People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space (PCSDS) is a national membership based body and formed with the objective to respond and advocate the issues of freedoms of opinion, expression, association, assembly, dissent, protest and all other rights, including harassment and criminalisation, of all HRD. PCSDS believes that ‘Human Rights Defenders’ (HRDs) are individuals, groups and associations, committed to defend and uphold all human rights and fundamental freedoms. HRDs work towards elimination of all forms of violations of human rights and protect and promote fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals, including principles of democracy and secularism. Further, HRDs through their works and engagements, in any form and medium, promote, protect and realise, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. HRDs address any human rights concerns, which can be as varied as, for example, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, prisoner rights, militarisation, social and structural discrimination, employment and livelihood issues, forced evictions and displacements, access to basic necessities for dignified human life, ecology, environment, people’s rights over land and natural resources, discrimination on the grounds of gender, caste, ethnicity, religion, faith, ideology and sexual preferences and, rights of indigenous peoples, etc. HRDs seek accountability and transparency of public institutions and private sector. The definition of HRDs is as inclusive and broad it could be to include students, workers, trade unionists, RTI activists, whistleblowers (state officials), lawyers, journalists, artists, activists, professionals etc. HRDs’ work often involves criticism of government/state policies, laws and accords, and non-state actors.
PCSDS came into existence in May 2016, during a national convention of HRDs in New Delhi, after a consultative process held nationally, regionally and in various Indian states. The first small group consultation was held in August 2015, followed by a national consultation in October 2015, regional and state consultations between the period December 2015 – March 2016 and national convention in May 2016.
The national convention adopted a guiding document, mandated for setting up of a body ‘People’s Tribunal on Shrinking Democratic Space’ and to hold within two years people’s tribunals on, (a) attacks on educations institutions in India and (b) attacks on HRDs working on issues related to natural resources. The national convention also elected an ad-hoc National Working Committee (NWC) to be responsible for setting up state processes (membership) of PCSDS and modalities concerning people’s tribunals.
The national working committee has met five times since May 2016. During these meetings, the NWC has reviewed and taken ahead the state processes, finalised the concept note on people’s tribunal on attacks on educations institutions in India and confirmed its framework, structure and functioning. As per the requirements of the PCSDS guiding document, a secretariat and registry are set up to address the requirements of memberships and tribunals.
People’s Tribunal on attacks on educations institutions in India will beheld on April 11, 12 and 13, 2018 at Constitution Club of India, New Delhi.