situation warrants utmost care in case of women victims. Often hospitals can be a place of further persecution for women victims. Corruption in the system and the lack of proper understanding of psychological trauma, often poses the risk for a woman victim being subjected to sexual abuse, insults at the hospital.

Protection
The PVCHR has, over the years, developed its own means of providing protection to the victims. This was necessitated by recurring and increasing threats to the victims, their family members and other witnesses. As of today, there are no witness protection mechanisms in India. Witness and victim protection has, at no time, been a matter of priority or concern for the state or for any state institutions, in particular the court. Often requests for protection are turned down by the court.
Prevention of torture is not possible without strong action being taken up by the network for the protection of victims and the Human Rights defenders. Given the extremely serious threats that exist for the victims of torture, the witnesses and human rights defenders protection is an important component of this project.
Protection of victims has been done in the past by various activities. PVCHR shall continue to provide shelter, accompanying victims to the courts and the police stations, staying along with the victim, relocating victims to neighboring areas, issuing repeated public appeals, working closely with good police officers and seeking protection from court are some of the examples.
Solidarity
“Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition of our most expansive self-interest. From the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable.” ~ Aurora Levins Morales
The most important knowledge is what difference it makes to the people. We should inspire people – they
 want to be “heroes in their own life story” through process of testimonial / honour, ceremonies of testimonial therapy. With a view to create solidarity across social and economic boundaries, PVCHR has also been successful in organising ceremonies with victims of different types of violence i.e. victims of bomb blast, police torture, bonded labourer, domestic violence. These victims have represented different casts, gender and religion.

PVCHR is developing the block level and village level organisation building process in formal way to 50 percentage participation of women in leadership through leadership development process as united solidarity to fight back TOV, in a sustained way, as independent peoples’ action. Leadership building training, Kajari Mahotsav, door-to-door campaign and Neo-Dalit movement are the major activities of United Solidarity Movement (USM).
The USM is fighting back the roots cause of TOV and for economic development.
Economic empowerment is to enhance the access of marginalised communities on governmental schemes, services related to food security, such as, Rural Employment Guarantee Act, etc and common property resources through breaking the silence, eliminating the fear, organisation building based on imparting knowledge, education and building solidarity based on ‘one for all and all for one’.
The Kajari Mahotsav facilitates the elimination of the caste feeling as both the upper and lower castes participate together. Women folk school on Neo- Dalit became a great opportunity to unite on the basis of reconciliation, democracy, secularism and nonviolence. By the end of the process, people light up the candles to usher the forging of unity of those, who experienced brokenness. It is the unity against the caste system – the historical system of exclusion. It is also a unity of all poor from all communities against suffering.
PVCHR understands the value of testimonial therapy (TT) for creating understanding and public  solidarity. The soft narrative of the victims is used to create compassion and emotional support. The voices of the victims are in the written narratives and are brought to the policy makers. The well written TT stories are like “soft feelings” in comparison with the legal urgent appeals and it is documented to hereby contributing to a positive reaction by an otherwise unsupportive Indian media. Even international media has taken up the TT stories. The TT stories were also during the recent UPR review of India.
Rehabilitation of Community
The mushars reside in Mahadev Nagar, a mushar ghetto, in village Sakra, block and jurisdiction Rampur, Madiyaho, in Jaunpur district. They work in the brick factory near the village, which is owned by one of the landlords. PVCHR adopted that village with the support from Global Fund for Children and started first pre primary center (PPC) and non formal center (NFE) and started mid-day meal in centre of two rooms constructed in the land of Mahatim Musahar. Their first generation started to go to school.
The Musahars of Sakarabasti are associated with many government schemes such as Lohiya Gramin Awas Yojana, children are enrolled in government school, ration card, etc. The migrant workers are giving guardianship of their children to their parents or relatives. For the sustainable development of the community, pumping set for irrigational water was installed and seeds were distributed. It might be noted that Musahar of Sakara received 7-acre land, which was made fertile with the support of PVCHR.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Inequality and the Caste System in India

http://socialjusticeandthecommongood.blogspot.in/2016/03/student-blog-5-inequality-and-caste.html


Student Blog #5: Inequality and the Caste System in India

...but there the laws of religion, the laws of the land, and the laws of honour, are all united and consolidated in one invariable system, and bind men [sic] by eternal and indissoluble bonds to the rules of what, amongst them, is called his [sic] caste.
Edmund Burke (1852:310)

Just the other day, the Starphoenix ran a story about a couple in India who were attacked with machetes for having married outside their caste. The wife remains in intensive care while the husband sadly succumbed to his wounds. Despite being caught on CCTV cameras the attackers remain at large (The Starphoenix 2016).

Discrimination based on caste – including prejudice against “untouchables” or “Dalits”, “backwards castes”, and other markers of difference based on descent – is a significant social justice issue in contemporary Indian society. Caste is a complex system of social stratification which allows for little, if any, possibility for social mobility outside of the particular caste into which one is born. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) approximately 260 million people are affected by caste-based discrimination worldwide, most of whom reside in the South Asian countries of Nepal and India (HRW 2016). Low caste people regularly suffer discrimination in many forms, including perpetual extreme poverty, degrading and humiliating work, violence enacted by upper caste militias and police, and obstacles towards accessing education. Furthermore, women experience additional discrimination due to intersections between caste, gender, and poverty, which put them at even greater risk of sexual assault, forced sex work, violence and indignity through crimes from which the perpetrators walk with impunity (HRW 2016). Despite caste-based discrimination being rendered illegal under India's constitution since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, corruption within the justice system and ineffective bureaucracy makes filing complaints and seeing justice enacted remains prohibitively complex and ineffective for most people.

Last summer I had the opportunity to connect with a very interesting organization working to end caste-based discrimination in the villages surrounding the city of Varanasi, India. The Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) was started in 1996 by Lenin Raghuvanshi and his wife Shruti Nagvanshi, along with musician Pandit Vikash Maharaj, poet Gyanendra Pati, and historian Mahendra Pratap. I was lucky enough to get to meet with Dr. Raghuvanshi for an afternoon to hear about his personal story and the projects in which the PVCHR are involved, and I was inspired by their breadth of scope and creative approaches to community-based social justice work.

What initially prompted me to seek out the PVCHR was a personal question that I had about the appropriateness of applying universal human rights – which I regarded as a Western construct – in non-Western cultural contexts. It is not that I was in any way in support of exploitation based on caste due to reasons of cultural relativism, but rather skeptical of the use of the language of human rights by aid organizations that apply western interpretations of human rights to developing countries. While there are certainly examples from the last six decades to suggest that human rights language can be mobilized for imperial purposes, my brief time at PVCHR helped to shift my thinking towards the possibility for social justice initiatives to use the language of human rights in an effective culturally attentive way through community based work.

Though textual evidence confirms that forms of the caste system have existed for hundreds of years in the Indian subcontinent, the contemporary form of right-wing Hindu nationalism which promotes casteism – known as the Hindutva movement as championed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organization – was formed in the 1920s as a manifestation of British colonialism (The Kashmir Scenario 2014). Alternatively, PVCHR identifies tolerant, plural, and syncretic threads in Indian society throughout history, promoted by famous figures such as Kabir and Raidas in the 15th century. As such, the question of caste politics is open to change from within the society itself and to assert alternative forms of political, social, and religious identity against fascist political currents is by no means an imperial act, but is rather a radical act of social justice. Rauna Kuokkanen notes a semantic distinction, used by the International Indigenous Women's Forum (FIMI), between “harmful traditional practices” and “violence in the name of tradition”, which I think illuminates the realization that I experienced while listening to Dr. Raghuvanshi and other people at the PVCHR (Kuokkanen 2014:133).

While the work of the PVCHR began as an advocacy group for low-caste peoples it has grown to include intersectional initiatives working against neoliberal capitalism, nationalism, and fascism, towards supporting justice for women, Muslim minorities, children's rights to education and food, labour groups such as auto-rickshaw unions and weaver's cooperatives, and victims of police torture, to name a few (PVCHR 2011). The PVCHR are just one example of grassroots organizations around the world working to enact change where the official avenues fail to deliver justice to marginalized groups. While I remain skeptical about some of the “official” mobilizations of human rights discourse I believe that the language of human rights can offer a framework for grassroots social justice struggles.

- Thomas Seibel

References

Burke, Edmund. 1852. The Works and Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Volume 7. London: Francis and John Rivington.

Human Rights Watch 2016. https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/11/un-human-rights-council-general-debate-ending-discrimination-based-caste-and-descent

The Kashmir Scenario. April 13th, 2013. “The need of the hour is to create new dynamics and debate within India: Lenin Raghuvanshi”. URL: http://thekashmirscenario.com/2014/04/13/prominent-activist-co-founder-peoples-vigilance-committee-human-rights-pvchr-lenin-raghuvanshi-conversation-mushtaq-ul-haq-ahmad-sikander-early-life-influences-work-h/

Kuokkanen, Rauna. 2014. “Confronting Violence: Indigenous Women, Self-Determination, and International Human Rights”, in Indivisible: Indigenous Human Rights. Joyce Green, ed. Fernwood Publishing: Halifax.

The Starphoenix. March 15th, 2016. “Graphic video shows Indian 'untouchable' hacked to death after marrying upper-caste woman”. URL: http://thestarphoenix.com/storyline/graphic-video-shows-indian-untouchable-hacked-to-death-after-marrying-upper-caste-woman

PVCHR 2011. “Call for a neo-Dalit movement to overthrow feudalism, neo-fascism and neo-liberalism through a popular action”. URL: http://www.pvchr.net/2011/07/call-for-neo-dalit-movement-to.html

#pvchr #leninraghuvanshi #lenin #u4humanrights