Can we escape casteism?

Bad time for Human Rights movement in India says Henri Tiphagne selected for Amnesty awardImage: Henri Tiphagne, People's Watch/ Facebook
news Wednesday, January 27, 2016 - 17:15

“'Human Rights' is a bad word in the country. This is an award at a time when civil society space in the country has been shrinking. People today are finding it difficult to work in the space of human rights as it was the case before,” says Henri Tiphagne.

Amnesty International Germany has chosen advocate and executive director of Madurai-based People’s Watch Tamil Nadu, Henri Tiphagne for the human rights award for 2016. He is the first Indian to be selected for the award for his commitment to human rights for close to three decades.

Tiphagne, who founded People’s Watch in 1997, has tirelessly stood up for human rights. The organisation has been documenting and researching human rights violations and also helping with legal representation. People’s Watch has so far mentored as many as 5 lakh children across 18 Indian states, said Amnesty International in a statement.

An elated 59-year-old Tiphagne said that this award is on behalf of people who have paved the way for the human rights movement and our mentors.

“There are known faces, like Teesta Setalvad and Indira Jaising, who have been attacked, but imagine the silent human rights workers from poor backgrounds, who gives them recognition?” he asked.

“I will use this award to make sure that this community of invisible human rights activists are known throughout the world,” he said.

Talking on the recent suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar from Hyderabad University, he said, “The irony here is that the more there is awareness in the country, particularly among the Muslim minorities, Dalit communities and tribal communities, more people are able to assert their human dignity. Once they do so, there is violence, which is blatant in rural India and tyrant and murderous in cities, and that is what Rohith Vemula’s murder shows.”

“They come to cities to study, fall for the illusion of a caste-free society, but once they are inside the campus, they realise they don’t have the dignity and they are told this in indirect ways,” he said.

Asked what in his opinion is the most important aspect when it came to Human Rights work, he said, “About 2 years after I had started People’s Watch, I met a woman who was raped in custody. We took up her case and lost. But what she taught me is that it is not just law that is important, but rehabilitation is equally necessary when it came to Human Rights work and this is what I hope to achieve.”

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