wo persons fighting for human rights in different parts of India were awarded a prestigious regional human rights prize on April 30, this year.
The 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights went jointly to Lenin Raghuvanshi for his resistance to caste-based discrimination in the country's north, and Irom Sharmila for her resistance to the indiscriminate use of military force against civilians in the north-east. Dr. Lenin as he is better known and leads the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), which comprises more than 50,000 activists working against caste discrimination and torture across five Indian states.
The Korean awarding committee said that Dr. Lenin had brought hope back to thousands of bonded labourers and those suffering human rights abuses due to India's caste system, especially Dalits. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which has worked closely with the PVCHR for a number of years, congratulated him on his receipt of the award.
"Dr Lenin and his colleagues are tackling deep feudal practices that go back thousands of years and require immense dedication and effort if they are to be eliminated; and they must, if human rights and democracy are ever to have any meaning in India," said Basil Fernando, Executive Director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group. "We have no doubt that he is a very worthy recipient of this award and that it will contribute much to his further efforts," Mr. Fernando added.
Dr. Lenin had earlier been acknowledged as a social changemaker by the international Ashoka Fellowship.
His co-recipient, Irom Sharmila, has conducted a hunger strike for the abolition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the north-eastern states since the 2000 massacre in Manipur. She is being detained at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and being force-fed by drip.
"They both have fought for the same noble cause of the advancement of human rights and social justice, yet they still have a long way to go. The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights will boost their further struggles," the May 18 Memorial Foundation said in announcing the award recipients.
A ceremony to present the award was held in Gwangju on May 18. Previous recipients have included Basil Fernando, Jayanthi Dandeniya coordinator of Families of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, and Angkhana Neelaphaijit chairperson of the Working Group on Justice for Peace in Thailand.
Posted on 2007-06-20