April 9, 2020
Akram: defending human rights in India during the COVID-19 pandemic
Akram is an Indian lawyer and human rights defender who relocated to Shelter City Middelburg during the first half of 2019. He shared with us his experience of fighting for human rights in India during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Akram explained that the lockdown caused important changes to his work. He focused on the issues of extrajudicial killings and cases of public lynchings in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Now he cannot visit the court or the families of the victims. However, he has more time to invest in his fight. Instead of 12 hours per day, he can work 16 hours.
Moreover, the lockdown has created new human rights issues and the nature of his work has shifted from providing legal aid and protection to providing essential support and relief.
Thousands of migrant labourers in India have attempted to return to their home states after the announcement of a nationwide lockdown on the 25th March 2020. Due to the cancellation of means of transport, they have to walk for hundres of kilometres. They suffer from hunger, injuries, police brutality while crossing borders and they are at risk of contracting the virus.
Akram shared with us that he is organising food supply within his home district for migrant workers who are stranded there. Together with other activists in the Northern part of India is coordinating relief efforts to support this vulnerable segment of the population.
Akram was proud to share that civil society groups have established similar support networks in other parts of the country and are coordinating efforts on WhatsApp. According to him, this is a good example of community solidarity.
“The good part is that there is good coordination between all activists and organisations within the country”