TN Dalit human rights activist ‘Evidence’ Kathir bags prestigious European award

Arokiasamy Vincent Raj, better known as ‘Evidence’ Kathir, has been selected for the 2022 Raoul Wallenberg Prize given by the European Council.
Evidence Kathir
Evidence Kathir
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Arokiasamy Vincent Raj, better known as “Evidence” Kathir for his work with the Madurai-based organisation Evidence, founded and headed by him, has been selected to be the recipient of the 2022 Raoul Wallenberg Prize. Evidence works to defend the rights of Dalit and tribal people in Tamil Nadu. The organisation does critical work in a state where cases of caste violence are among the highest in the country. In recognition of their work, the European Council has conferred Kathir with this prestigious award that was founded in 2012. The Raoul Wallenberg Prize came about through the joint efforts of the Swedish government and the Hungarian Parliament in memory of Raoul Wallenberg for his efforts to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust and World War 2.

Evidence collects documents in great detail of the events around caste crimes in Tamil Nadu, arranges for legal aid for families affected by caste violence as they go through lengthy judicial procedures, and even helps with challenging acquittals, when they occur all too often.

In 2021, Evidence brought out a five-year report on the caste-based murders in Tamil Nadu. The report revealed sobering statistics about the state. A total of 300 murders of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe people had taken place from January 2016 to December 2020. Of these, only 13 of the accused were convicted. A whopping 229 remained with the courts with proceedings ongoing or yet to be listed. The remaining 28 were pending police investigation. Evidence, led by Kathir, has documented many of these cases, and is continuing to help the victims’ families get justice.

On receiving the award, Kathir said, “This is the first time a person from South Asia is receiving this award. It is a recognition of the 25-year-long work I have been doing. There have been multiple attempts on my life, I have been attacked many times. I dedicate the award entirely to my Dalit people, to the poor, to every marginalised community across the world.” 

He also notes that the European council comprises of the 27 heads of member-states belonging to the European Union. “To me this means that we have the solidarity of 27 countries in Europe. There would have been so many nations in consideration. That they have recognised an activist from India, from Tamil Nadu, that too in Madurai and belonging to a Dalit organisation, is a matter of pride. I hope that this award will make issues faced by Dalit people an international concern. In that way, this award is a tool.”

An online award ceremony will take place on January 19 and Kathir will be travelling to France later to receive the award and a honorarium of 10,000 Euros.

Raoul Wallenberg, after whom the award is named, was a Swedish diplomat who helped save tens of thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust. He was arrested in Budapest by Soviet agents on this date, January 17, back in 1945 and subsequently disappeared. In the year 2000, the Russian prosecutor’s office formally admitted that Wallenberg had been held in a Soviet prison until he was executed in 1947.

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