February 15, 2018, Varanasi. Under the auspices of PVCHR/ Jan Mitra Nyas, International Rehabilitation Council on Torture Victim (IRCT), United Nations Trust for Torture Victim and Oak Foundation, a joint conference was organized at Hotel Kamesh Hut in Lahurabeer Varanasi. The conference was primarily based on the theme of ‘access to torture narrative therapy and justice in the emerging Indian state of corporate fascism’.
At the beginning of the conference, PVCHR CEO Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi said that the basic purpose of the conference was to drive home the point that one who suffers from physical atrocity has to bear even greater mental agony. This experience totally changes the behaviour of the victim, who detaches himself from the mainstream of society and is forced to live in an isolated world of fear and angst. He gives up the hope of getting justice, for which our system is to blame. However, if the victim’s tale of agony is lent an endearing ear, it gives a lot of courage to the person, who re-joins the mainstream of society in pursuit of justice.
“Through the medium of this conference, we would listen to such tales from the victims and strive to get them justice,” he said.
The conference also discussed the paper of Dr Jeremy Rinker titled “Narrative Reconciliation as Rights Based Peace”. Also, survivors from Varanasi and Mirzapur districts in Uttar Pradesh and Koderma in Jharkhand narrated their tales of woes in the conference.
The chief guest of the conference and former Parliamentarian Rajesh Mishra said the the Prevention of Torture bill as recommended by the Law Commission should be passed in the Rajya Sabha without any further delay. Besides, UN convention Against Torture should also be approved. He lamented that the bill was held up in the Rajya Sabha even after the recommendations of the select committee, Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission. He observed it was the main reason that in Uttar Pradesh, instead of establishing the rule of law, the ‘rule of encounter’ was taking shape.
The victims of police and other atrocities were also felicitated during the conference to boost their morale towards a life of dignity. Varanasi residents Sahil Nat, Chhedi Banwasi, Sabiha, Sirajuddin, Mehtab Alam, Savitri, Anjani Shankar Yadav, Etah resident Gajadhar and Kodarma resident Reena were feted in the conference. Gajadhar of Etah had spent 20 years in a Bangladeshi jail without committing any offence. Owing to the advocacy of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and PVCHR, he could be freed from the prison for rehabilitation in India.
At this conference, Lucknow-based human rights activist Ashish Awasthi was feted with ‘Jan Mitra Samman’ by the PVCHR.
Besides, Varanasi’s Raj Kumar Gupta, Vinod Kumar, Bablu Kumar Patel alias Babu, Satya Narain Patel, Suman Devi and Azamgarh’s Amit Nigam and Kumar Savita were felicitated with ‘Nav Dalit Samman’ for emerging as role models in opposing ‘castiest feudalism’, damaging influences of ‘neo liberalism’ and standing up for justice in caste-based differences among farmers.
At the same time, blankets were distributed among the poorest of the victims to give moral support. Such beneficiaries included Varanasi’s Sadhu, Badaam, Arvind, Sirajuddin, Shankar Yadav, Pancham Yadav, Pappu, Rajkumar, Kailash, Rekha, Sukhai, Milla, Ram Chandar, Gulab, Chhedi Banvasi, Sabiha, Mehtab, Anjani, Mirzapur’s Tribhuvan, Murhu, Raju, Sita, Brijesh, Pooja, Pardeshi, Videshi and Jharkhand’s Reena.
The conference saw the presence of Dashashmegh Ghaat CO Sneha Tiwari, district deputy labour commissioner Rakesh Kumar, district child protection officer Nirupama Singh, Asha Jyoti Kendra manager Rashmi Dubey and Dr RB Singh of the blood bank at Pd Deen Dayal Hospital.
Meanwhile, two minutes of silence was observed to condole the death of Dr. Lenin’s grandmother and Shirin Shabana Khan’s brother.