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Thanks Pandam167 and PBCHR Director Shirin Shabana Khan for these useful insights on the means and value of empowerment approaches to helping survivors. I wonder if, over a period of time, it has been possible to measure the impact of such empowerment on the system(s) that sustains abusive policies and practices? In other words, has there been any noticeable change at the systemic level in relation to practices that violate human rigths?
Few more points to add. For us in PVCHR, empowering the survivor is a continuous process. Giving a voice to the Mushahars (most marginalised among dalits ) in Uttar Pradesh helped the entire community setting development agenda for their village. There was time when the Mushahar children were dying due to hunger. Now their villages have achieved freedom from hunger. We do not go to their villges any more, instead they come to us with survivors of torture. We believe that if a survivor stands by another fellow survivor to help overcome the pain and get justice, it is empowerment.
No institution is free from biases, including National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). We do not ever let the decisions of the NHRC go unchallenged, if we think it is unfair to the survivor. Over the years, we have witnessed collective conscience has impacted the performance of HRIs. But there are areas of concern, for example, they do not set protocol for investigation of cases is an example of the impunity they still enjoy. On the brighter side, NHRC has been very active in awarding compensation to the survivors. In our cases, NHRC has awarded total compensation amount of over totalling over 2 million INR in last five years. For some survivors, search for justice ends after getting compensation and we respect their decision.
To the question: whether there has been noticeable change at the systemic level in relation to the practices that violate human rights ? The answer is yes and there are too many examples. The answer lies in finding out, for example;
how many survivors have been revictimised by the perpetrator and state nexus ?
How many bonded labor have gone back to the slavery again ? and
How many cases the NHRC declined to consider which were taken up by court ?
In PVCHR, we believe that empowerment of survivor is a continous process. Breaking the silence and giving voice to the survivor is empowerment. Giving voice to the Mushahar community (the most marginalised group among the dalits) helped them setting the development agenda in their villages. There was a time when the community was infamous for regular reporting of hunger deaths. Now they have achieved freedom from hunger. The community continues to sustain its resiliance. PVCHR does not work in these villages any more. But often the elders from the Mushahar community accompany other survivors of torture to our office. This is how few individuals have sustained the impact of empowerment.
We access and approach all the institutions that has mandate to give justice, In the process of our work we have realised that no institution is free from biases, including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In the last decade, mobilisation of public opinion and increased awareness on rights influenced the collective conscience of the society resulting in proactive functioning of HRIs. At the sametime, it is also true that these institutions enjoy impunity because none of them have a protocol to explain how they take up and deal with the cases.
However, the HRIs have in the last one decade done exceptionally good work in the field of providing compensation to the survivors and punishing the government officials for failing in their constitutional duties. In our cases, the NHRC has awarded over 2 million INR to the survivors in the last less than five years. For some survivors, receiving compensation ends their fight for justice. We respect their decision.
To the question-has there been any noticiable change at the systemic level in relation to the practices that violates human rights ? The answer is yes. There are too many examples. Can we look at the following trends ?
How many survivors have been revictimised by the state during the entire process of seeking justice ?
How many bonded labors have gone back to the slavery system after being free ?