Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Change is possible: We can

6 kilometers away from the Varanasi airport and near to railway line of Pindra halt 60 families of musahar resides in southern part of Sarai village of Pindra block of Varanasi. While entering the ghetto it is easy to feel the changes happened in our life and development in the ghetto. A good connecting pavement road with solar light, electricity, re-boring of two hand pump and 19 families identified for the Lohia Awas Yojana (Housing scheme). Says Sunita, a local resident of Sarai musahar ghetto.

 This development happened with the continuous engagement of the community and PVCHR with timely implementation of the strategy. They sit together and decided to bring the complaint before the open hearing on atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SC) organized by National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Varanasi on 25 – 26 November, 2013. They made complaint to the commission all the minutes of the folk school, community meeting and also individual testimonies.

 The musahars with the full confidence and without any fear were narrating entire self –suffering in front of the two presiding officers of the open hearing First time I feel honoured when Bada Sahab (Big official) listen my testimony very carefully.”  said Mutana, a community leader. Looking their confidence I remember the day when few bonded labours (Ram Dayal and others) from this village came to PVCHR office along with Mangla Prasad, Senior field activist[i]. They were very afraid and unable to share the self – suffering. Now after 2 ½ years they have been healed and transformed as human rights defenders; they are fearless and now ready to face and confront their perpetrators; they are now in a better position to reclaim and attain their rights.

Sarai is successful example of sandwich model of our initiative. One hand on the grass- root level breaking the culture of silence and eliminating the fear through psycho-social and the legal support and pressure from ground and above on the administration and state Government by National Human Rights Commission, Supreme Court, National and International players. If social movement are supporting most marginalized people on grass- root level and HRIs of this country become empathetic for the rights of most marginalized then you have model like Sarai village, says, Lenin Raghuvanshi, Founder and CEO of PVCHR
PVCHR and dignity initiative adopted Sarai village as torture free model village in 2010.  A village constructing a new culture which is driven by knowledge and spirit to deal effectively with any human rights violations and prevent any potential unrest by cultivating embracing attitudes. The community people are now speaking more gently and respectfully with one another. The community leaders have started taking the initiative of organizing the community meeting. During the meeting they are mindful of resolving disputes that are happening in their communities and those presented for resolution. As best as possible, they are trying to manage their own problems. On the whole, the people’s fear of the police has greatly decreased.

 The musahar ghetto of Sarai village is bonded labour free village. This was possible with the tireless process and community aspiration for change the community people decided not work as bonded labour in any establishment and now working under MNREGA Scheme. They understood the importance of education and now they enrolled their children in near Government Primary School. Bablu Said, “Our younger brother and sister faced discrimination in the school but after the intervention now they got uniform and getting same behavior like other children, Anganwadi is providing nutritious diet and ANM is regularly visiting our ghetto for immunization”.
Mahavir, Community leader, our self-respect increase when people from different places come to visit our places. First time Government officials are coming to visit our ghetto[ii]. Before that no one visit to our ghetto. We also have my own identity as our dignity. Children got their birth registration certificate and for voter ID card form 7 was filled by the concerned authorities. In the absence of these "identity" cards, even the most basic rights sometimes get trespassed, resulting in exploitation and discrimination, and even violence.[iii]

 Now the community leaders are monitoring all the schemes. We are inculcating their knowledge and skill through continuous capacity building workshops on various act and guideline and participation in various programme. Now the people from different communities are coming to this ghetto and seeking help from them. said Shiv Pratap Chaubey, Model Block Co-ordinator, Pindra Block

 Recently Fr Bernardo Cervellera, Director of Asianews and 31 other people from Italy visited Musahar ghetto Sarai village of Pindara, Varanasi as tribute honour to heroic nonviolence fight of Musahar people.  
The success of Sarai village achieved by the people of Sarai is making ripple effect struggle against poverty, injustice, caste system and torture and organized violence as a slogan: You can

 Shirin Shabana Khan is Program Director at management committee and Program Manager of PVCHR – Dignity initiative “Healing and Empowering marginalized Committee in India”