Retired IAS officer and former secretary to the Prime Minister of India K .R. Venugopal took strong objection to Home Minister P. Chidambaram's statement that civil society groups have a lot to answer for the Dantewada blast, and termed it as a “cowardly way of handling people's problems”.

Addressing the inaugural session of the two-day ‘Training Programme on Rights and Responsibilities of Human Rights Defenders' here on Saturday, Mr. Venugopal said Mr. Chidambaram sought to target rights activists through the statement. “I see signs of fascism in this country. This was exactly how it began in Europe,” he said. The State, which can't stand up against belligerent neighbours such as Pakistan and China, is training guns on its own people, he said.

He recalled various instances from his career as civil servant where the Indian Army was deployed to control civilian agitations. He also cited occasions when basic rights were violated, yet no action was taken against the violators.

Mr. Venugopal emphasised the need for a human rights defender to have thorough knowledge about the laws pertaining to his or her own field of work. He termed courage, knowledge, and conviction as the three essential qualities of a human rights activist. Citing the operational guidelines under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, he sought to draw attention to the clause that says a “shade may be provided” to run a crèche at the worksite.

“A shade can be anything, a tree or a polythene sheet which can't be termed as crèche. Not ensuring women proper place to feed their children is tantamount to violation of right to nutrition for the infant and of right to education for older children,” he said.

The training was organised by People's Watch in association with five other organisations.

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