Fellow Since 2001
PVCHR ( People’s Vigilance Committee for Human rights)
This profile was prepared when Lenin Raghuvanshi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Lenin sees that unless Indian society deals with the injustices of the caste system head-on, it will not attack social conflict at its root. Translating these convictions into action, Lenin has built local, national, and regional institutions that challenge caste. His People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) is a large membership organization that draws in people from different walks of life. Among its fifty thousand members in five northern states, three thousand are former torture victims whom the Committee has helped. Their solidarity demonstrates how Lenin is creatively building an inclusive social movement. Also participating are famous intellectuals whose integrity and credibility raise the coalition's public image. By linking PVCHR to local "People-Friendly Village" committees, Lenin provides allies to previously isolated victims of caste discrimination, usually Dalits or so-called "untouchables." The Committee draws on international human rights organizations like Amnesty International to pressure the Indian government and broaden support for the movement against caste. Lenin has encouraged other human rights organizations and funding agencies to begin setting their own goals and priorities in terms of caste. Lenin's 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. He is one of only a handful of activists to declare that such discrimination goes against democratic principles by promoting inequality. By working from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh–one of the most traditional, conservative, and segregated regions in India–Lenin demonstrates his resolve.