Skip to main content

"Easier" to fight for victims of caste atrocity in Indian courts than communalism: Book on human rights lawyering

By Our Representative
In a controversial observation, a recent book on human rights lawyering has said that there are greater possibilities of success in legal struggles for the victims of caste-based discrimination than communal violence. The book, titled "Breathing Life into the Constitution: Human Rights Lawyering in India" by Saumya Uma and Arvind Narrain, believes that this is because communal violence is often perpetrated for political gains, to "enjoy" political clout.
Pointing out that the struggle for justice in cases of "communal violence brings the human rights lawyers in direct confrontation with the state and its political might", the book says, as for atrocities against Dalits, there is a possibility that "one can work towards the application of a specific law, i.e. the scheduled caste (SC)/ scheduled tribe (ST) Prevention of Atrocities Act."
The book continues, "In the context of communal violence, the struggle is made more difficult by the fact that there is no specific law that one can work with" and the "Indian criminal law is geared towards crimes against individuals rather than against collectivities", even though communal violence "involves criminal offences committed against collectivities, targeted on the basis of religious identity."
According to the book, this is the main reason why "human rights defenders and other concerned citizens have been advocating for a special law on communal violence since 2004."
Suggesting that this hurdle was the main reason why Ahmedabad's Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) adopted a deliberate policy of quietly fighting for Gujarat communal riot victims, CSJ's Gagan Sethi has been quoted as saying: "Operating as a human rights lawyer while working within a state and with a state machinery, which is so nasty, is very difficult compared to being outside the system."
According to Sethi, "Though there were times when we had to face the brunt of the state, as a policy we did not come into the media. We have always underplayed our work, as a strategy."
Things are different with regard to caste discrimination. The book quotes Gujarat Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan's Martin Macwan as saying that, following the 1986 massacre of six Dalits in Golana and successes in the legal battle against the upper castes, which led to life sentence to 11, "it became possible for Dalits to say that if you perpetrate atrocities like Golana, you will go to jail."
The book notes, "Termed as the biggest conviction that Gujarat witnessed on the caste question, Macwan opines that the response to a single incident was responsible for the decrease in incidents of Dalit atrocities and age-old oppression across Gujarat."
Suggesting that human rights lawyering, despite its hurdles, has had seen major successes, the book believes, one them was in September 2014, when "a five judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, reworked the norms for death penalty cases, to ensure transparency, greater public participation and closer scrutiny."
The book believes, other hurdles which human rights lawyering faces include lack of viable networking among organizations and lawyers who represent cases of the downtrodden sections, absence credible socio-economic data in petitions on environmental violations, and lack of funds.
Calling funds a key challenge faced by human rights lawyers, the book states, "The work that human rights lawyers do is not remunerative and hence it’s very difficult to sustain the work year after year", adding, in the "current era of globalization the ‘gap’ between human rights lawyers and commercial lawyers has really opened out."
Quoting top Mumbai-based advocate Mihir Desai, the book states, the income differences are so vast that sustaining a human rights practice is even more difficult in the current scenario. The socio-economic and political changes have been massive. What would have worked earlier need not necessarily work now. 
"To work and survive as independent legal professionals and stick to the kind of principles we have has became very difficult", Desai says.

Comments

TRENDING

India failing to dictate diplomatic preferences of Nepal, Bhutan, is unfairly blaming Beijing: Chinese daily

By Our Representative
In a sharply-worded editorial, a top Chinese media outfit, described by BBC as state-run, has said, commenting on India's foreign relations with its neighbours, that "speculation and suspicion" is "certainly not diplomacy". Published in "China Daily", the largest circulating English Monday-to-Saturday newspaper with branches across the world, the editorial notes (September 20) that "several recent events" in Nepal and Bhutan, are "gnawing worrywarts in New Delhi".
The editorial -- which comes close on the heels of a sharp critique of India's foreign policy in a state-supported Russian media outfit, Sputnik International, calling India's anti-Pak diplomacy as having "gone awry" following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "half-baked" push for anti-terror drill down "others' throat" -- says, the " worrywarts" include "Nepalese troops taking part in a joint…

Ahmedabad, GIFT, Adani city get 1.68 lakh acre ft Narmada water; Gujarat's rural areas just 4.27 AF: Letter to CM

Counterview Desk
Well-known farmer rights leader Sagar Rabari, in an open letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, has demanded a transparent account of Narmada water, saying, while he has received a "routine reply" from him to his earlier, the data emerging from his RTI application show huge quantity of water being directed to Ahmedabad, the 10 km stretch of Sabarmati for the Ahmedabad riverfront, and nearby elite urban areas, including the Adanis' Shantigram township and GIFT City.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

17 lakh Jharkhand elderly, widows, differently abled do not receive pension: Public hearing told, aadhaar is a hurdle

By Our Representative
Hundreds of elderly, widows, single women and differently-abled persons from different districts of Jharkhand gathered near the Raj Bhavan in Ranchi for a public hearing organized by the Jharkhand Right to Food Campaign and Pension Parishad demanding the right to universal social security pensions ahead of World Elderly Day on October 1.

Ethnocide in Caribbean island filmed following award winning docufilm on Jamaica's anti-colonial Indian roots

International awards winner for Best Feature Documentary Linda Aïnouche for “Dreadlocks Story” (2014), which shows how Indians are entangled in the Jamaican society, and how Hinduism was a source of inspiration for the Rastafari movement, is all set to release her new documentary, “Marooned in the Caribbean”, which aims at documenting the awful desolating living conditions that Raizal people, the native inhabitants of San Andres Archipelago, endure.
Sons of slaves, these islanders have fallen prey to what the Colombian government calls Colombianization. “It’s a process”, according to her, “which kills the Raizal culture; it’s the killing of the Raizal soul. Colombianization subjugates Afro-descendants of San Andres to an ethnocide.”

Explorer, director and producer, Linda Aïnouche writes exclusively for Counterview: ***
Nobody escapes from blood and thunder in Colombia, and definitely not in the archipelago of San Andres, situated closer to Managua and Kingston than Bogota. The Raizal p…

India to deport Rohingya refugees, as the world moves towards prosecuting Myanmar for genocide

By Tapan Bose*
Seven Rohingya Muslims refugees who were held at a detention centre in Assam since 2012 will be handed over to Myanmar. The Supreme Court of India has refused to stop their deportation. The new Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gagoi said, "We are not inclined to interfere on the decision taken".

An elite Kutir set up by Modi far from the "madding" crowd: This Gandhi museum is formal, unapproachable

By Rajiv Shah
Have you ever heard of a Gandhi museum, sough to be projected as the “largest” on the Mahatma, yet totally inaccessible, in sharp contrast to Ahmedabad’s humble, approachable and unassuming Gandhi Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati, set up by the Mahatma during the heydays of the freedom movement? It exists about 30 kilometres away, its idea was conceived by none other than a person who has today become even more inaccessible than he ever was: Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister.

Accused of being RSS plant, Modi man, Hyderabad Urdu varsity chancellor asks President to probe "irregularities"

Counterview Desk
Refused entry in the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), the central university's newly appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who claims to be grand nephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, has, in a letter to the President of India, said that MANUU vice-chancellor (V-C) Dr Aslam Parvaiz has accused him of being an RSS plant and a Modi man, whose sole aim is to "interfere in the working of the university".

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

History less known: Kasturba's role as an independent woman and a freedom fighter in her own right

By Nandini Oza*
Even the most deserving of women do not find a place that equals their worth in history. Kasturba is one such woman whose contribution to India’s struggle for freedom has been exemplary, and yet, it has not received the recognition it deserves. Kastur Makhanji Kapadia was born in the year 1869, the same year and in the same town of Porbandar in Gujarat as Gandhiji. In fact she was older than Gandhiji by a few months.