Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, who developed testimonial models for torture survivors in India, was in Bangalore, talks to newzfirst.
Lenin, Executive Director/Secretary General and founder-member of Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) is a Ashoka fellow,2007 Gwangju Human Rights awardee ,2008 , ACHA peace star awardee and Weimar Human Rights Award, Germany, 2010.
Being an Ayurvedic physician by profession, has been working for the rights of child and bonded labors and other marginalized section of people in Uttar Pradesh. In 1996, he and his wife, Shruti Nagvanshi founded PVCHR to break the closed, feudal hierarchies of conservative villages by building up local institutions and supporting them with a strong human rights network.
Purpose of visit to Bangalore?
Testimonial therapy plays crucial role in fight for justice and helps the victims of casteist aggression, police torture, communal violence or any other kind of injustice, to come out of the trauma. After successful results in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, PVCHR is planning to initiate the 'testimonial therapy' in Karnataka with the help of like-minded organizations.
What is Testimonial Therapy?
In developing countries where torture is perpetrated, there are few resources for the provision of therapeutic assistance to the survivors. The testimonial method represents a brief cross-cultural psychological approach to trauma. The method was first described in Chile in 1983, and has since been used in many variations in different cultural contexts.
The aim of the testimony is to facilitate integration of traumatic experiences and restoration of self-esteem. It is also useful as it channels the victims into socially constructive actions like production of a document that could be used as indictment against the offenders.
We have four step approach, we earnestly listen to the narrations of victim as nobody listens to them emotionally, appropriately or completely. And then we prepare the narration systematically in 'I' form and read it before victim, while victim edits it wherever he feels the need. It helps the victim to present himself/herself in placid way before the concerned people or authorities. We hold testimonial ceremonies where-in testimonials are read out and survivors are facilitated. It boosts up the morale and confidence among them. This creates an atmosphere of understanding among the survivors of different kind of violence and between different communities. Finally, we keep them following up as per UN standards, until everything becomes normal.
You are working for cause of human rights since 1996, what is the status of human rights in India, especially northern part?
Casteism, creed, racial feelings, pre-independence British hegemony, communal forces and vested political interests have infused the practice of rights' violation among the people. Rights' violation has been taking place in new forms and on raise even-after serious guidelines. Sangh Parivar, with a slogan of 'Hindu-Hindi-Hindustani' and with issues like Kashmir and north-east, have been engaged in spreading hatred among the different communities, leading to gross violation of minorities' human rights. Unfortunately, we bound to organize a convention on "Reducing Police Torture against Muslim Minorities" recently. Even after six decades of independence and enactment of constitution, Dalits are still victims of caste violence. Atrocities and extortion on Dalits, fake encounters, refusal to register FIR against the dominant class, arbitrary arrests on false charges, illegal detentions and custodial deaths of Dalits are still common. There is no bigger corruption than 'casteism' in India and it has to be eradicated first. There is a strong relation between caste/class/ community and violation of human rights.
Amidst coarse violation of human rights, there is a need to work for unity against the 'divide and rule' movements.
There are national and international laws, measures, guidelines, campaigns for awareness; still there is increase in rights' violation by individuals and authorities.
In India, there are several laws, guidelines and rules ®ulations are formulated to uphold the human rights, these are excellent in its own, but the implementing authorities are ineffectual. Either these institutions that are responsible for implementation itself are pervaded with rights' violation or are under the influence of the violators. There is a need of radical change in psyche & practice of casteism, communalism, impunity among the people in administration, law& order, judiciary and society, in this regard.
What about awareness and education of Human Rights among common people?
It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of rights' of its citizens. It needs conviction, plans, strategies, education and proper implementation. Here, in India, governments are lacking seriousness in this regard. Lack of rights' education among both oppressors and victims has led to gross violation of rights. Government should take an initiative to teach human rights' as a subject in for all students in schools & colleges through a systematic curriculum; especially among minorities of all kinds- religious, caste, linguistic or sexual.
What response you have been receiving to your struggle, by people and authorities?
Initially it was poor, but after our successful endeavors, people from different section of the society started supporting the cause. We have very good communiqué with administration, law & order authorities and state & national human rights' commissions and response too.
How longer one can rely on others to fight for him or his people or his community? One has to fight for the justice for himself, his people and his community. We have succeeded in producing that kind of numerous individuals in this journey of struggle. To be a successful social transformation, there is a need of action from both the ends, i.e. from authorities and the people.
'Silence' is the biggest promoter of impunity. We wanted to break the culture of silence, silence against impunity. Through our struggle people have achieved it to a good extent.
What are the difficulties you face in this struggle?
Difficulties are integral part of this struggle. My family, friends and relatives were apprehensive when I changed my field from medical doctor. Later I faced discouragement from the community. And, followed by many-more kinds of hardships posed from vested interests and political powers, as they always wanted to sabotage the voice of oppressed. Threats have become common these years.
These hardship helped me to expand my cause. It got widespread support from the nook and corner of the state; communities working at International level for the rights too have joined the hands.
What you want to convey to your fellow Rights' defenders?
Pointing out at casteism and injustice, my grand-father, a Gandhian and freedom fighter always used to say "Struggle is still pending after the freedom; it is not against British but against our own people."
I would like advice youths that 'be always connected to society, especially marginalized section of people and rule of law, with the values of justice, secularism, democracy and non violence. Use the all possible means to raise the voice for justice, especially Information Technology has to be utilized to amplify the unheard voice of people.'