South Korea: 2009 Gwangju Human Rights Award to Burmese activist
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi 28/4/2009 12:46:56 AM(IST)
The situation regarding democracy and human rights in Myanmar/Burma remains dire. At this very moment, many pro-democracy activists are locked up in freezing cold cells. The international community has put pressure on Burma’s military junta, taking consistent interest in the nation’s pro-democracy movement. Despite its efforts, some countries around the world have turned a deaf ear to the issue due to conflicts of interest. After the military junta crushed the “Saffron Revolution” with brutal force, the UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Burma, meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, a democratic leader of the country, in 2008. However, such efforts to demonstrate the international community’s commitment to the region have been to no avail, and have only led to further disappointment with Burma.
Born in the Burmese capital of Yangon in 1962, Min Ko Naing organized the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), a nationwide student union, in 1988. Later, he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for triggering the “8888 Uprising”. After being imprisoned for 15 years, he was released from prison and continued his pro-democracy resistance. Finally he was re-arrested and sentenced to 65 years imprisonment for organizing a demonstration which gave rise to the Saffron Uprising. He is currently serving this sentence.
According to an international human rights watchdog, the number of prisoners of conscience who, like Min Ko Naing, have been arrested and imprisoned for engaging in protests and anti-government activities, amounts to about 2,000. In the aftermath of the devastating natural disaster which hit Burma in May, 2007, the international community tried to reach out to the afflicted country. Burma’s military junta, however, decided to reject this helping hand. To make matters worse, the authoritarian regime arrested and detained protesters, killing at least several hundred people, including foreign journalists, involved in the nationwide demonstration driven by saffron-robed Buddhist monks.
The 2009 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee has therefore chosen Min Ko Naing to be this year’s prizewinner. Min Ko Naing and his colleagues have devoted themselves to Burma’s democratization, and it is their devotion that we hope to remember and share as we commemorate the May 18 Gwangju Uprising. The committee sincerely desires that Min Ko Naing and other political prisoners be released as soon as possible, and hopes that democracy will truly take root in this country.
2009 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Committee
Moon Young-hee, Vice President of Korea Democracy Foundation
Kim Chil-jun, Secretary-General of National Human Rights Commission
Yoon Gwang-jang, Chairman of the May 18 Memorial Foundation
Lee Jung-hyun, Korea National Assembly
Cha Sung-hwan, Director of Pusan Democratic Memorial Association
Profile at Civil Courage Prize:
Min Ko Naing is a leading figure in the Burmese pro-democracy movement. As one of the original founders and past chairman of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), his stature as political dissident has been widely regarded as second only to that of Nobel Prize laureate and National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Min Ko Naing — a pseudonym meaning "Conqueror of Kings" — was imprisoned for over fifteen years by the Burmese government, following his 1989 arrest for coordination of non-violent resistance.
As a student at the University of Rangoon in the late 1980s, Min Ko Naing secretly founded the ABFSU along with other student activists. Civil unrest erupted in 1988 in response to worsening economic conditions under a martial dictatorship. Min Ko Naing emerged as a leader of the nationwide non-violent uprising, in which millions marched throughout Burma demanding democracy and an end to decades-long military rule.
The Burmese army responded to the uprising with violent suppression, killing hundreds of student demonstrators. The military reasserted power under a new government, called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Martial law decrees were issued, including a ban on any criticism of the military and any public gathering of more than five people. Min Ko Naing went underground, where he continued his organizing work for the student unions. Reportedly, he was offered sanctuary with the armed resistance, the All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF), but refused. Min Ko Naing has always maintained a commitment to non-violence in the resistance movement.
After months of evading the Burmese Military Intelligence, Min Ko Naing was arrested, along with many other student activists, on March 23, 1989. He was sentenced to a 20-year prison term, which was later commuted to 10 years under a general amnesty. He was kept in prison a full five years after his 10-year sentence had been completed.
Min Ko Naing was severely tortured during the early stages of his detention. He was forced to stand in water for two weeks until he collapsed, leaving his left foot totally numb. For most of his imprisonment he was held in complete solitary confinement. In 1998, he was moved from Insein Prison near Rangoon to Sittwe Prison, 590 miles away, making it extremely difficult for his family to visit him during the last six years of his sentence. In the mid-1990s, Min Ko Naing was visited by both a U.S. congressman, as well as a U.N. special human rights investigator.
In response to international pressure, the military released Min Ko Naing from prison on November 20, 2004. He is currently recovering with his elderly parents and siblings in Rangoon. He has asked that his portion of the Prize money be donated to a worthy not-for-profit organization.
Min Ko Naing was represented at the 11 October ceremony by Bo Kyi, a long-time colleague and founder of the assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Bo Kyi was arrested with Min Ko Naing on March 23, 1989, though he was able to escape. He became a central executive committee member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions. In 1990, however, he was imprisoned by the regime for three years, suffering torture and forced to do hard labor. Upon his release, he refused to become an informer and was imprisoned again, this time for five years. In 1999 he fled to the Thai-Burma border where he founded the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an organization that documents and disseminates information on the situation of political prisoners in Burma.
Profile at JOhn Humphrey Prize:
Min Ko Naing is a legendary figure of the student movement in Burma. During the 1988 nation-wide democratic uprising, his statements, speeches and poems aroused the democratic aspirations of the people. Viewed as a threat by the military regime, Min Ko Naing was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. His last known contact with the international community was in 1995, when the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma was permitted to visit him in detention.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
India Today Magazine published an article recognizing the work of Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi and Ms Shruti Nagvanshi in its latest edition published in April, 2009 under "Spirit of India: Youth Special." Having cited one bonded labour case the magazine narrated the efforts made by the couple for eliminating untouchability, caste based discrimination. Their work has been acknowledged at international level through Gwanju human rights award from South Korea and ACHA peace star award from USA. the magazine furteher explained that the couple are focusing their attention at the plight of weavers in varanasi. to see the pulication kindly follow the link :
for english : http://emagazine.digitaltoday.in/IndiaTodayEnglish/20042009/Home.aspx
for hindi : http://emagazine.digitaltoday.in/IndiaTodayHindi/20042009/Home.aspx
Shrutis' profile in India Todays
Monday, April 6, 2009
Police excess brings constant fear
Dr.Lenin Raghuvanshi 6/4/2009 10:14:50 PM(IST)
I am 19-year old Pintu and live in Kakrahi, Karma Police station, Robertsganj block, Sonebhadra district. I have 3 brother and 3 sisters. My father, Kallu alias Budhram, who is 45 year old, is a vegetable vendor. Like any other day on 11th September 2007, my father had gone to Sabzi Mandi (wholesale vegetable market) to purchase vegetable, while returning back one shopkeeper of the Mandi, Shambu Jaiswal and his accomplices, Munnar Mauraya, Rajesh Mauraya, Ram Lakshman Prajapati, Sudama alias Dasrath called my father and though bidding for the vegetable he did not purchase that and dragged him to house, closed the shutter and started raining incessant blows on him. Then, a man witnessing that came running to our house. He told that some people are thrashing our father.
At that time, I was wearing a lungi and standing at the door of my house. Listening that I got terrified and ran to the Mandi, there I heard my father was screaming beaten black and blue. I also got panicky, I started shivering in fear and I was not able to utter a single word. Seeing me shouting and crying, they left my father. Then, we rushed our father to a Government Hospital. After his treatment started, we went to the police station to file an FIR against those who had continuously beaten my father. SO in the police station asked for the original copy of the medical report. Then, we returned back. In the morning we went to the police station to hand over the medical report and file the FIR. The SO took away 2 copies of the medical which I was carrying and police took it away. Police in an abusive manner told us that don’t complain that your father was beaten mercilessly. Policemen started beating us and pushed behind the lock up. Frightened with that I started crying out of fear thinking how would be father and how the things would be at home. I was getting hungry, which I couldn’t tell anyone as I was too scared. A vendor was selling chop, I gave Rs. 100 hiding from other’s eyes and told him to give us a chop. The remaining amount the police told that the vendor would return back when I would be released from the jail.
Next day, I was booked under section 151 of the IPC and those who had beaten my father mercilessly turned up at the police station and jeered at me if you would speak against us then this would be our fate. I was crying and I was quite worried that my father was in the hospital. After being released from the jail, I had sleepless nights as those threatening me to kill hovered in my mind. I had to take sleeping pills continuously for 25 days. Then also, I used to scream and wake up during the nights thinking of my days in the lock up and the police high handedness. I used to hide myself whenever I saw those people who had threatened me of dire consequences if I dared to make any complaint against them.
Shambu Jaiswal and his accomplices told my advocate if I dared to file any complaint against them, then would get me killed by branding me as a ‘Naxalite’. Then I started working in Rahat Times, a local Hindi daily newspaper, where police officials used to come at its office. Seeing the police, I used to get scared. Whenever my senior, Santosh Patel used to send me to bring tea or betel, then I gathered courage to talk to the police. I used to talk to them in hushed tone. Gradually, I could overcome my fear against the police. Whenever I was sent alone to ‘kotwali’ (police station) to gather information about the criminal cases so the fear was deeply embedded in my mind that I used to go to the court and told tell lies. But now I am quite enthusiastic, that by placing news in our newspaper we are able to serve the people. It gives me quite a relief. When my senior, Santosh came to know about police high handedness over me, then he generates confidence in me. He told that me that nobody would harm you, do not fear anyone, you have to put up a brave front against those who threaten you with dire consequences. It gave me courage and belief in me. Sometimes, those people threaten me on phone that they would abduct and kill me.
Today I am keen to help others. When police officer, Gyanendra Mishra was demoted to lower rank and transferred I was quite happy. Even after helping other in their problems, the fear lurks in my mind that police would again implicate us in false cases and kill me. Then also, I am fighting for those killed by police. Charges under Sections 147, 323, 325,504, 506 and 324 of IPC were framed then also police did not act so they have lost hope over the law enforcers. Sometimes, I lose control over my brain. Then I took the onerous responsibility of fighting against the police excess. Now, I get constant support and encouragement from the people. If I see police beaten by police, it shivers my spine. It seems as if I and my father are being beaten. Still, there is slight fear in my mind.
Testimony Report by Vijay Bharti and Upender under RCT-PVCHR initiative
Saturday, April 4, 2009
An untold story of a family
Dr.Lenin Raghuvanshi 4/4/2009 11:39:11 AM(IST)
I am Munni Devi and reside in S 18/ 149, Nadesar, Rajabazar, Varanasi. I have five children, three sons and two daughters. Among them two sons and a daughter had been married. After the marriage, my sons have their own separate household arrangements.
When my youngest son, Guddu was 7-8 years old, I sent him to Mumbai along with a neighbourer. He earned his livelihood selling toys in the metropolis and even used to send us some money. There he grew into a young man.
When my sons and a daughter were married my youngest son could not attend their marriage. Whenever he used to come to Varanasi he was accompanied by our neighbourer, who had migrated to Mumbai for earning a livelihood.
Once, when Guddu had come to Varanasi, after attending a marriage ceremony at Lanka while coming back to home he was arrested in the way and taken to police station.
Next day, in the morning, people known to us rushed to our home, informing that my son has been arrested, which they had read in the newspapers. We were dumbstruck as my ears could not believe that. They showed us the newspaper in which the story of my son’s arrest had appeared. Then also I could not believe my eyes.
Then, we rushed to the kutchery (local court) where we came to know that two boys, including my son have been nabbed on murder charges. It seemed much more shocking than death. I was quite definite that my son was falsely implicated. Whatever might be the reason he was my son, who at least used to earn on his own.
However, I lived a hand to mouth existence, where my husband turned out to be worthless earning not a single penny for the family. Even he had no attachment towards the family, for past 10 to 12 years. For running the household and to feed my children, I took up stitching work. But that too suffered a setback, when I and my son had to go to the court at regular intervals. I had never faced such turbulent situation. I have to take loan and sell my meager land holding, to fight my son’s case. After one and half years, my youngest son was released from the jail. His release brought relief to us. Guddu, my son was shifted to my daughter’s brother-in-law’s house to save him from police harassment.
One day, there also plain clothed policeman reached there and picked up Ashok Pradhan and my youngest son. They were taken to police station and a boy witnessing that rang up and informed us. Again, my innocent son was framed in false case, it came in my mind. After my son’s arrest, I and my family members had to run from pillar to post to know the whereabouts of my son.
After knowing that my son is in Bhelupur police station, then we rushed there. Reaching there, we were not allowed to meet my son. Then, after much persuasion we were permitted to meet my son. Seeing my son at the police station I was thinking what fate had befallen on me. It would have been better if I would have died. In the cold wintry night, we used to spend our nights outside the police station. After 6 to 7 days of my son’s arrest, a false case of drug trafficking was booked against my son. He was behind the bars for two and half months. We got scared. Still my head starts reeling remembering that.
Doctor also advises not to burden my brain. He says if you die then who would take care of your son. After two and half months my son was released on bail. Then I was quite assured that police is responsible for turning an innocent to a criminal. After the bail I sent back my son to Mumbai. All of my family members are scared of police.
Just a fortnight back police again came and asked my grandson where your uncle is? He told that he is in Mumbai. Then the police started abusing my other son and took him to the police station. Till we reached the police station he was released. Police has been constantly threatening us. They say that if we don’t call back our son back from Mumbai then they would be forced to auction our house and evict us.
Recently, my grandson accompanying me to a shop to purchase jalebi, seeing a policeman standing there he got scared and asked me, ‘Grandma, I don’t need jalebi, let’s go back to home.’
Always a fear lurks our mind that anytime police can knock the door. I cannot sleep in the night. My grandson is quite fearful seeing the police. He is scared of police’s abusive language and its uniform. Its always fear in my mind that if my son moves out, would police catch him, thinking that he starts shivering. Though what I have faced had generated confidence in me.
Based on testimony of Munni Devi by RCT-PVCHR initiative against TOV
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Varanasi silk industries need to be listed in world heritage
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi 2/4/2009 5:31:40 PM(IST)
Silk industry of Varanasi is considered to be a traditional art, life, culture and indigenous business. Varanasi silk work is the identity of Varanasi. It should be protected and preserved at any cost. It should be included in list of world heritage.
The people who adopted this occupation from their fore-parent, they not only carry this occupation for their livelihood but also carry this tradition and living culture with Great Spirit. They are expert on this art.
They can weave complicated design over their looms which are beyond imagination. However due to market crisis the silk industries are declining and the condition of weavers are deteriorating day by day. Now they are standing at the edge of deterioration and this traditional art is endanger.
We support the modern democratic capitalist mode of production, but this traditional industry should be assimilated with modern product so that it may survive and compete in market on the values of equity, justice and fraternity.
This battle is not for wealth or power, this battle is for survival of indigenous wisdom named as Varanasi silk industries against china dragon. It is the battle of reclamation of tradition, art, and culture. The products of china are sold at cheaper rate as their production cost is low and they receive exemption in import. A person of ordinary prudence can not differentiate these products from indigenous product. All these vanishes traditional industries.
Varanasi is one of the most ancient cities and weaving is an ancient art. Varanasi is very famous for silk sarees. So this is the time when the efforts should be made to protect this famous art and culture. To preserve this industry, effort should be made at every level. The people who are doing this occupation should be encouraged. The government should provide every support along with financial assistance to the weavers.
They should be provided raw material and other accommodation to continue their occupation. The open market should be provided and minimum price should be fixed by government, so that the weavers can not be compelled to sell their product at extreme low rate. Legislation should pass the law to protect this industry. The product of silk should get patent on the basis of geographical region.
This industry needs to be survived so instead of promoting Chinese product the government should make an arrangement to promote indigenous product. Apart from that to promote the silk product at international level the exemption should be provided in export.