At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

Two Indian Human Rights Defenders Win the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

FORUM-ASIA joins the human rights community in Asia in honoring two Indian human rights defenders who were awarded this year's Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in Gwangju, South Korea on May 18, 2007.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) applauds the awarding of the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights to Lenin Raghuvanshi and Irom Sharmila, two human rights defenders from India. The award was given during the Gwangju International Peace Forum and the East Asian Human Rights Forum on 18 May 2007 in Gwangju, South Korea.

The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is awarded annually by the South Korea-based May 18 Memorial Foundation to people who have worked tirelessly for the promotion and protection of human rights. The recipients’ work reflects democracy, freedom, and human rights, the main tenets of the spirit of the 18 May 1980 uprising, when the students and citizens of Gwangju protested against a military dictatorship.

Lenin Raghuvanshi leads the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), a group at the forefront of the resistance against the discriminatory caste system in India.  Caste is a multi-layered social hierarchy system practiced in India for hundreds of years.  The caste system was banned in the Constitution of India 50 years ago, but its discriminatory and inhumane practices still exist today. The PVCHR has grown into a nationwide and worldwide network composed of legal experts, journalists, and human rights advocacy groups. As the organisation’s leader, Lenin Raghuvanshi brings hope to people discriminated on the basis of caste as more than 3,500 bonded child labourers in India who work as slaves to pay for their families’ debt.

Lenin Raghuvanshi considers the Gwangju uprising an inspiration to people like him who are fighting for human rights in India. In his acceptance speech, he declared, “It is time to revive the far-sightedness, the vast imagination and great sensitivity of the people who are remembered on May 18.  It is time that we re-articulate their aspiration in global terms and it is time to grasp the possibilities of that moment. The spirit of the May 18 Gwangju uprising has become the light of hope to us.”

Lenin Raghuvanshi’s co-recipient, Irom Sharmila, is a citizen of Manipur state who has initiated her own protest against the military forces in India under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).  The AFSPA was enacted in 1958 and allows arbitrary detention, shooting and killing of civilians, and search and enter on private property without a warrant by the military forces under the ambiguous cover of “maintaining public order”.

On 2 November 2000, the Indian military fired into a crowd of citizens in Manipur. Since the incident, Irom Sharmila has refused to eat and drink anything to protest the indiscriminate use and abuse of the powers under the AFSPA. She was arrested on charges of “attempted suicide” and force-fed by the Indian authorities. Irom Sharmila was eventually released from detention, but continued to fast in protest. In October 2006, Irom Sharmila travelled from Manipur to New Delhi to pursue her campaign for the abolition of the AFSPA. She was arrested by police authorities on her second day in the city.  Irom Sharmila is currently in the custody of police authorities at the JN Hospital in Manipur.

The brother of Irom Sharmila, Irom Singhajit Singh, accepted the award on her behalf.  In his speech, he relayed the response she gave after being told she had won the award: “Go and accept the award on behalf of the people of Manipur,” she said, “The movement needs it. We must thank Gwangju and the world for the solidarity and support.”

FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director Anselmo Lee believes that the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights serves as a reminder that the uprising in Gwangju was not an isolated struggle by the people of Gwangju: “The Gwangju uprising should be seen as part of a universal battle to advance democracy, freedom, and human rights by all humanity.”

FORUM-ASIA invites all human rights defenders in Asia to relive the spirit of Gwangju, support the struggle of this year’s awardees and show solidarity.   FORUM-ASIA also urges the government of India to address the issues of discrimination against those labelled “untouchables” in India and to abolish the oppressive AFSPA.

India was re-elected on 18 May 2007 to the UN Human Rights Council for another three-year term. India must thus show the international community that it is committed to further respect for human rights and the rule of law.  “The government of India must demonstrate its sincerity in eradicating discrimination against so-called ‘untouchables’.  It must also prove its commitment in establishing the rule of law by abolishing oppressive legislation like the AFSPA,” said Mr. Lee.

Past awardees of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights are former president of East Timor, Xanan Gusmao, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and Thailand’s Angkhana Neelaphaijit.

For more information, please contact Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, telephone +66 2 391 8801; email: [email protected] or Emerlynne Gil, Programme Officer of the Human Rights Defenders Programme, telephone: +66 2 391 8801; email: [email protected].