Radhika Vemula, mother of late Rohith Vemula, has withdrawn her support to Amnesty International India (AII) and also requested them to stop telecasting her videos until necessary action is taken against those in the organisation who allegedly discriminated against Dalits and Muslims.
Through a video, Radhika Vemula said, “I strongly condemn the discrimination against Dalits and Muslims in Amnesty International India. Unless action is taken against the management involved in the discrimination, I withdraw my support to Amnesty. The injustice against Dalit and Muslims is intolerable. Until action is taken against the offenders, please take down my videos. I extend my solidarity to Mariya Salim and others who faced discrimination.”
In an article published in The Wire, Mariya Salim, a former employee of AII, alleged caste based discrimination by the management. She later approached Raja Vemula and Radhika Vemula seeking their support. Radhika Vemula had earlier supported Amnesty’s campaign to free Chandrashekhar Azad, founder of Bhim Army.
In her article, Mariya alleged that the upper castes in the management holding top positions had discriminated against Dalits and Muslims, for which she claims to have documented proof. She said that though the victims had complained about the caste discrimination, the management had rejected them as cases that were not caste based discrimination.
“Almost of the concerns raised in these complaints have been said to not be discriminatory in nature at the first stage of the enquiry, by committees formed by AII, usually comprising two HR representatives and no externals or specialists,” she wrote.
Mariya also wrote about how the housekeeping staff, who are predominantly from the Dalit community, were asked to wear uniforms, which she opposed in vain despite getting overwhelming votes in favour of her decision.
Speaking to TNM, Mariya said, “Being a human rights organisation, how can they discriminate against the housekeeping staff by asking them to wear uniforms while we didn’t have any such obligation? When I asked them to give me too a saree, they didn’t respond.”
Responding to the allegations, Amnesty International India issued a statement that said: “Amnesty India reaffirms its commitment to zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, including with respect to caste, gender, religion, sexual orientation and disability. We are committed to ensuring a discrimination-free and healthy work environment in which the dignity of each member of the team is non-negotiable. We have, in the last few years, proactively worked towards ensuring diversity in the team and will continue to do so. As an organisation committed to human rights and professional ethics, we are open to learning and improving and reviewing our processes. Every complaint and concern raised is taken seriously and strong follow-up to address each one, according to set procedures, is ensured. As part of due process there is also scope for appeal, which is a vital aspect, to ensure justice. We ensure that our fighting of discrimination internally is not compromised at any level and we maintain the highest levels of rigor in our grievance redressal mechanisms. We also recognise that adherence to the spirit – not just the letter – of a discrimination-free work environment, is fundamental to building an inclusive organisational culture. We will continue to invest our energies in fighting discrimination in every sphere of life.”