A major reason why the Government of India (GoI) decided to revoke Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license to Gujarat’s biggest Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust last week is its active participation for Dalit rights campaigns post-Una flogging incident of July 11, 2016 (click HERE), which had allegedly begun to damage the ruling BJP’s Dalit electoral base.
Pointing out that the GoI began to fear the “organized Dalit vote share of 16.6 per cent would damage it more than the combined opposition”, the NGO’s founder Martin Macwan in a commentary on the controversial FCRA move has said, as a result of Navsarjan Trust’s campaign, the Gujarat government forced to reopen investigation into Thangarh firing case.
The decision to reopen the Saurashtra’s ill-famed case, in which three Dalit youths were killed on September 22-23, 2012, was taken after the state government had already filed a C summary and closed it, Macwan says, adding, the state government “unease on the issue can be understood from their fear of releasing the inquiry report of an IAS officer appointed by themselves.”
The Gujarat government has refused to release IAS officer Sanjay Prasad’s report even after a state information commission (SIC) order dated August 22 to immediately hand over a copy of the inquiry report on the September 22-23, 2012 incident to the NGO. Instead, it has gone to the Gujarat High Court, challenging the SIC order.
One of the towering Dalit rights leaders of India, Macwan, who was awarded Robert F Kennedy award for Human Rights in 2000 five years after Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi received it in 1995, said, Navsarjan was because of FCRA, but was born following the murder of four colleagues in the Central Gujarat village of Golana on January 26, 1986 “to ensure that their blood does not go in vain.”
Insisting that Navsarjan is primarily inspired by the clarion call of Dr BR Ambedkar in the well-known treatise “Annihilation of Caste”, Macwan says, the NGO has been working for Dalit rights for 36 years, from 1990 to 2016, but it found out between August 3, 2016 and December 15, 2016 that its activities “created disharmony between castes” and cancelled FCRA.
“Navsarjan applied for fresh FCRA on February 27, 2016, and the FCRA certificate was granted on August 3, 2016, after over five months”, Macwan said, adding, “The FCRA department took this time to study papers sent by Navsarjan. They had their IB inputs about the activities of the organization before renewing the certificate.”
Yet, on December 15, 2016, Macwan said, he heard the reason cited by the government for revoking its own renewal order – “its undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic and regional groups, castes or communities!”
“I am surprised to know that Gujarat enjoys religious and caste harmony! Can there be harmony between various castes in villages where even after death the burial grounds are segregated for Dalits and Non-Dalits? Is disharmony the product of past 35 years?”, he asks.
Calling Una the biggest example of so-called “caste harmony” in Gujarat, Macwan says, “Navsarjan was the first in India to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Gujarat on existence of manual scavenging practices in 1996”, after which “it became a national issue, compelling every succeeding Prime Minsiter to make a mention of his government’s resolve to end manual scavenging.”
Giving details of the works it has been engaged in – ranging from land rights for Dalits to protecting Patan gangrape victims, providing legal aid to Dalit victims, and training thousands of youths (more than half of them girls) in vocational education – Macwan wonders, why should one fight shy of globalizing human rights “when we advocate globalization of the market and economy?”