Dr.Lenin Raghuvanshi, Ashoka Fellow
By linking a coalition of National and International supporters to local campaigns against caste injustice, Dr.Lenin are awakening, arousing and encouraging the Indian Civil Society to diagnose and treat the caste origin of Social conflict. Though 밬ntouchability ?was outlawed by the Indian Constitution fifty years ago, in reality, caste division continues to exist in Indian Civil Society particularly in the Villages where 80% of Indians live. Subsequent laws have elaborated the rights and protections due to Dalits and tribal minorities. But contradiction between the laws that are supposed to govern a society, and the ethics and beliefs, which in fact rule the streets, run high. Civil society treats the symptoms of caste discrimination without attacking the disease itself. There is a tendency to reduce problems originating from caste conflict to problems of poverty. Higher income, however, does not preclude cultural discrimination. Each case is treated by giving out aids to the person suffering from a particular rights violation without looking at the underlying caste discrimination. The greater impact of such an approach has been negligible because it sought to achieve equality among people whose inherent inequality was accepted by society, perpetuated by Government and seldom challenged.
Lenin efforts spring from the insight that unless civil society deals with the injustices of the caste system head ?on, it is not attacking social conflict at its root. Translating these convictions into action, they have built local, regional and nationwide institutions that challenge caste .His People뭩 Vigilance Committee On Human Rights (PVCHR) is a large membership organization that involves people from different walks of life Among its 50,000 members in five northern states are the 3000 ex-torture victims whom PVCHR has helped to rehabilitate. Their continued solidarity demonstrate how both Lenin is creatively building an inclusive social movement Also participating are famous intellectuals whose integrity and credibility raise the coalition뭩 public image.
To translate policy into practice Lenin has begun working on the latest part of his strategy, Jan Mitra Gaon or People-Friendly Village. These are villages where the community has durable local institutions that work to promote basic human rights in the face of continuous discrimination. Lenin has adopted 43 rural villages and 2 urban slums , covering more than One Hundred Thousand people , to mount his pilot projects, which include reactivating defunct primary schools, eradicating, bonded labor, ensuring and encouraging education of the Girl Child and promoting non-formal education. The Village committees consist of 50% or more Dalits and seek to realize greater political representation of Dalits on village councils.
Their organization, PVCHR networks with International human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to increase pressure on the Indian government and broaden support for the movement against caste System. He has influenced other human rights organizations and funding agencies to reorient their goals and priorities towards eradication of the Indian Caste System. PVCHR also has the distinction of using the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to award the highest amount in compensation to a caste violence survivor. Due to their continuous advocacy, the State Human Rights Commission for the State of Uttar Pradesh was established.
Lenin뭩 views on caste, conflict and social change took shape while they working on the rescue and rehabilitation of bonded laborers in the Carpet Industry. In 1995 Lenin who were born into high caste feudal Hindu families noticed that not a single child bonded in the sari or carpet industries belong to the upper caste even though some high caste families were often just as poor as the lower castes. They realized that caste not class was at work. By the end of 1996 Lenin identified caste in all social conflicts and envisioned a movement that could break the closed feudal hierarchies of conservative slums and villages by building up local institutions and supporting them with a high profile and an active human rights network.
He says?At the village level we move from policy to practice, mounting campaigns to enroll Dalit children in school, get fair wages for manual labor, obtaining land titles and otherwise securing their basic Constitutional Rights. NGOs intellectuals and sympathizers however must take the opposite approach by moving from practice to policy. They began pushing civil society to acknowledge cast itself as a human rights issue. These two strategies represent a partnership between social activists who possess technical expertise and victims at grassroots who know and feel caste discrimination.?
Lenin Raghuvanshi was born in a traditional Hindu family belonging to the warrior caste second in the Hindu Caste Hierarchy. His family has a Revolutionary background right from the time of British rule in India when in the 1857 Indian 1st War of Independence the British for participating in it hanged four members of his family. Later as the freedom movement gained momentum his Grandfather emerged as a leading Freedom fighter. His own father was a staunch socialist who actively opposed feudalism along with such renowned national socialist leaders like Ems Nambootripad & Jyoti Basu etc. and had been jailed on several occasion.
After spending his infant days in Mumbai he moved to his ancestral home in the village of Dhaurahara in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Belonging to a traditionally well-established landed family he lived a relatively comfortable life. However he was discouraged from mixing with children of poor families of his village whom he was told are low caste or Dalits. Within his home the child Lenin remembers the family뭩 ill treatment of the domestic servant, a Dalit boy. He remembers the boy doing all the housework but none spoke kindly to him or gave him sufficient food, which was thrown to him as if given to dogs. These subtle behaviours in the feudal and patriarchal background of the village attracted his attention and firmly rooted these events in his memory. Later he moved to the city where his father was struggling to make his living, the lad Lenin attended the Government School where majority of the students belonged to the lower Caste or Dalits but one by one all of them dropped out. By now his understanding had developed enough to understand the social set up and the impact of Caste System and gradually developed revulsion for it.
At the same time right from his High School days he began to participate in social activities. Thus in 1990 he established the Uttar Pradesh Branch of the United Nation Youth Organization (UNYO). As part of this he organized several awareness seminars and workshops to highlight the evils of Pollution. In 1993 he founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolon or Save Childhood Campaign. This was aimed at rescuing the millions of Children employed in Carpet, Silk and Sports Industry. It was Herculean task, which would bring him in conflict with the DONS of these Industries who enjoyed much political economic and social clout. Between 1993 and 1998 he was directly responsible for the rescue of more than 350 to 500 children. As part of this campaign he launched in 1997 the FAIRPLAY CAMPAIGN. All these efforts for the first time brought to light the children labor Force behind the lucrative exports in Silk, Carpets, Brick Kiln & Sports Industries. Awareness both in India and abroad soon compelled the Government and Industries to take note. As recognition he was nominated to the district board for bonded labor. Continuing with his studies he graduated in medicine specializing in Ayurveda and got a lucrative job as a Residential Medical Officer.
In 1992 he got married to Shruti who proved to be his most valuable supporter. She too was converted to his CAUSE. However the Revolutionary spirit within him; made him conscious of the need to become fully involved. Hence he resigned from his job. This however brought him in conflict with his parents who drove him out of the home. Jobless and homeless the Young couple took up a rented accommodation and helped by a few well wishers they relentlessly pursued their vision.
The Save The Childhood Campaign was an eye opener for Dr.Lenin and Shruti. They noticed that most of the children rescued from child labor were mostly from the Dalit households but none from the upper caste. In the course of rehabilitation, Dr. Lenin came face to face with the reality in the villages where the Dalit households lived a humiliating existence subjected to the most inhuman treatment, denied all Rights and ignorant of their constitutional Rights. Their children had no access to quality education although to be educated was a Constitutional Right and provision of Government Primary School within a range of 1 kilometer was a constitutional obligation of the administration. However the Dalit community is not aware of this right or how to ensure its implementation or how to challenge its violation. Similarly the constitutionally guaranteed Political Right to participate in the democratic process is also violated as many of the Dalits are physically prevented from exercising this right either through violence & intimidation or denying them qualification to vote such as name registration in the voters lists, issuing of Ration Cards or photo identity cards etc. Apart from these they face atrocities from the Police and Upper Caste Gangster elements in connivance with corrupt politicians and administrative officials. Lack of education and skill make them fit only for unskilled manual Jobs in the unorganized sector where men, women and children are exposed to all kinds of exploitation.
Dr. Lenin realized that only Awareness, education and unity could get them out of this cycle. His motto ?in order to eliminate disease you have to remove poverty & the only way to achieve that is to organize people to fight for their rights?Thus was born PVCHR or People뭩 Vigilance on Human Right (Manav Adhikar Jan Nigrani Samiti) & Jan Mitra Ganv or Peoples Friendly Village.
The concept of Jan Mitra Ganv or People뭩 Friendly Village aimed at the establishment of a village where the different groups ?Men, Women & Children-are organized into separate specialized committees via PVCHR village committee, youth Committee, Children Committee and women Committees. Each Committee will act as a conduit to disseminate information regarding the Right & interest of its members & of issues related to the interest of each committee Thus the women committee disseminates its women members the importance of birth Registration, immunization and Girl Education.
Today PVCHR is working in 45 villages & 2 slum in Varanasi district running centers all in all catering to hundreds of children, treating education as a fundamental Right to which every child must have access. Apart from Varanasi PVCHR is working in 80 districts of U.P. Bihar, Harahan, and Madhya Prdesh & Chattisgarh.
It has developed a national and international network of Jurist, Journalist, Human Rights groups etc The Sitting Judge of The Constitutional Court of South Africa & Chancellor of the University of Durban is the Patron of PVCHR while the CEO of The Indo- German Society in the Germen City of Remscheid is Picher뭩 Ambassador to Europe.
We feel that he is keeping alive an ancient tradition of our ancient land to oppose inequality; exploitation- a tradition pioneered by lord Buddha, Mahavir, and Guru Gobind Singh & Vivekanand. ?Buddhism raised the slogan of revolt.. The Varna (caste) system also is not permanent---- Buddha openly attacked in hundreds of his sermon- Brahamanical tyranny, the Varna system, the monarchy and inequality. When Buddha that announced his mission in life was liberating humanity from suffering it had a great social significance. All the oppressed and downtrodden- the low caste, the women, the poor, the indebted and the slaves looked upon the Buddha as a great liberator ( Y. Bala Rama Moorthy).
Dr. Lenin has become synonymous with crusade against slavery, exploitation related to human & the child labor concerns?
The abandoning of their caste background for the sake of the Dalit Community by Dr. Lenin. is reminiscent of the path and decision taken by lord Buddha 2500 years ago. They are continuing this Indian tradition of challenging Brahmanism and caste system. They have changed their lifestyle limiting to the barest and basic minimum denying themselves the luxury and comforts so that they can devote themselves for the cause the Dalit community. So he gave up his medical profession and left the comfort of his parent뭩 home.
He has brought light in the life of more than 3500 bonded children, men and women, he has brought justice where there was none and he is showing hope to hundreds of Dalits and setting an example to others.
Dr. Lenin has already received a lot of recognition from several international organizations like ILPS, Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Anti- Slavery International, CRY, Novib, FIAN international, WCRP, Unicef, International Cricket Council, FIFA, World federation of Sporting Goods Industry, Reebok Human Right Foundation, Educational International, Intermon, Childline India, National Institute of Social Defense (India), SPARC (Pakistan) etc for the success he found at the grassroots level social change.
People like Dominique Lapierre ,John Chirac, Canon Michael Wolfe, Justice M.N. Venkatachelliah, Mr.Javed Akhtar (Film Script Writer & Lyricst), Otto Tausig (Austrian Comedian Actor) and many other national and international luminaries have highly appreciated Dr. Lenin뭩 enthusiasm and the grassroots level functioning.
The translation of Dr. Lenin뭩 ideas was in the following form: it has two-pronged system. They Global Advocacy and Grassroots Intervention (G 2) .In Global Advocacy he took up the anti-people polices like WTO, World Bank, IMF, G-7 at international level fully supported the Jubilee 2000 Debt Relief Campaign, Ethical Trade, Who Runs the world etc reporting to Amnesty International of serious issues as well as joining their campaigns from time to time. Also participated in the Global March against child Labor as well as the ILO Convention for worst form of child labor in Geneva, etc.
Grassroots level initiative has three aspects: Campaigning and advocacy, Awareness and Janmitra Gaon. Under Campaign and Advocacy, the main thrust is given to the aspect of campaign against torture and human rights violations. It urges the Government of India and Political Parties to adopt Policies that promote respect for human rights. PVCHR is observing the year 2003 as year against imperialistic Globalization. Under its awareness campaign, PVCHR wants to create a culture where people think in terms of human rights and cvil liberties so that they raise their voice for their own causes.
Janmirtra Gaon is a concept of the people, by the people and for the people. As said earlier, the Janmitra Gaon idea was formed from the experience of successfully taking up child rights and land rights issues. One might reach a policy through practice. However for real grassroots level change, advocacy alone is enough, but one has to come down from policy to practice, which is seriously lacking in the present day society.
PVCHR has a proactive approach through Janmitra Gaon concept. It has also a Pro- childhood and Pro-human right approach.
Dr. Lenin devotes his full time for the cause of human rights through PVCHR Today they are committed to converting their peers to the entrepreneurial way of change making.
 Forum For Rights of Marginalized. (FRM)- Dr.Lenin and Ms.Shruti formed the FRM to provide a single platform on which the various organizations can come together for collective action.
 26th June03 Benares Convention ?They organized a huge congregation of some five thousand marginalized groups (mostly women) from rural villages and urban slums. Some 13 International Organisations from 8 nations supported this convention.
 26th June Benares Declaration ?The 17 points declaration passed unanimously at the end of the Convention has become an important public statement voicing the general concern of the Indian Public.
 Starvation in Uttar Pradesh ?Participated and contributed to a public study and debate on the condition of starvation among the marginalized population in rural villages and urban slums.
 23rd of September2003 Successful in getting the Government to revoke false cases on 24 Dalits belonging to Village Piyari of Varanasi.
 Successfully filed a PUBLIC INTREST LITIGATION in the ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT to stop encroachment and destruction of Lahartara Lake associated with life of Sant Kabir
 Consulted by the Supreme Court (PUCL Vs.UOI & ORS. WRIT.PET.No:196) in the implementation of its judgment on the Right to Food, in Varanasi and surrounding areas.
 Consulted by the Review Committee on POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance) and its misuse.
 Courted arrest in confronting administration during children demonstration at the Pindra Tehsil Head Office.
1) Social Apathy & Feudal Mentality뾆r.Lenin belong to a so-called high Caste 뻙alled Kshastriya but his heart and actions is with the oppressed classes. So his relatives and community discriminated him. But after continuous struggle, his friends and relatives have come to accept and recognize his work and concern.
2) Administration & Police: in July 1996 the Para Military Forces subjected Dr.Lenin to severe beatings with rifle butts while leading a demonstration for School in a Dalit Village.
3) On 25th November 1996 Dr.Lenin younger brother was killed by mafia.
4) In 1997 the Police brought into his Parent뭩 home a dreaded criminal after locking his family members and had him deliberately shot but laid that it had shot him in Police Encounter. This was done to malign Dr.Lenin but the hoax was exposed by the local Media.
5) In 2002 the Police, the Administration in connivance with jealous NGOs manipulated an ex-employee to steal PVCHR뭩 email password and used it send false dirty messages ?in another vain attempt to malign him.
PEOPLE뭆 COMMENTS ABOUT THEM.
1. Justice Sukumaran ?Rtd.Judge, High Court of Kerela & Bombay.
밒ndia뭩 hope for the future rests in the selfless services of activists who are informed, involved and idealistic. Earth, Earthly 뻦ike the worms, which enrich the land some, are as Churchill put it 밽low ?worms ? They show the way amidst encircling glow. I had the great privilege to spend a few hours with those great missionaries of the new century ?a unique luck; I deem it 밆ated 18.2.2002.
2. Justice Zakaria Mohd. Yacoob , Sitting Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa & Chancellor of Durban ?Westville.
?PVCHR does wonderful work under very difficult circumstances. We are proud to be associated with you 뻀ndia & the World need more of such Workers. Good Luck Zak Yacoob & Anu Yacoob. Dated 9.5.2002.
3. Otto Tausig, Austrian Film Actor
?On some occasion I am wearing the T-shirt you gave me for the purpose that people should ask me whose face is it showing. Then I tell them in a country far away from our own there are people like Safdar Hashmi & Dr.Lenin who were and who are fighting for things worth fighting for and we too should work for a better world.?밠y thoughts are with you and my best wishes for the success of your work. It뭩 the same cause you and I are working for. There is hunger, exploitation and disregard of human and child rights all over the world but also a growing understanding that we have to globalize the fight against it.?o:p>
4. Mr.Vishwanath Singh, Regional Secretary, Vigil India Movement ?Dr Lenin is to empower the victims to restore a balance of Power in society between economic and other forces. He is facilitating the participation and increasing the International and National bargaining powers of Poor, of the labor, environmental & other social movements. He protects traditional wisdom & knowledge.Dr.Lenin gives people a sense of their own power. He mobilizes the power that people have in doing so, he teaches the value of united action through real life example, and build the self-confidence of both the organization and individuals in it. He avoids shortcuts that don뭪 build people뭩 powers, such as bringing in lawyer to handle the problem, asking friendly politicians to take care of it or turning it over to a Government Agency.
5. Dominique Lapierre (Author-Freedom at Midnight & City of Joy)& social activist ?/SPAN>The World needs great voices like those of PVCHR shouting for Human Dignity?
6. Summa Josson, a Film Director of Bombay speicalising in Documentary Films on Social issues 밒ndia is on the cross - roads.The future of India lies in the hands of people like you.It makes me feel that there is still some hope left ?o:p>
?B>Position held at present:
-Dr.Lenin is the Convener of People뭩 vigilance committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
-Dr.Lenin is Members of the secretariat & executive council, Voice of people (VOP)
(3) Dr.Lenin is Member, editorial board, Combat Law-a human rights magazine of India (4) Director, Janmitra Nyas 뻕 public charitable trust
(5) Founder, Forum on rights of Marginalized. (FRM)
(6) Director, Childline India.
(1) Ashoka fellowship, 2001 by Ashoka Innovators for public, USA
(2) Citation by PMA news agency & press club, Balia, 2000
(3) Citation by Captain Subhash sewa sansthan, Meerut, 1999
(4) Citation by Bharat sewak samaj, 1995
Participation: - (1) Global March against child labor, from Philippines to Malaysia, Spain to Geneva, 1998
(2) Second International Ayurved Conference, Katmandu, Nepal-1991
(3) Participated in the Asian Social Forum 2003,Hyderbad (AP), India & WSF, Mumbai.
(2) PP21 convention held at Kathmandu,1996
Published in: Dr.Lenin has received wide media coverage in local newspapers --Time, Jansatta, Indian express, Times of India, Hindustan Times etc National, local & International Magazines & newspapers.
Publications: Gast: A Quarterly Magazine on Education and other social issues but particularly Poetry by Poet Gyanendra Pati, celebrating the Rights and Struggles of the Marginalized.
Pati: simple one to two page pamphlets on social issues related to the plight and rights of the marginalized. Pathi is the traditional way of disseminating message of social importune.
Poetry In Action: Dr. Lenin has skillfully used Poetry to propagate the plight of the Marginalized people of India and to create awareness in Civil Society. This Poetry has attracted the attention of Intellectuals and youths who have greatly admired them and won them over to his cause.
Thus due to the above reasons and activities The Music Fraternity of Varanasi, find this couple full of Courage, Mobilizing society for positive changes, full of compassion and committed to the kind of ideas that can make a better tomorrow for others. They are putting into action the Philosophy of Dr.Sudarshan Hannumappa that to eliminate diseases you have to remove poverty & the only way to do this is to organize people for their rights.
Address:Dr. Lenin Raghuvansh & Shruti: SA 4/2A, Daulatpur, Varanasi (UP)-221002, India. Telephone: 00-91-542-2586688