Seoul : Two Indians have been chosen for a prestigious South Korean human rights prize in recognition for their work towards improving human rights in India.
Lenin Raghuvanshi from Uttar Pradesh and Irom Sharmila from Manipur are the co-recipients of this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
Raghuvanshi and his Varanasi-based People’s Vigilance Committee On Human Rights (PVCHR) have fought the Indian caste system through various social activities. His group has lent support to torture victims in different Indian states.
PVCHR has also opened education centres in 45 villages for children spread across the country. Raghuvanshi’s organization has developed into a nationwide and worldwide network comprising legal experts, journalists and human rights advocacy groups.
Irom Sharmila of Manipur has been on a fast-unto-death since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is in force in her state. She has been force-fed for six years now even as she continues her protest against the indiscriminate use of what many call a draconian act.
Last year, she went to New Delhi to carry on her six-year long protest but was immediately arrested and sent to a hospital. She returned to Manipur this year.
“Regardless of the difference in the methods respectively employed, 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 provide boost in their further struggles,” a press release from the Gwangju Prize Committee stated.
The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award was established to mark the spirit of the Gwangju Uprising May 18, 1980. Over 200 people were killed – going by official figures – when the people in that South Korean city rebelled against military rule and demanded establishment of democracy. The rebellion was violently suppressed by the then South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan, who was also the country’s army general.
After Chun Doo-hwan’s reign ended in 1988, the incident was officially recognized as an effort to restore democracy after military rule.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar is among past winners of this award.