Feb 4, New Delhi: Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, is an Indian Dalit rights activist fighting against Caste discrimination and police torture. His organization, People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) works to protect human rights of lower caste and minorities in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Dr Lenin’s organisation has so far helped 4000 domestic violence victims, rescued around 5300 of people from torture, provided 50000 children quality education and freed around 3500 bonded labourers. Raghuvanshi has called for the establishment of a neo-Dalit movement to eliminate the caste system and overthrow feudalism, thereby establishing a society based on equal dignity for all humankind. For his human rights advocacy, Lenin was beaten and attacked; now he lives under constant threat, by the feudal and fascistic forces in Indian society.
Lenin was organizing forces behind the formation of People’s SARRC in Kathmandu in 2005. It was an effort to build human rights mechanism in SARRC countries where the discourse of human rights is still in its nascent stage.
Dr. Lenin has been awarded, with M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award 2016, along with ACHA Star Peace Award from Association for Communal Harmony in Asia USA 2007 and Gwangju Human Rights Award from Foundation of South Korea and International Human Rights Prize of the city of Weimar.
By: Amit Singh / Source: The Oslo Times / The Dawn News / February 4, 2017
Dr. Lenin Raghuvansi in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times’s human rights columnist, Amit Singh spoke about his experience fighting against Caste discrimination, police torture, domestic violence against women, freedom of expression and religious extremism in India.
What inspired you to work against caste discrimination and bondage labor?
I was influenced by the ideals of my grandfather who was a freedom fighter and Gandhian. Initially I started to work on environmental rights and sanitation awareness. In 1992, I came into contact with Kailash Satyarti (Nobel Laureate) through Swami Agnivesh. I worked with him on issues of Child labor and bondage labor. I realized, most of bonded labor hails from lower caste; and it was primarily lower caste children who were the victims of bondage labor. Thus, in order to redress the problem of bonded labor and Caste discrimination, I have established People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) in 1996.
Tell us more about your Org.?
PVCHR is membership based organization. It has 62000 members. PVCHR follow rights based approach to all social problems. We work for thepeaceful society based on justice, fraternity, and liberty. We provide testimonial therapy to police torture victims, seek justice for marginalized groups and do human rights advocacy.
Tell us about domestic violence against women in India. What are the causes?
Indian traditional family values are based on inequality where male member call the shots. Family is centred on patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity is employed to subjugate women. Women are dominated through physical, sexual and psychological violence affecting not only current generation, but also future generation. In order to stop domestic violence against women mind set of the people based on hegemonic masculinity, must change. Without changing hegemonic masculinity, it is impossible to bring sustainable peace at family, society and globe.
What is the situation of human rights defenders particularly tribal activist under the Modi’s government?
Situation of human rights defenders is going from bad to worse. The rise of corporate fascism has played a key role in this situation. Big corporate needs natural resources and minerals. Thus, in the collaboration with the government, they are snatching land from tribals and indigenous groups. Those who are protesting against big corporates are being framed in false cases, and attacked. Activists working for the rights of the tribal’s in Baster district in Chattisgarh, are a such examples. Human rights defenders working for the protection of tribal women and marginalized groups are under attack. Activist working on issues of government transparency using right to information act to extract information, lives under constant threat by the government and non state actors.
Why are Caste-based discrimination and violence still prevalent in India?
India is still a semi feudal society where everything is determined by the Caste system. Caste biases have been percolated from the social to governmental and political structure. Thus, Caste system has become the focal point and violence is ingrained in this system. Through discrimination and violence system is maintained. Hegemonic masculinity also plays a role to subjugating lower caste. Hegemonic masculinity involves patriarchy and elements of caste domination. We can see hegemonic masculinity is widely prevalent in South Asian region where Caste related atrocities and violence against women is common.
What is your opinion on human rights violations in Kashmir?
Police and military are involved in human rights violations in Kashmir. They represent mainland India and suppress voices of local Kashmiri people. There is a conflict between two identities and two nationalities in Kashmir. Also, communal conflict and intense nationalism lies at the origin of the violations in Kashmir.
What is your view on religious extremism in South Asia?
In the psych of the South Asians religious intolerance is deeply rooted. It can be seen in Islamic fascism in Pakistan and Bangladesh and in Hindu fascism in India such as Vishva Hindu Parishad (V.H.P) and Rastriya Swam Sweak Sangh (R.S.S). Such elements are cause of religious extremism in this regions and are threat to peace and harmony in the concerned society.
In addition, painful memories of Indo-Pak separation still lingers and dictate relations between the two nations. There is a need for conflict resolutions to redress grievances of injured parties from both sides so that religious extremist cannot egg on people on this volatile issue. There is a need to protect existing tradition of religious pluralism and diversity from religious extremism. Religious extremism can be challenged by the religious pluralism.
What do you think on the situation of freedom of expression in India?
Freedom of expression is being curtailed, more than ever. Space for dissent is narrowing. In earlier times, it was caste driven system which control freedom of expression. Now in the times of neo-liberal policies it is big corporate who control the media and runs the show. They decided news content in main stream media and this deeply affects media freedom. In addition, writers and journalist with independent thinking are attacked by the religious extremist and government agents. Journalists working to protect human rights of marginalized groups are facing threat from government agents and their voices being silenced by charging them in false case such as Bela Bhatia in Baster district of Chattishgarh state. Some journalists have been harassed and some are killed.
What is future of human rights movement in India?
Human rights movement is unstoppable. Movements of oppressed and women cannot be suppressed. Democracy cannot function without human rights movement. Human rights is aspiration of marginalized and vulnerable groups. Thus, there will be movement for human rights in future India.
What message do you have for our readers?
Restoring and respecting five values- federalism, diversity, pluralism, human dignity and inclusiveness- are vital for peaceful society. And human rights and rule of law are essential instrument to realize all these values giving win win situation to all.