Activism and Dalit politics
31 July 2008, Thursday
DR LENIN Raghuvanshi is an icon in Uttar Pradesh among the Dalit community and the victims of caste based discrimination, torture and other types of exploitations. Lenin is convener of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). PVCHR was founded in 1996, with the objective of making child labour free villages. Lenin learned by working from the beginning that, structure of village in India is the ring of exploitation. His views on caste based exploitation, discrimination and social change took shape while he worked with child labourers and bonded labourers. He realised that caste, not class, was at work.
By the end of 1996, Lenin was championing the rights of lower-caste people. Early experiences taught him that confrontation was dangerous and not the most effective method. Increasingly, Lenin recognised caste in all kinds of social conflict and envisioned a movement that could break the closed, feudal hierarchies of conservative slums and villages by building up local institutions and supporting them with a high profile and active human rights network.
Instead of tampering with the symptoms, caste needed to be tackled by both its horns. On the one hand, he created a democratised structure for the voiceless to enable them access to the constitutional guarantees of modern India and on the other, his innovative advocacy forced the state’to sensitise its mechanisms to deliver social justice in a manner where justice is not only done, but perceived to be done.
Ensuring implementation of policy into practice regarding this, Lenin has initiated Jan Mitra Gaon, or the people-friendly village. These villages have durable local institutions that work to promote basic human rights in the face of continuous discrimination. Lenin has adopted three villages and one slum initially, which include reactivating defunct primary schools, eliminating bonded labour, promoting girls to get education. The approach of the organisation is two-fold: To have a strong grassroots organisation to work for democratic rights of those in marginalised communities and second, to create the structure and dynamics to receive the assistance of national and international institutions.
Lenin’s work marks a shift in the Indian human rights movement, which has been reluctant to address injustices in the name of caste as a fundamental human rights issue. He is one of only a handful of activists to declare that such discrimination goes against democratic principles by promoting inequality.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Dalit Politics and PVCHR
Prashant Bhagat 30/7/2008 5:46:13 PM(IST)
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi is an icon in Uttar Pradesh province of India among the dalit community and the victims of caste based discrimination, torture and other types of exploitations. Lenin is convener of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR). PVCHR is founded in 1996 with the objective of making child labour free villages. Lenin learned by working from the beginning that, structure of village in India is the ring of exploitation. His views on caste based exploitation, discrimination and social change took shape while he worked with child laborers and bonded laborers. He realized that caste, not class, was at work. By the end of 1996, Lenin was championing the rights of lower-caste people. Early experiences taught him that confrontation was dangerous and not the most effective method. Increasingly, Lenin recognized caste in all kinds of social conflict and envisioned a movement that could break the closed, feudal hierarchies of conservative slums and villages by building up local institutions and supporting them with a high profile and active human rights network.
Instead of tampering with the symptoms, ‘caste’ needed to be tackled by both its horns. On the one hand he created a democratized structure for the ‘voiceless’ to enable them access to the constitutional guarantees of modern India and on the other, his innovative advocacy forced the ‘state’ to sensitize its mechanisms to deliver social justice in a manner where Justice is not only done but perceived to be done.
Ensuring implementation of policy into practice regarding this Lenin has initiated Jan Mitra Gaon, or the People-Friendly Village. These villages have durable local institutions that work to promote basic human rights in the face of continuous discrimination. Lenin has adopted three villages and one slum initially, which include reactivating defunct primary schools, eliminating bonded labor, promoting girls to get education. The approach of the organization is two-fold: to have a strong grassroots organization to work for democratic rights of those in marginalized communities and second, to create the structure and dynamics to receive the assistance of national and international institutions.
Lenin''s work marks a shift in the Indian human rights movement, which has been reluctant to address injustices in the name of caste as a fundamental human rights issue. He is one of only a handful of activists to declare that such discrimination goes against democratic principles by promoting inequality. By working from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh–one of the most traditional, conservative, and segregated regions in India–Lenin demonstrates his resolve.
With meager resources, but rich with confidence and conviction, Lenin in a short period of time has managed to amplify the voice of the marginalized in national and international fora through “Peoples SAARC”, rehabilitation and resettlement of weavers of Varanasi; Benaras Convention; UP Assembly Election Watch; prevention of torture; voice against hunger and many such activities. Recognition by the international community of Dr Lenin’s work is indeed the recognition for the millions whose hopes and aspirations rest on his slender shoulders.
Taking journalism to the grassroots
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi 30/7/2008 7:53:31 PM(IST)
In the globalised era, the mainstream media has become increasingly commercialised and has the tendency to be insensitive to concerns and needs of people beyond the ambit of its immediate consumers. Major Indian dailies today give scant coverage to development related issues earmarking just about 5 to 6 percent of space for the sector. The rationale is that development pages do not generate any revenue. So media has become increasingly urban centric to match target consumers. Critical social problems, especially those that affect 70% of the Indian populace that lives in rural India are either ignored or are only briefly hinted at.
The Executive, Judiciary and the legislature do not come under any pressure to address these issues since the mainstream media, the fourth estate, or watchdog on governance deliverables, does not raise these issues. Even in the cities, urban poor constitute a major percentage of the population, whose travails and problems go unaddressed by media. Amidst such scenario, Tarun Kanti Bose has been awakening the latent talent for expression among the activists, children and women to enable them to become barefoot journalists and raise relevant issues and bring them to the fore through the via media of an alternative media framework to make up for the mainstream media''s deficit on these issues.
48- year old Tarun, a resident of Delhi has been working with this idea for the past 12 years under various dispensations and banners, with various communities (culturally and linguistically diverse), it has been possible to fine tune this idea to a large extent to be confident about the results it can produce. His idea is new and innovative because not many have tried to do it this way before, with any iota of success. His approach has fetched results since he started working on this idea more than a decade ago.
“It all started off, when I was covering displacement of tribals, Jaduguda's uranium mining, Tarapur's nuclear effluent leakage undertaking high degrees of risk. Then I decided to educate the local communities on their issues, which would help in developing their own modes of communication.”
While moving into the deeper of the interiors of the country, he saw those working among the communities had the emotional resonance linking up with the issues at the ground but what they needed was articulation. If their writing and communication skills were harnessed, then they could express themselves through modes of communication. So alternative media became an ideal tool for him to empower the communities, to raise and escalate the debate on urgent social problems of society.
He has focused on creating media assets within communities in the form of independent media vehicles that could be created and sustained by community effort itself. The independent media vehicles have been wall newspapers and community newsletters. These media vehicles are customised low cost medium addressing local needs. He has been creating a cadre of mobile barefoot journalists going to place to place and in turn training more people. His endeavour is to change the paradigm of journalism in the hinterland by integrating them into the mainstream through editorial infrastructure with a powerful focus on the development sector.
Stringers filing news stories from rural contexts have gained importance in the present scenario of an expanding media boom, but ground realities of their tenuous livelihood is at variance with that of the city-slick journalists, newshounds and the ubiquitous freelancer. Tarun has also been equipping stringers with professional tools and enable them to organise themselves effectively, by creating a robust and ethical reporting system that will promote active citizen's journalism.
He is also working on the idea of developing ‘Stringers Collective’ with the appropriate forward and backward linkages, in order to create small networks of such news-sources as these stringers and activists, and later, network them further into a state-wide network working in synergistic cooperation with each other.
Recently, he has developed a guidebook, which can be used by NGO functionaries, grassroots activists, children and women to kindle and bring out the innate talent that exists within the communities they work with on writing mechanics, so that they may harness them for their own use by creating local media vehicles. He provides 5-day rigorous in-house trainings and then participants go for on-the-site coverage on the issues grappling their day-to-day lives. The workshops makes them capable of mastering the skills to identify important issues of the society, compose the ‘intro/lead’ to be able to hook the reader for the entire story, construct the body of the story in a logical sequence followed by a conclusion which is often a hint to the possible solution of the problem. Back home, these trainees- be it children and women- are full-fledged barefoot journalists they output wall newspapers and paste them on the walls of community halls, village schools and other public places.
He has so far managed to put in place a loose network of contributors from several states, and have also managed to place their features, commentaries and reportages on several mainstream newspapers and magazines. But this activity has been going on in fits and starts, and under different banners, primarily due to the difficulties posed by keeping a dedicated team together that can do this work free of the uncertainties rife in pursuing livelihoods that are different from this activity.
In 2003, he founded ‘Chaturdisha’ and desires to create 1000 top-of-the line development journalists, in the next 10 years.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Uttar Preadesh: Self suffering Story of a survivor of police torture
Shruti Nagvanshi/Anand Prakash 14/6/2008 4:13:10 PM(IST)
My name is Satendra Yadav. I am resident of village Bhalehata in Chandauli district in Uttar Preadesh. At present I am living with my three brothers and old parent. My brother died. I and my elder brother are taking care of my deceased brother family. I own a small shop and small piece of land.
I cannot forget 28th July, 2007 on that day worst incidence happened in my life at 5:15 pm. As it was our festival Rakshabandhan and my sister fasten thread on my hand. I recall this incidence every year in Rakshabandhan and I cannot forget this incidence in my life. Sub – Inspector with one police constable came on motorbike and asked me for the house of Mr. Sanjay Sonkar. I indicate Mr. Sanjay Sonkar house with my finger. Meanwhile S.I entered in my shop and start abusing me by using filthy word. He holds my collar and pushes me on the road. When I asked what is my fault he again start abusing and said “are you a respected person you cannot come closer and answer me? You under estimate me this is a manner to answer Sub – Inspector.
Women customer who were buying sweet at my shop were afraid and went aside. Other people who know me tried to hide themselves. S.I ordered Babban Constable to give me stick. Police Constable feared with the anger of S.I and he denied for stick. S.I starts abusing Mr. Babban Yadav that you are doing caste identification here.
After hearing this word from senior police constable Mr. Babban Yadav gave stick and went aside. When S.I got stick he brutally starts beating and also abused him by using filthy word. At that time I feel very bad. Several times I ask about my fault. He took me to police station with bicycle and meanwhile village head came and tried to stop S.I but he was not listening and continuously arguing this is a matter of my respect and dignity.
S.I did not take me from straight way as it take 15 minute from my house to the police station but it take 10 minute extra. In a way S.I ask for money and in response he will leave me. Again and again I was asking what my fault is. I beg for my life but S.I did not listen and threat me to involve in fake case of drug (Ganza & Bhang) otherwise manage some money to save yourself. I said I did not have enough money. S.I. said he even can do my encounter I was very much terrorized and I feel very helpless that I cannot save my life. I saw revolver in S.I hand and after looking I recall several encounter cases happened in my village. I feel death in front of me.
I heard from other people that this S.I keep naked revolver with himself and beat openly any person he finds. Again I was brutally beaten in police station but this was more painful for me. I was begging and struggling for my life. I said you are my parent please forgive me. I was begging and S.I was continuously beating and several times I tried to stop stick with my hand and which result fracture in my finger. Print of 46 stick was on my back and till today I have problem in folding my hand. My body swell and policeman bruise my genital organ with shoes and I get relief after long treatment. S.I stands with shoes on my chest and still I have pain with all these atrocities. Villagers near police station were watching the entire incidence but nobody dared to stop S.I for his brutal behavior and ask S.I why he is beating as police have not right to do torture. I feel very bad when police beat me. They continuously beat until I become faint. When I open my eyes I saw I am in prison and police constable were splattering water on my face. I stopped police constable and rudely answered asked first you people give injury then you are putting ointment. Please release me.
Police constable tried to fasten thread on my hand which was fallen down while beating me. I said you are not my sister that you are fastening thread on my hand. S.O humbly asked what happen my son I did not answer anything and I sat on the ground. S.O called me inside and they put me in the lockup. Meanwhile MLA make telephonic conversation in my favour but it was not effective as MLA was from Samajwadi party (S.P) and State was governed by Bahujan Samaj Wadi party (B.S.P).
Village head with few villagers came to police station and after long interaction and seeking pressure of regional people. I was released approximately at 7:30 pm. I was very much shock and I did not tried to read and I sign on the paper.
Next day villager head and lots of people gathered with tractor and marshal in front of district Government Head Quarter Chanduli district. Written incidence complained was given to D.M and S.S.P Chandauli both of them assured for further action. I get medico treatment in Kamlapati Government hospital. When I returned I did not inform my family members because they will get more worried. I left my paternal house and start living with my wife in her house.
Today when I remember this incidence I feel very pity from inside still I have fear with Sub Inspector.
Once in a week I go to visit Mundeshwari Devi temple which is situated in the border of Dharauli village. Sub Inspector is transferred in same area. I change my way and travel 20 km more with bicycle. Today also I have fear with sub – inspector he may again beat or encounter me in the border of Bihar border. Due to this I am living my life in fear. Today when I remember the incidence my eyes get wet. When I returned home I heard S.I was suspend and many other villager appreciate for doing so. S.I. aggressively behaves and is much influenced person. S.I repeats this incidence with many people and they were also feeling very bad. Except upper caste people it is his routine to torture lower caste people. I will not forget this incidence after my death. Women of the villages communicate after looking me “this person is beaten by the police”. I am shopkeeper and I did not open shop from day of incidence as lots of people are coming to my shop and I cannot concentrate on my work. Still I have pain in my body. I was not physically weak than S.I succeed me in beating as S.I was in uniform.
70 year old my father came out to search me. I recognize change in my life when I participate in people’s tribunal which was organized by PVCHR on 28th April, 2008. I understood I am not alone and like me other people are being tortured by the police. Before that I was very much depressed and was living my life in tension. Now I am feeling very much relax. I want S.I should be punished and this should not happen with other people.
Translated by Ms. Shabana Khan
Friday, July 18, 2008
More than 1,500 people die of torture in Indian prison, human rights activist says
Commenting data from a report released this year on violence in his country, Lenin Raghuvanshi slams the arbitrary use of force by law enforcement to extract confessions. In the five years covered by the report, from 2002 to 2007, almost 7,500 died in custody.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – "Torture is legalised state terrorism," said Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) as he commented a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights titled Torture in India 2008: A State of Denial which found that 7,468 persons, at an average of 1,494 persons per year, died in prison and police custody between 2002 to 2007. An equal number of persons, if not more, were killed by the army and state paramilitary forces custody in insurgency affected areas, a large number of these deaths the result of torture.
In the country's 12,000 police stations all over the country there is frequent use of torture and use of deadly force at local police stations in India.
India has the highest number of cases of police torture and custodial deaths among the world's democracies and the weakest law against torture.
The police often operate in a climate of impunity, where torture is seen as routine police behaviour to extract confessions.
The report analyses patterns and practices of torture in police custody with special focus on torture by prison guards, the military, armed opposition groups like the Naxalites (Indian Maoists) in north-east India, other public officials and non-state actors like upper castes, recovery agents of the Banks, Panchayats and so-called civil society organisations.
Lenin Raghuvanshi, recipient of the 2007 Gwangju Prize for human rights, stressed that reported cases of abuse is highest among Dalits, Tribals and minority communities.
The Indian system based on castes is diabolic and perpetuates discriminations and crimes against the weakest.
The system is guaranteed by collusion between police and upper castes, which favour the stronger according to a semi-feudal order of things.
"India," said the activist, "has to immediately ratification the UN Convention Against Torture," but sadly it wants to preserve the "nexus between police and feudal of upper-caste."
Uttar Pradesh:Yet another acute malnourished child is struggling for her life
Shruti Nagvanshi and Shabana 1/5/2008 5:53:44 PM(IST)
Varanasi: Gudia three and half year old youngest daughter among three children of Sanjay Kumar Gaur. Gudia is resident of village Soyepur Madwa block Harahua in Varanasi district of UP in India. Gudia was diagnosed as acute malnourished girl by Dr. S.P Singh in Pandit Din Dayal Upadhaya hospital and weight only 3 ½ kg and from 23rd April, 2008 till now she is under medical treatment due to support of Care House Fondation,Sweden.
Gudia was born under weight and she is blind by birth. She was not immunized with six life saving immunization by Ms. Urmila auxiliary nursing mother (ANM). ANM is taking 5 to 10 Rupees from every one for preparing card of immunization.
PVCHR activist Ms. Sushila Devi identified Gudia in a way to office from her home but her parent were unable to do medical treatment due to economic scarcity. On 23rd April, 2008 Gudia get admitted in Pt. Deen Daya Upadhaya hospital. Gudia is not enrolled in Anganwadi centre which is one kilo meter far from her house.
Sanjay belong to Gaur (Schedule caste) community in India. Earlier Sanjay weave clothes on power loom but due to plight of weaving industries and irregularity in electricity Sanjay only gets weaving work for 10 to 12 days in a month which is irregular. In a whole day Sanjay earn only 30 to 35 Rupees and in this nominal money he is unable to manage the need of his family.
Sanjay has Below Poverty line (BPL) card no. 17180 but Sanjay share half ration with his brother as his brother did not have any ration card. Gudia mother Mrs. Urmila is working as maid servant in same village and earn nominal money to assist her husband in managing the need of the family. But after hard labour Gudia parent are unable to provide two time food to their children.
Earlier Subham and Paro elder brother and sister of Gudia were studying in Government Primary school but now they left school for caring her younger sister Gudia as their parents were outside for work.
There are Auxiliary Nursing Mothers [ANM] who are supposed to be working through the Anganwadis to attend to the immediate medical needs of rural children. The ANM and Anganwadi employees didn't provide any assistance to malnourished children.
Dr. Lenin said,"Therefore I urge to Uttar Pradesh Government intervene in the case to provide emergency assistance to Gudia family and direct ANM for not taking bribe and immunize six life saving immunization to every child. Anganwadi worker should identify malnourished children and enrolled them in the centre. So the right to life may be assured under article 21 of Indian constitution."
Shruti is founder of Savitri Bai Phule women forum.
Shabana is Astt. Director of PVCHR.