Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director and Secretary General of Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), Varanasi, has demanded that December 9, the day on which the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, be designated Human Rights Defenders Day.
He made the suggestion at a meeting of human rights defenders from different parts of India held in Varanasi under the aegis of European Union, Research and Rehabilitation Centre on Torture and Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights.
He said protection of human rights defenders was a need of the hour. The state cannot evade its responsibility to take care of rights activists in the light of Article 2 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, he added.
Mr. Chitaranjan Singh, National Secretary of Peoples Union for Civil Liberty, who presided over the meeting, asked the National Human Rights Commission to strive to be an independent investigating mechanism that can promptly and impartially investigate cases of rights violation.
Many human rights defenders like Budhiram Toppo, a young tribal activist from Sonebhadra, Govidsharan from Allahabad, Mangal Singh from Mahoba, Parvez from Kaushambi, Sanjay Singh from Jalaun, who were all victimized for their activities, narrated their experiences.
Budhiram Toppo was sent to jail in false cases, tortured and threatened for working on land rights and other rights of the tribal communities.
Sanjay Singh, who had worked with his father Lalla Singh who was killed in the course of his work as a human rights defender, was presented the Jan Mitra Samman’ at the function.
Harishchandra alias Bhothu Musahar, a victim of police torture, was also honoured and given a shawl and a cash award of Rs. 5,000.
Anil Parashar, Joint Registrar of NHRC, who was present at the meeting, said the NHRC was aware of the plight of human rights defenders and was sending its recommendations to the Central and State governments from time to time regarding steps to be taken to protect the rights of victims by way of compensation or action against the perpetrators.
Sunil Sahasrabuddhe, a reputed Gandhian activist, said it was ironic that human rights defenders faced hostilities. They were being harassed and implicated in false criminal cases. As for right to life, the situation was going from bad to worse day by day.
It was decided to convene a national level meeting on Varanasi on December 9 this year to mark the Human Rights Defenders Day and raise awareness about the rights of human rights defenders.