Monday, April 20, 2009

Testimonial therapy: to improve psychological well being among survivors of torture and organized violence in India”

Mr. Yan Kreuter, Deputy Head Mission, Embassy of the Czech Republic on behalf of E U Presidency, Ms. Dorte Bech Vizard, Political and Press Counselor, Royal Danish Embassy, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Consultant Editor, EPW and Mr. Sanker Sen Ex- Director General, National Human Rights Commission were present in the inaugural session of in which Mr. Jan Ole Haagensen, Director, International Department, Rehabilitation and Research Centre of Torture Victims (RCT) gave his speech which follows in the given link below:

Brief about PVCHR

People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), had linked up local Jan Mitra Gaon Samitis (People-Friendly Village committees’) aligning to previously isolated victims of caste discrimination, usually Dalits or so-called "untouchables." PVCHR draws on international human rights organizations like Amnesty International to pressure the Indian government and broaden support for the movement against caste. PVCHR has encouraged other human rights organisations and funding agencies to begin setting their own goals and priorities in terms of caste

Its convenor, Lenin Raghuvanshi, was awarded Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in South Korea in 2007 for putting up vehement resistance against the untouchability and caste system in the backward districts of Eastern UP.

PVCHR work marks a shift in the Indian human rights movement, which has been reluctant to address injustices in the name of caste as a fundamental human rights issue. It declares that such discrimination goes against democratic principles by promoting inequality. It works from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most traditional, conservative, and segregated regions in India but demonstrates his resolve.

It reaches out to the dalits through his "policy to practice" approach in those villages, where caste discrimination is acute. Thus, he focuses on implementing policies laid down by law. PVCHR campaigns on various issues concerning the dalits including schooling for children, fair wages, land titles, and basic rights. On the other hand, PVCHR works in collaboration with NGOs, social action groups, activists, academics, and general supporters, it believes in the "from practice to policy" approach. Its focus at this level is pushing society to acknowledge caste discrimination as a fundamental human rights issue. These strategies complement each other effectively.
PVCHR is putting on its endeavour to empower the dalits to restore a balance of power in society between economic and other forces. It facilitates its participation and increasing the bargaining power of the poorest of poor through labour, environmental and other social movements. The organisation mobilises the power that people have in doing so, it teaches the value of united action through real life example, and build the self-confidence of both the organisation and individuals in it. PVCHR avoids shortcuts that don’t build people’s powers, such as bringing in lawyer to handle the problem, asking friendly politicians to take care of it or turning it over to a Government agencies.


I am 19-year old Pintu and live in Kakrahi, Karma Police station, Robertsganj block, Sonebhadra district. I have 3 brother and 3 sisters. My father, Kallu alias Budhram, who is 45 year old, is a vegetable vendor. Like any other day on 11th September 2007, my father had gone to Sabzi Mandi (wholesale vegetable market) to purchase vegetable, while returning back one shopkeeper of the Mandi, Shambu Jaiswal and his accomplices, Munnar Mauraya, Rajesh Mauraya, Ram Lakshman Prajapati, Sudama alias Dasrath called my father and though bidding for the vegetable he did not purchase that and dragged him to house, closed the shutter and started raining incessant blows on him. Then, a man witnessing that came running to our house. He told that some people are thrashing our father.

At that time, I was wearing a lungi and standing at the door of my house. Listening that I got terrified and ran to the Mandi, there I heard my father was screaming beaten black and blue. I also got panicky, I started shivering in fear and I was not able to utter a single word. Seeing me shouting and crying, they left my father. Then, we rushed our father to a Government Hospital. After his treatment started, we went to the police station to file a FIR against those who had continuously beaten my father. SO in the police station asked for the original copy of the medical report. Then, we returned back. In the morning we went to the police station to hand over the medical report and file the FIR. The SO took away 2 copies of the medical which I was carrying and police took it away. Police in an abusive manner told us that don’t complain that your father was beaten mercilessly. Policemen started beating us and pushed behind the lock up. Frightened with that I started crying out of fear thinking how would be father and how the things would be at home. I was getting hungry, which I couldn’t tell anyone as I was too scared. A vendor was selling chop, I gave Rs. 100 hiding from other’s eyes and told him to give us a chop. The remaining amount the police told that the vendor would return back when I would be released from the jail.

Next day, I was booked under section 151 of the IPC and those who had beaten my father mercilessly turned up at the police station and jeered at me if you would speak against us then this would be our fate. I was crying and I was quite worried that my father was in the hospital. After being released from the jail, I had sleepless nights as those threatening me to kill hovered in my mind. I had to take sleeping pills continuously for 25 days. Then also, I used to scream and wake up during the nights thinking of my days in the lock up and the police high handedness. I used to hide myself whenever I saw those people who had threatened me of dire consequences if I dared to make any complaint against them.

Shambu Jaiswal and his accomplices told my advocate if I dared to file any complaint against them, then would get me killed by branding me as a ‘Naxalite’. Then I started working in Rahat Times, a local Hindi daily newspaper, where police officials used to come at its office. Seeing the police, I used to get scared. Whenever my senior, Santosh Patel used to send me to bring tea or betel, then I gathered courage to talk to the police. I used to talk to them in hushed tone. Gradually, I could overcome my fear against the police. Whenever I was sent alone to ‘kotwali’ (police station) to gather information about the criminal cases so the fear was deeply embedded in my mind that I used to go to the court and told tell lies. But now I am quite enthusiastic, that by placing news in our newspaper we are able to serve the people. It gives me quite a relief. When my senior, Santosh came to know about police high handedness over me, then he generates confidence in me. He told that me that nobody would harm you, do not fear anyone, you have to put up a brave front against those who threaten you with dire consequences. It gave me courage and belief in me. Sometimes, those people threaten me on phone that they would abduct and kill me.

Today I am keen to help others. When police officer, Gyanendra Mishra was demoted to lower rank and transferred I was quite happy. Even after helping other in their problems, the fear lurks in my mind that police would again implicate us in false cases and kill me. Then also, I am fighting for those killed by police. Charges under Sections 147, 323, 325,504, 506 and 324 of IPC were framed then also police did not act so they have lost hope over the law enforcers. Sometimes, I lose control over my brain. Then I took the onerous responsibility of fighting against the police excess. Now, I get constant support and encouragement from the people. If I see police beaten by police, it shivers my spine. It seems as if I and my father are being beaten. Still, there is slight fear in my mind.

Testimony Report by Vijay Bharti and Upendra Kumar


I am Munni Devi and reside in S 18/ 149, Nadesar, Rajabazar, Varanasi. I have five children, three sons and two daughters. Among them two sons and a daughter had been married. After the marriage, my sons have their own separate household arrangements.

When my youngest son, Guddu was 7-8 years old, I sent him to Mumbai along with a neighbourer. He earned his livelihood selling toys in the metropolis and even used to send us some money. There he grew into a young man.

When my sons and a daughter were married my youngest son could not attend their marriage. Whenever he used to come to Varanasi he was accompanied by our neighbourer, who had migrated to Mumbai for earning a livelihood.

Once, when Guddu had come to Varanasi, after attending a marriage ceremony at Lanka while coming back to home he was arrested in the way and taken to police station.

Next day, in the morning, people known to us rushed to our home, informing that my son has been arrested, which they had read in the newspapers. We were dumbstruck as my ears could not believe that. They showed us the newspaper in which the story of my son’s arrest had appeared. Then also I could not believe my eyes.

Then, we rushed to the kutchery (local court) where we came to know that two boys, including my son have been nabbed on murder charges. It seemed much more shocking than death. I was quite definite that my son was falsely implicated. Whatever might be the reason he was my son, who at least used to earn on his own.

However, I lived a hand to mouth existence, where my husband turned out to be worthless earning not a single penny for the family. Even he had no attachment towards the family, since past 10 to 12 years. For running the household and to feed my children, I took up stitching work. But that too suffered a setback, when I and my son had to go to the court at regular intervals. I had never faced such turbulent situation. I have to take loan and sell my meager land holding, to fight my son’s case. After one and half years, my youngest son was released from the jail. His release brought relief to us. Guddu, my son was shifted to my daughter’s brother-in-law’s house to save him from police harassment.

One day, there also plain clothed policeman reached there and picked up Ashok Pradhan and my youngest son. They were taken to police station and a boy witnessing that rang up and informed us. Again, my innocent son was framed in false case, it came in my mind. After my son’s arrest, I and my family members had to run from pillar to post to know the whereabouts of my son.

After knowing that my son is in Bhelupur police station, then we rushed there. Reaching there, we were not allowed to meet my son. Then, after much persuasion we were permitted to meet my son. Seeing my son at the police station I was thinking what fate had befallen on me. It would have been better if I would have died. In the cold wintry night, we used to spend our nights outside the police station. After 6 to 7 days of my son’s arrest, a false case of drug trafficking was booked against my son. He was behind the bars for two and half months. We got scared. Still my head starts reeling remembering that.

Doctor also advises not to burden my brain. He says if you die then who would take care of your son. After two and half months my son was released on bail. Then I was quite assured that police is responsible for turning an innocent to a criminal. After the bail I sent back my son to Mumbai. All of my family members are scared of police.

Just a fortnight back police again came and asked my grandson where your uncle is? He told that he is Mumbai. Then the police started abusing my other son and took him to the police station. Till we reached the police station he was released. Police has been constantly threatening us. They say that if we don’t call back our son back from Mumbai then they would be forced to auction our house and evict us.

Recently, my grandson accompanying me to a shop to purchase jalebi, seeing a policeman standing there he got scared and asked me, ‘Grandma, I don’t need jalebi, let’s go back to home.’

Always a fear lurks our mind that anytime police can knock the door. I cannot sleep in the night. My grandson is quite fearful seeing the police. He is scared of police’s abusive language and its uniform. Its always fear in my mind that if my son moves out, would police catch him, thinking that he starts shivering. Though what I have faced had generated confidence in me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Testimony to improve psychosocial wellbeing and promote advocacy for survivors of torture and organised violence

16 – 17 April 2009

Vishwya Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi

Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India, in collaboration with the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT), Denmark, is holding a two- day National Consultation at Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi. The theme of the consultation, organised from 16th to 17th April 2009, is ‘Testimony to improve psychosocial wellbeing and promote advocacy for survivors of torture and organised violence’.

In order to search for consensus on future plans for the introduction and use of testimonial therapy, the National Consultation has the following objectives:
ü To increase the awareness of how torture engenders psychological symptoms in survivors and how it affects their daily life
ü To integrate testimony into political campaigns, including the national campaign for the ratification of United Nations Convention against Torture (CAT) and the national domestic law against torture.
ü To explore the possibility of creating alliances with different political organisations and stakeholders in India concerning the fight against Torture and other Organised Violence (TOV)
ü To promote the psychosocial well-being of survivors of TOV.

Prior to the National Consultation, a pilot project was launched by RCT, Denmark and PVCHR, India with the purposes of: 1.) building the capacities of Human Rights organisations in India to provide testimonial therapy, and 2.) to assess the utility and applicability of the testimonial method for the human rights work in India.

The testimonial method was originally developed in Chile during the military dictatorship in 1970s. It has been successfully used in the psychotherapeutic treatment of refugee survivors of torture in many countries and it has also been an advocacy tool employed by different human rights movements. Most recently, principles of cognitive behavioural exposure therapy and testimony therapy have been combined as narrative exposure therapy for the treatment of traumatised survivor of war and torture.

During the pilot project, spanning six months, 3 Training of the Trainers workshops were conducted in which 40 human rights activists and community workers, who were already working in their communities, were trained. Guided by the trainers, participants capitalised on the skills developed during the workshops to develop a manual, as well as a Monitoring & Evaluation system to quantify the outcomes and compare various psychosocial parameters before and after the intervention.

Utilizing the testimonial method, 85 survivors of torture gave their testimonies. 65 (76%) were male and 20 (24%) were female. 61 are primary victims and 24 are secondary victims. 72 (86%) were Hindu, 8 (9%) were Muslim, and 6 (7%) were Christian. 8 (9%) belong to upper castes, 39(46%) were OBC, 18 (21%) were dalits and 20(24%) belonged to tribal communities.

During the first two sessions of the ‘Capacity Building’ workshops, testimonies were written and in third session victims of torture participated in a delivery ceremony. The trainee therapists also followed up with survivors to assess their feeling after the intervention.

Victims treated with testimonial therapy demonstrated significant improvements in World Health Organisation indicators for human well being (WHO 5). All of them expressed their satisfaction with the process, especially the public delivery ceremony. This ritual apparently became a “turning point” in the healing process. By recording their stories and externalizing their private pain, survivors reframed their experiences to take on a social meaning within the context of human rights affirmation, and thereby regained their self-esteem and dignity.

For more information about PVCHR see:,

For more information about RCT see:

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