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Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Fiche d’analyse Dossier : Human Rights in India

The Role Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) in Tamilnadu and Karnataka

The file contains the different activities of HRFDL-Tamilnadu and HRFDL-Karnataka on various Human Right issues.

Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation (HRFDL) is a unique platform comprising12 Dalit networks constituted by 175 Dalit grass root NGOs and movements. HRFDL is active in 4229 villages in 25 districts of Tamilnadu and in more than 4000 villages in 13 districts of Karnataka. HRFDL works for the social, economic and political empowerment of Dalits and seeks to protect and promote Dalit human rights.

HRFDL works with several NGOs and Civil Society groups in facilitating democratic participation in local self-governments by increasing participation of Dalits in elections and preparing Dalit candidates for the forth-coming elections. They also share their strength of problem solving in the post election scenario where most of the human right violations have been taking place.

As per its various documents, HRFDL in both the states firmly believes in :

  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s ideology of social justice and equal opportunities for all with positive discrimination for Dalits, marginalised, oppressed, and other vulnerable peoples.

  • Cooperation with like-minded Dalit movements and Dalit-friendly non-Dalit organisations and individuals.

  • The importance that land and common property resources play in the empowerment of Dalits towards Dalit liberation.

  • Democratic and collective leadership with participatory decision making.

HRFDL - Tamilnadu

According to one report of the Tamilnadu HRFDL, the origin of the organization was at an extremely significant stage in the struggles of Dalits of Tamilnadu and all over India towards holistic empowerment. The report says, the immediate origin of HRFDL – TN can be traced to the launching, in December 1998, of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), with the main aim of campaigning and lobbying to include “Caste Discrimination and Untouchability” in the United Nations Convention on Racial Discrimination. The need to ‘strengthen the Campaign at the grassroots level as well as to organize a collective action at the State level to strengthen the campaign still further was felt strongly.

After a preparatory consultation, in February 1999, (in which 50 women and men from 9 Dalit Networks from all over Tamilnadu participated), HRFDL-TN was born in March 1999, as a State level Network of 10 Dalit Networks comprising of 165 small Dalit groups. The urgent need to give greater visibility to Dalit issues being handled from a human rights perspective was the driving force behind the formation of HRFDL-TN.

HRFDL’s involvement in Human Rights issues

Following are some of the historic and brave involvements of HRFDL-TN in the human right issues in connection with the Panchayati Raj Institutions, according to one of their recent reports.

  • In April 2001, HRFDL-TN organized the First State-level Convention of Dalit Panchayat Presidents, consolidating the 10 district conferences of Dalit Panchayat presidents held earlier. About 100 Dalit Panchayat presidents and about 150 Dalit leaders and activists took part in the Convention. The Resolutions of the meet demanded greater power to administer common natural resources, divesting the power of officials to remove elected representatives, additional funds for Panchayats etc.

  • In the October 2001 elections to local bodies, a large number of Dalits contested in reserved as well as in general constituencies, in spite of the terrible atrocities unleashed on Dalits contesting the elections and the open auctioning of Panchayat posts to the highest bidder among the dominant castes. More than 1000 Dalits were enabled by the sub-networks of HRFDL-TN to contest elections.

  • In November 2001, a fact-finding team was sent to Marikkalampatti in Dharmapuri district regarding violence on Dalits during the elections.

  • In 2002, fact-finding missions were undertaken following cases of the brutal murder of a Panchayat president in Coimbatore Dt.

  • In August 2002, HRFDL-TN organised a State-level Convention of Dalit Panchayat Presidents against the “Comprehensive Wasteland Development Programme” of the State Government, geared towards handing wastelands over to private companies. 330 persons, including 200 Dalit panchayat presidents (including 50 women) participated. The Convention demanded that the wastelands must not be handed over to private companies, but distributed among dalits and the landless. As an outcome of the Convention, many dalit Panchayat Presidents brought out resolutions in their ‘Gramasabha’ meetings opposing the Government move. Due to such lobbying by HRFDL - TN and other Dalit movements, the State Government dropped the move.

  • In the context of the May 2004 Elections to the Indian parliament, HRFDL-TN released a “DALIT MANIFESTO”, detailing Dalit demands to political parties. HRFDL-TN arranged public meetings and consultations to Dalit activists, college students, Panchayat representatives etc., under the banner, “Democracy to the Last Man”.

  • In June 2005 HRFDL-TN organized in collaboration with NCDHR, Dalit Panthers of India and Peoples’ Watch – Tamilnadu, a National Public Hearing on the reserved panchayats of Pappapatti, Keeripatti, Nattarmangalam and Kottkachiyendhal, where Dalits have been blocked from exercising their constitutional rights to get elected and run the Panchayats.

  • HRFDL-TN took efforts to monitor the elections in the Chidambaram Constituency, which had witnessed election-related violence on Dalits during the previous election. Since the election Commission did not accept HFRDL-TN’s suggestion for an official Election Observation Team, HRFDL-TN itself constituted an Election Observation Team. On the day of the election, the Election monitoring team identified cases of thousands of Dalits’ names left out of the electoral rolls, Dalits being prohibited by caste men from voting, cases of bogus votes and Dalit agents being threatened and forcefully expelled.

  • In the context of the 73rd Constitutinal Amendment and subsequent election process HRFDL-TN initiated and sponsored the Dalit Panchayat Presidents Forum (DPPF-TN). The Objective of the Forum is to focus on the issues of atrocities and discrimination faced by Dalit Panchayat presidents and ward members, to enable solidarity among Dalit Panchayat elected leaders and to facilitate the emergence of the Forum as a powerful lobbying force in favour of Dalits, strengthening their bargaining power with the government as well as the oppressor castes. HRFDL-TN has been facilitating the growth of the Forum at the districts-level through its sub-networks as well as at the State level.

  • 321 Dalit Panchayat presidents, 1076 Dalit Ward members, 158 Dalit Union Councilors and 15 Dalit District Councilors got elected in the operational area of HRFDL-TN.

  • In May 2004, the Thiruvallur district Conference of DPPF was organized. The resolutions of the Conference highlighted the problems of Dalit Panchayats in exercising their constitutional rights and a Memorandum of demands was released.

  • In August 2004, the executive Committee of DPPF, where representatives from 24 districts participated, resolved to submit a Memorandum to the Government especially on the Special Component Plan for Dalits.


Similar attempts have been facilitated also in Karnataka by HRFDL-K to enhance Dalit participation in local self-governance.

  • HRFDL-K has been active since three years in 10 districts of Karnataka initiating various training programmes for the elected Dalit Panchayat members and direct struggles as and when a human right violation against the Dalits is reported.

  • In the previous election there were only 10-20 contestants but in the latest one the graph soared up with 120 contestants and among them 48 were women.

  • HRFDL –K organized a one-month training programme for the elected members on decentralized power, which was attended by a substantial number of participants.

  • HRFDL-K initiated a process of preparing and selecting candidates for the 2005 Panchayat elections in Karnataka. 342 Dalit candidates had been identified out of which 237 were men and 105 were women. There were 2164 Panchayats and 37,152 seats altogether in the 10 HRFDL-K districts of Karnataka.

  • Lobbying and advocacy actions were initiated prior to the elections with the government with regard to reservation for Dalits based on population. Villages, which comprise 400 Dalit votes, be declared as a reserved constituency for the Dalits.

  • HRFDL-K Panchayat members’ sub-committees are constituted in several Panchayats to monitor various development programmes of the Panchayats.

  • Recently HRFDL-K has been recognized by Hampi University as a champion of Dalit rights, which the organization thinks as a great achievement in the field of research and development.

HRFDL in Tamilnadu and Karnataka has been consistently interacting and collaborating with various movements / organisations in its political advocacy and human rights work. There have been instances where HRFDL has closely collaborated with the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and other Dalit organisations. There have also been common training programmes and campaigns in collaboration with non-Dalit human rights organisations on topics such as Panchayati Raj and Human Rights.

The challenge today is the emergence of a powerfully united Dalit political platform at the State-level, which needs to identify its strategic partners both within the Dalit and non-Dalit sectors, and establish itself also within the strongly emerging human rights advocacy, monitoring and mobilisational scenario in the States.


HRFDL-TN and K annual reports 2005, 2006