By TCN Staff Writer,
PVCHR – People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights – was started in 1996 as a human rights movement in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), one of the most traditional, conservative and segregated regions in India. The group has since worked to ensure basic rights for vulnerable groups e.g. children, women, Dalits, tribes and minorities.
To establish a true, vibrant and fully entrenched democratic society through Jan Mitra concept where there shall be no violation of civil rights granted to a citizen by the state.
To provide basic rights to all, to eliminate situations which give rise to exploitation of vulnerable and marginalized groups and tostart a movement for a people friendly society (Jan Mitra Samaj) through an inter-institutional approach.
* Accurate investigation and documentation of human rights violations connected with advocacy, publication and networking on a local, national and international level
* Creating models of non violent and democratic communities (People friendly villages, torture-free villages)
* Building up local institutions and supporting them with active human rights networks
* Creating a democratic structure for the ‘voiceless’ to enable them access to the constitutional guarantees of modern India
* Empowering marginalized communities by trainings and access to information
* Promoting a human rights culture
* Linking local and international human rights together
* Linking grass roots activities and international human rights networks and institutions together
PVCHR’s approach to activities is two-fold: to have a strong grassroots organization to work for democratic rights of those in marginalized communities and second, to create the structure and dynamics to receive the assistance of national and international institutions. PVCHR is working on the grass-root level in 45 villages in Uttar Pradesh. In close cooperation with local human rights activists PVCHR documents cases of severe human rights violations in the villages, for example cases of malnutrition and starvation, police torture or unavailable medical treatment. Especially in cases of custodial torture PVCHR is also providing legal aid. To raise public awareness PVCHR alters media as well as national and international human rights networks and request local authorities to act and to prevent further human rights abuses.
In the context of international advocacy along with Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), PVCHR achieved the rare distinction of being reported by the UN Special Rappoteur on Racism and Xenophobia. Once, three out of four reported cases from India in the report of representative of Secretary General for Human Rights defenders were from PVCHR.
* Fair Play Campaign against the use of child labour in Indian Sporting Goods industry, forcing FIFA, ICC (International Cricket Council), World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry and Reebok to prohibit use of child labour in producing their goods.
* Global March against Child Labour which in effect liberated bonded child labour in many areas
* .Campaign on the rights of weavers and on cases of starvation among the weavers communities
Model of Jan Mitra Village
To translate policy into practice, PVCHR launched “Jan Mitra Rickshaw Bank Project” on the concept of micro-credits. Under the project, rickshaws are provided to rickshaw-pullers who commit to pay back a daily amount of Rs 25 and after two years they will become owners of the rickshaws. So far PVCHR has distributed 100 rickshaws.
PVCHR is facilitating education in these villages, reactivating defunct primary schools, encouraging education of girls and promoting non-formal education.
Further activities are focused on organisational development of vulnerable groups and implementation of village committees.
In each Jan Mitra village a community centre has been established, forming the basis for the project activities. People are also provided with community-based counselling. One of the core activities in the model villages are the Folk schools. In community meetings people can give testimonies about their suffering and receive support from the group. Issues of the Folk schools are conflicts with the village head or experiences of torture. Special forums for women are also organized. Here the main problems discussed are mostly health related, and sometimes also related to dowry issues. The statements of the villagers are recorded and their demands are forwarded to administration and governments.
National Project on Preventing Torture in India
PVCHR is acting as a partner in this EU-supported national project which is implemented by People’s Watch Tamil Nadu. The aim of the project is to initiate and model a national campaign for the prevention of torture in India, with a deliberate focus on torture practices employed by police and will be carried out in 10 states.
Project activities are the documentation of individual torture cases, monitoring, trainings for different professional groups and a national awareness campaign.
Partners & Networks
PVCHR is linked with organizations, student unions, trade unions, and grass-root level NGOs. It is a key partner of AHRC in India and the two have worked on the following issues: Hunger Free campaign, Urgent Appeals, interns with AHRC and training on research and documentation.
PVCHR is also working in close cooperation with other national and international human rights organisations like Asian Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Law Network, Voice of People or Human Rights Alert.
PVCHR collects membership fees and donations from members. Besides, the group has received funds from a range of donors including HIVOS, SIDA, Action Aid, Tata, Misereor and the American Indian Foundation.
The work of PVCHR has been recognized. It received the Gwangju Human Rights Award 2007. In 2001, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, founder and director of PVCHR, was elected for the Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship and change maker. Dr Raghuvanshi is also the Recipient of Weimer City Council Award on Human Rights, 2010.
About Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi:
Born on 18 May 1970 at Varanasi. Married to Shruti Nagvanshi on 22 February 1992; has a 11 year old son, Kabir Karunik. Completed his Bachelor degree in Ayurveda, Modern Medicine and Surgery from the State Ayurvedic Medical College, Gurukul Kangari, Haridwar in 1994.
1993: President, United Nations' Youth Organization (UNYO), UP Chapter.
1993: Founding member of Bachapan Bachao Andolan along with Kailash Satyarthi and others.
1996: Founded People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)1996: He was demonstrating for liberation of bonded child labour & their rehabilitation, CRPF - paramilitary force beat-up on 17th July, 1996. This case is taken by Amnesty International and NHRC.
1997: Dr. Lenin on child labour issue published in Time Magazine.
1998: Fair Play Campaign against use of child labour in Indian Sporting Goods Industry. The campaign forced FIFA, ICC (International Cricket Council), World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry and Reebok to prohibit use of child labour in producing their goods.
1999: Founded Jan Mitra Nyas, a public charitable trust, for working on governance, and Human Rights in five adopted villages near Varanasi.
2001: Awarded the Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship and change maker from Ashoka: innovators for Public based in Washington, DC.
2002: Appointed member of District Vigilance committee on Bonded Labour under Bonded Labour abolition Act 1976 by the Governor of UP.
2004: Created model Jan Mitra Village to enable and amplify the voice of the marginalized.
2004: Organized Benaras Convention in order to assert the discourse of politics of marginalized in the national mainstream. The convention attended by thinkers and activists across the nation unanimously declared that the City of Varanasi was the symbol of Shraman Sanskriti (culture of the working class) as opposed to that of the Brahminical Sanskriti (Culture of the feudal class).
2004: Established Bunkar-Dastkar Adhikar Manch (Forum on rights of the weavers and artisans) to give voice to their plight in an organized manner. The forum has membership of 3000 people and has been able to make Planning Commission of India commit Rupees One Thousand crores for their re-habilitation. This body is led by indigenous leaders and is self supporting.
2006: PVCHR work on torture victims resulted in Dr. Raghuvanshi being appointed State Director of National Project on Prevention of Torture funded by European Union and FNST.
2007: Received 2007 Gwangju Human Rights Award from May 18 Foundation of South Korea along with Ms. Sharmila Irom of Manipur.
2008: Developed Testimonial Model for India with Dr. Inger Agger PhD, International Development Consultant, Psychologist, Denmark.
2008: Received ACHA Star Peace award from Association for Communal Harmony in Asia USA along with B. M. Kutty, Karachi, Karamat Ali, Karachi, Pakistan and Mubashir Mirza, Sadiqabad from Pakistan.
2009: Formation of “National Alliance on Testimonial Therapy” (NATT) in the national consultation “Testimony to improve psychosocial wellbeing and promote advocacy for survivors of torture and organized violence” It was formed by the Panelists for the further use of testimonial therapy in India.
2010: President for the Association for Communal Harmony in Asia USA
2010: India Today, Hindi edition profiled him as one of five most influence person in province of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.