Caste is one of India’s most enduring institutions and still retains its hold on Indian society. For those not fortunate to be born in the higher echelons of the caste hierarchy, life can be difficult indeed. Despite government efforts, caste discrimination is still rife, and low-caste Indians have to bear the brunt of poverty, illiteracy and violence. Lenin Raghuvanshi is in the forefront of the fight against caste discrimination, to ensure a just and equal society.
Raghuvanshi is the founder of the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), which fights for the rights of marginalized people in several North Indian states, especially in the area around Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Raghuvanshi was born in an upper caste family, which he describes as “feudal”. He got a bachelor’s degree in ayurveda, modern medicine and surgery from the State Ayurvedic College in Haridwar. But the social inequities that faced India made him take up the cause of bonded labourers. This is when he noticed that not a single bonded labourer came from the upper caste, and realised that the problem was essentially caste.
In 1996, Raghuvanshi founded PVCHR to fight the caste system. He works to ensure basic rights to vulnerable groups like children, women, Dalits, tribes and minorities. Raghuvanshi and his team works at the grassroots level in Varanasi and around 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh and five other states. PVCHR works to eliminate situations that give rise to the exploitation of vulnerable and marginalized groups, and to start a movement for a people-friendly movement (Jan Mitra Samaj) through an inter-institutional approach.
Raghuvanshi has his task cut out for him since the lot of Dalits and other oppressed minorities continues to be dismal. “In the past, if anyone from the lower caste breached the unwritten law of caste hierarchy, the person would be beaten up in public. Now the person will be shot dead and the village burnt down and the women raped. A bridegroom riding a horse during his wedding, an enterprising peasant digging a well on his land, if a boy falls in love with a girl – do you kill them? Yet, if they belong to the Dalit caste they are killed. We still say that there is rule of law in India,” he said in his acceptance speech while receiving the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
He is also concerned about the plight of women and children in this country. “India is still very much a patriarchal and caste-based society with gender discrimination. The destructive effects of gender discrimination, patriarchal oppression and the semi-feudal society so prevalent in 21st century India are manifest in our 55 million children, employed at times in subhuman conditions,” he says in a newspaper interview.
Raghuvanshi received the Gwangju Human Rights Award in 2007. He was made an Ashoka Fellow in 2001 and was presented the International Human Rights Prize of the City of Weimar (Germany) in 2010. Raghuvanshi once said to a newspaper that caste discrimination is so rife in Bundelkhand that a Dalit has to take off his chappal and hold it in his hand if a person belonging to the Thakur caste approaches. It’s not something that would make us proud.
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"To get in touch with the many problems, still existing in Indian society, this Brochure should be a Symbol to “feel” and don’t forget, what’s still worth to fighting for – the beauty and variety of India and its people. Don’t leave them behind!" – Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, CEO PVCHR
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How can you Help?Caste approaches is not something that would make us proud
Contact details of the NGO/Institution
Name : Lenin Raghuvanshi
Email ID : firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Number : 9935599333
Website : http://www.pvchr.asia
Address : PVCHR Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh