Posts Tagged ‘caste’

Profile of Abirami Jotheeswaran, Dalit Human Rights Defender

July 17, 2019

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist
visiting Geneva to address the UN about issues faced by Dalit Women.

Abirami Jotheeswaran is a human rights defender and the National Program Coordinator of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights NCDHR. Most recently, she was part of a fact-finding team in Mirchpur to investigate a case of caste-based violence. Anagha Smrithi interviewed her for Feminism in India (FII) of 1 July 2019:

Anagha Smrithi: Can you describe your journey towards becoming the National Program Coordinator of the NCDHR?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Residing in Chennai, I experienced many forms of caste-discrimination throughout my lifetime. A striking incident was during my graduation, when a classmate asked me what caste I belonged to in front of all my other classmates. The question was irrelevant, more so because she was aware of my social background as she knew my family. I felt insulted in front of my classmates and realised that caste certainly exists in urban cities like Chennai. After my Masters in Computer Science, I got married and settled in Delhi. A few years later, I got the opportunity to sit for an interview with the NCDHR. Even though I didn’t have a social work or human rights background, as someone who witnessed caste discrimination during my college days, I excelled in the group discussion and interview about caste-based discrimination. NCDHR changed me as a Dalit Human Rights Defender. When I joined as a Monitoring Associate in 2005, the work was new to me and I learnt everything through trial and error. I had to work hard to improve my Hindi to be able to coordinate with the State Coordinators of Northern states. I also equipped myself with legal knowledge of various legislatures surrounding the question of Dalit human rights. I used to work more than 10 hours a day, sometimes even carrying home documents to meet my deadlines. At the same time, I was also a mother. But I persisted at work so that I could be on par with my colleagues, most of whom were men. The 14 years I have been associated with the NCDHR has deepened my understanding of caste, violence, human rights and Dalit perspectives and ideologies. Today I am the National Program Coordinator and my primary responsibilities are to keep track of human rights violations, torture and ill-treatment of Dalits, and to provide legal assistance to the victims and survivors of caste atrocities across 12 States in India.

As a National Program Coordinator, I have participated in conferences and consultations at the State, National and International level to highlight Dalit human right violations in India, and to hold the state accountable. ..My 14 years with NCDHR has taught me the importance of struggling for justice in the courtroom. Because of this, I decided to pursue my higher studies in law. Most importantly, my association with NCDHR built my Dalit ideology and my strength as a leader to deepen the struggle against the caste system.

Anagha Smrithi: You were part of a fact-finding team about caste atrocities in Haryana. How did you obtain facts when the information was hidden/ fudged by the police and administration?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: On 24 April 2010, the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Anhad facilitated a national fact-finding visit to Mirchpur in Haryana’s Hisar district, where a dominant-caste mob had attacked Dalits in the village. The team consisted of a diverse group of people of journalists, activists, publishers and human rights defenders, including myself. The NDMJ Haryana state team visited the site of violence the day after the incident took place. They identified active victims, witnesses and built trust and a relationship with them. During our fact-finding process, we held detailed interviews with the victims—this was crucial in obtaining information that the police otherwise would not reveal. Through the interviews we gained information about the social background of the victims, the occurrence of previous atrocities in the same village and the events leading up to the incident. We discovered how the mob had planned to commit the offence, which differed from the police claim that it was a spontaneous conflict. We surveyed the loss of property and investigated the collusion of the police, administration and the Khap panchayat in committing the crime and obstructing justice.

Anagha Smrithi: Was any action taken after the fact-finding report?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Soon after the fact-finding report, the NDMJ conducted a press conference to give visibility to the caste and build pressure on the government. We demanded appropriate sections of the SC & ST act be invoked for the immediate arrest of all those involved in the violence, along with resettling the affected Dalits in a secure place. We strove to register cases against the police and administration for the negligence of official duty, and demanded employment to all the members of the affected families, as well as a proper estimation of the damage inflicted upon the families. At the state level, we participated in protests, approached the Human Rights Law Network for legal interventions and took up advocacy with the Minister of Social Justice and other state authorities to ensure immediate arrest, complete investigation, the submission of a charge sheet, relief and rehabilitation for the affected and protection for the involved witnesses. As of today, we are still consistently engaging with the legal system and following up with the victims to achieve justice.

……
Anagha Smrithi: Even in cases of cruel atrocities & oppression, there is often still resistance and assertion from the community. What sort of resistance did you observe during your fact-finding process?

Abirami Jotheeswaran: Before the incident, violence had taken place against Dalits, but no proper action was taken by the police administration. But when this carnage happened, the Dalit community lost 2 lives and immeasurable damage to the property and possessions. Despite the losses, they unanimously decided to fight for justice and not tolerate any more violence by the dominant caste. They left their houses in Mirchpur and moved towards Mini Secretariat, demanding for justice. Their journey took them to Delhi, and finally to a farmhouse in Tanwar, protesting for justice, security, rehabilitation and jobs all the way. The State Government, faced with renewed pressure finally took action against the accused and the negligent administration. Though the victims continue to live away from their homes, in difficult conditions, the spirit of resistance is still alive.

In Conversation With Abirami Jotheeswaran: Dalit Human Rights Activist

NGOs demand the release of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir in Mauretania

June 24, 2019

German Amnesty International Human Rights Award 2016 goes to Henri Tiphagne from India

February 2, 2016

Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne has been awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement on 25 January 2016.Amnesty-Internationa
Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations in India. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states.
In recent years, many organisations have come under intense pressure by the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organisation’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012. This meant that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes needed to be abandoned. The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending. The same legal framework is being instrumentalised for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organisations as well as activists and local protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions to make way for new coal mining projects. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/india-should-end-funding-restraints-on-human-rights-defenders-says-hrw/]

Henri Tiphagne and his organisation People’s Watch, while fighting to ensure the rights of others, are themselves being harassed and hampered in their work by the authorities. And there are other civil society organisations in India that are in a similar position. The award is therefore meant to send a strong signal of support to the whole of the Indian human rights movement,” adds Selmin Çalışkan, Director of Amnesty International Germany.

Award ceremony to be held on April 25 at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin, Germany. For more information about Henri Tiphagne’s personal background and the situation in India please contact the Press Office mailto:presse@amnesty.de of Amnesty Germany.

Bangladesh: the sad story of the attack on Shahed Kayes

August 2, 2013

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHCR) tells the story of what happened recently in Bangladesh to human rights defender and philanthropic educator Shahed 

AHRC-STM-138-2013.jpgKayes well. I suggest you read the full story provided in the link below but the essence is that Shahed Kayes knew that his attempt to educate impoverished children from the low castes was unacceptable to the deeply entrenched local power structure and those at the top of it, as schooling can lessen the abundant supply of uneducated labour at their disposal. He was also trying to stop illegal sand-mining, a crime that threatens the very survival of the Meghna river communities. The sand mafia was bound to be irked. Read the rest of this entry »