Human rights defender
Asha is a human rights defender from India who works as the General Secretary of All India Dalit Women’s Forum. The All India Dalit Women Forum is a part of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) in India and works to promote and protect the rights of women who are subjected to caste and gender discrimination. In India’s caste system, the Dalits (or so-called untouchables) are traditionally seen as the lowest of the low. Asha has over 15 years of work experience with various collectives, organisations and campaigns involved in anti-caste movements. She has set up the structure, teams, strategy and functioning of the Dalit Women’s unit within the NCDHR, with independent operations in seven states of North India. This process has nurtured more than 35 young Dalit women leaders who are now at the frontlines of the movement. Asha has also initiated #dalitwomenfight – a collective of Dalit women on Twitter. She has regularly worked with UN mechanisms towards addressing Discrimination based on Work and Descent (DWD) issues. She also actively engages with the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and the Asia Dalit Rights Forum (ADRF).
Human rights violations in India
There are more than 200 million Scheduled Castes (the official term for Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits) in India . As the most underprivileged group in the country, they have long been the target of hate crimes and discrimination in India. Despite the laws to protect Dalits, more than 40,000 crimes against lower castes were reported in 2016 alone, according to official statistics . But their situation got only worse after the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) came to power. The BJP is an off-shoot of the Hindu fundamentalist organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS’s ultimate aim is to transform India into a conservative Hindu state, in which all traditions of Hinduism, including the caste system and untouchability, are preserved .
Threats and harassment
Because of her work, Asha receives both digital and physical threats. The social media accounts on which she is active have been blocked and she faces a lot of hate from trolls on Twitter. Physically, she and her team members face threats by both state and non-state actors; this includes being followed and threats by phone.