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Hundreds celebrate International Day of Human Rights, mark culmination of Samvidhan Samman Yatra

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(Eds: Adding more details and quotes) New Delhi, Dec 10 (PTI) Hundreds of people, including prominent activists like Medha Patkar, gathered at Parliament Street in central Delhi to celebrate the International Human Rights Day on December 10 and also mark the culmination of the 65-day Samvidhan Samman Yatra. The Yatra traversed various states and organised meetings and discussions to support struggles of farmers, labourers and victims of violence and hate. It started on October 2 from Dandi in Gujarat and culminated in a 'Jan Sansad' at Parliament Street in Delhi Monday. Members of social movements, the civil society, representatives of Narmada Bachao Andolan, tribals from the Nilgiris and several others from different walks of life joined the activists during the gathering. They sang patriotic songs and chanted slogans in support of freedom of speech. The people also observed Jashn-e-Samvidhan, a celebration of dissent and resistance. It aims to celebrate the spirit of Constitution, the struggles of people and reassert the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said Patkar of the Andolan. "This celebration is a message that if our rights are not given then such a protest would be ignited that it would overthrow the government (out)," Patkar told PTI. Playing on the BJP's campaign slogans before the 2014 general election, she said that neither "acchhe din" happened for the poor nor they received Rs 15 lakh each as promised. "We want to warn the government whichever is formed next year, that if the poor do not get their demands met we will not hesitate in keeping up our protest," she added. Activist Shabnam Hashmi said there is a need to celebrate resistance, specially at a time when the voice of the poor and the needy is being curbed. Addressing the audience later, Patkar said, "We need to unite to stop violence against women and make sure that the party that attacked us in Sabarimala should not be brought back to power." In Sabarimala in Kerala, devotees are protesting against a Supreme Court order allowing women of menstrual age to the enter the Lord Ayyappa temple, whose deity is celibate. The BJP and the Congress have tacitly supported the protest and the Left Democratic Front government in the state has said it is ensuring that the judgment is implemented. Patkar also said that until the women, the farmers and the labourers of the country unite government programmes such as Make in India and Skill Development "hold no meaning" for the poor. "To protect the rights of women, not only MeToo but 'hum sab' (WeToo) is needed." Educationist Anil Sadgopal demanded that 14 lakh government schools in the country should be brought to the Kendriya Vidyalaya level. "We pay tax so that we do not have to pay fees and the education system should be such that the child of the richest industrialist can study with the child of farmers of the country. We want such equality," he said addressing the gathering. The activists claimed that the government is using the "spectre of nationalism and communal tensions" to divert the attention of the public from these issues. The celebration saw participation from various parts of the country. Savitri, who earns her livelihood as a MNREGA labourer, has come to the 'Jan Sansad' with 16 women from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. She says she wants her pay to be increased from the current Rs 1,000 per month. "We can't support ourselves with this pay. We are tired of begging for our rights," she said. Jhuriya, another labourer from Varanasi, said she and the 12 women who accompanied her here have not received payment of their dues under MNREGA. "We worked for 40 days and have not been paid one paisa. How can we live like this?" the 74-year-old labourer asked. Tribals from Niyamgiri said they are still battling police atrocity because they raised their voice against industries in Odisha. PTI UZM ABH ABH

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