Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shruti Nagvanshi: a grass root women power

Shruti Nagvanshi, born on 2nd January 1975 in the city of Varanasi is an Indian social activist committed to promote social justice and defend civil rights of  the marginalised and vulnerable sections in the caste ridden Indian society in order to overcome their social exclusion. She brings to her work 15 years of direct experience with marginalised communities mainly the untouchable caste known as Dalits, women and children in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh. 

A dedicated social worker, Shruti has been the District General Secretary of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement), a national movement against child labour from 1996 to 1997. Shruti is the founder of Savitri Bai Phule Women’s Forum, a social organisation which works for the empowerment of women members to fight against social evils like caste and gender based discrimination and the Hindu conservative patriarchal value system. The organisation draws inspiration from Savitri Ba Phule who was the first Indian woman to become a teacher and founder of the first shelter home for the battered women victims. When her husband died Savitri went against the social traditions by accompanying the dead body and also lighted the pyre. The Forum celebrates 10th March as Indian Women’s Day, as this is the death anniversary of Savitri Ba Phule.

 In 1999, Shruti became the founder trustee and managing trustee of Jan Mitra Nyas (People Friendly Trust), the governing body of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, (PVCHR) Varanasi. Jan Mitra Nyas is a public charitable trust, for carrying out work on crucial issues of governance and human rights in the adopted villages around Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Shruti has been the co-initiator of Jan Mitra villages (People Friendly Village), which works for the civil and political rights of vulnerable Dalit community and focuses especially on issues related to women and children based on the ideals enshrined the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of United Nations Assembly of 1948.

People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, (PVCHR) was formed in 1996 in collaboration with famous Hindi poet Gyanendra Pati, internationally well known Sarod maestro Vikash Maharaj, Historian Dr. Mahendra Pratap Singh and Human Rights activist and her husband Dr. Lenin. The approach of the organization is two-fold: to have a strong grassroots organization to work for the democratic rights of those in marginalized communities and secondly, to create the structure and dynamics to receive the assistance of national and international institutions.  PVCHR, a “peoples’ forum” is located in Varanasi in the eastern region of Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  Though there has been a plethora of laws in Indian constitution that prohibits the practice of treating people as “untouchables” or subhuman for many decades, the practice still persists in Indian society. PVCHR works as a guiding force to bring about social change.

During the past eleven years Shruti with the help of the organisation has taken up around 3500 cases of discrimination against women, children and Dalit community. Efforts of her organisation have been able to secure interventions by the Government, Commissions and administration (namely local panchayat administration) on almost three hundred cases. Out of these some two hundred cases had positive results. These are the cases taken up personally by her, besides many other cases taken up on behalf of her organisation.

Shruti has been the convenor of Voice of People, state wide joint alliance of civil society organisations working for the promotion of children rights since October 2013. Shruti has also severed on the District Food and Supply Advisory Committee of Varanasi as a member appointed by Governor of Uttar Pradesh.  In recognition of her contribution, she has been awarded HT Women Appreciation Certificate by the leading Indian daily English newspaper, The Hindustan Times. Shruti has also been honoured by Shri P.L.Punia, Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for her commendable work for Dalit rights.

Shruti participated in Gwangju Human Rights Award ceremony in 2007 in South Korea along with her husband Dr. Lenin who received 2007 Gwangju Human Rights Award from May 18 Foundation along with Ms. Sharmila Irom of Manipur.

Shruti attended the Star Peace award from Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA) in the US in 2008.

Shruti participated in International Human Rights Award ceremony in 2010 in the City Council of Weimar in Germany.

Shruti has written many articles in both Hindi and English languages. Her article about corporal punishment of Dalit Mushar children in school of Pindara, Varanasi in India published in and then published on editorial page of National Hindi daily ‘Jansatta’, which became a suo-motto petition and taken up by the High Court of Uttar Pradesh. Intervention of High Court brought the justice and hope for the dalit children.

Shruti along with Dr. Archana Kaushik of Delhi University wrote an article on plight of weavers of Varanasi, which is translated into French by Mr. Ben Deboc.


Shruti was born and brought up in a middle class family as the eldest child. Her father was employed with the Life Insurance Company. She studied up to intermediate (Pre-University studies) at Basant Kanya Vidyalaya founded by Annie Beasant of the Theosophical Society of India. Since her childhood days, Shruti nourished the idea of a just and equitable society and often used to get deeply disturbed by looking at the existing social inequalities and exploitation and especially the widening gap between the rich and the poor in her native city of Varanasi where poor people were often forced to go to bed without food. Despite family opposition to her ideas, Shruti took up the challenge to work and help the poor and the deprived.

Shruti got married to Dr. Lenin on 22 February, 1992. Despite all social pressures from her family, she daily walked two kilometres to Uday Pratap College and completed her graduation. Mother of a boy child, Shruti is also an example of someone who has balanced her work life with family life exceptionally well. Her life is a shining example of working for the society selflessly and making the best use of knowledge for the civil and political rights of the less privileged sections of the society.

Born on 2 January 1975 at Varanasi

Married to Lenin Raghuvanshi on 22 February 1992; has a 15 year old son, Kabeer Karunik

1993: District General Secretary of Bachapan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), Varanasi.

1996: Founded People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) along with Lenin Raghuvanshi, in association with Dr. Mahendra Pratap (Historian), Vikash Maharaj (Musician), GyanedraPati (poet) to work on child labour free village.

1999: Founded Jan Mitra Nyas, a public charitable trust, for carrying out work on crucial issues of governance and Human Rights in five adopted villages near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.

2001: Elected to the Executive Council of Voice of People (VOP, 25000 membership), a state wide people's alliance to highlight and bring into national focus the child right in Uttar Pradesh.

2002: Campaigned and mobilized at State and national level for prevention of torture.

2004: Created Model Village "people Friendly Village" to enable and amplify the voice of the marginalized  with especial focus on realization on child right in field.

2003: Established Savitri Bai Phule Mahila Panchayat, a women forum

2004: Organized Benaras Convention in order to assert the discourse on the politics of marginalized people in the national mainstream. The convention attended by thinkers and activists across the nation unanimously declared that the City of Varanasi was the symbol of Shraman Sanskriti (culture of the working classes) as opposed to that of the Brahminical Sanskriti (Culture of the feudal classes).

2005: Conceived and convened People's SAARC at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The objective was to bring the issues faced by the people of SAARC countries on to a common platform and forge a forum based on people to people relationship to fight against the evil designs of caste, communal, ethnic, and fascist forces in the region. The most important declaration read, "We cherish and uphold the Rule of Law, sovereignty of the people, a system of governance that ensures devolution of power, People' right to self-rule and control over resources." The core committee comprised of PVCHR (India), INSEC (Nepal), People's Forum for Human Rights (Bhutan), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, LOKOJ (Bangladesh) and Wiroslokh Institute (Srilanka).This convention also triggered off a series of similar conventions across the SAARC countries. Two major outcomes of the convention were the inclusion of Afghanistan in the SAARC, and the inclusion of civil society voices in the decision making process adopted in the Dhaka declaration in SAARC, 2005.

2007: Established Folk School for Dalits in Belwa region.

2007: PVCHR and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) along with 210 NGOs across the state conducted the Uttar Pradesh Election Watch (UPEW). The objective was to sensitize the electors about the governance processes. By providing background information of the candidates, UPEW facilitated for the citizens of Uttar Pradesh to make informed choices.

2007: Participated in 2007 Gwangju Human Rights Award of May 18 Foundation of South Korea.

2010: Participated in 2010 International Human Rights Award ceremony at City council of Weimar in Germany.

2011: Received Usmania Award from Madarsa Usmania, Bazardiha, Varanasi in India for the development and welfare of education.

2011: Establishing Neo dalit movement as new non-violent peoples movement to formulate positive conflict resolution all different identities against injustice, culture of silence with impunity, neo liberalism and communal fascism.

2012: Jan Mitra Nyas, a public charitable trust for PVCHR received ISO 9001: 2008 Certification for quality management system.

2013: Convenor of Voice of People(VOP)

Contact: SA 4/2 A, Daualtpur, Varanasi-221002, India
Email: Web:

 Mobile: +91-9935599331/0

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