Marimuthu Bharathan, a Dalit activist who was selected for the Dutch Human Rights Tulip 2012 award from among 66 contenders across the globe, could not attend the function held on Wednesday (January 9) after being denied a passport.

Citing a murder case he is facing, the Ministry of External Affairs refused to renew his passport, which prevented Mr. Bharathan from travelling to The Netherlands for receiving the honour.

Though his name did not figure in the First Information Report filed in the case pertaining to the murder of K. Madhan of Suththamalli and S. Ayyappan and N. Ayyappan on January 11, 2009, Mr. Bharathan was cited as 25th accused in the charge sheet filed in June 2009.

In his mail to Mr. Bharathan, Director, India Committee of The Netherlands, Gerard Oonk, stated the independent award jury in his country had recognised him as a “tireless champion of better living and working conditions for his country’s Dalits.”

Mr. Bharathan’s message was read out before the award, which carries a cash prize of 1 lakh Euros, was handed over in absentia.

“I’ve not even seen the other 24 accused in this case, which is yet to come for trial in the court. Since the trial court has not sentenced me, the Centre, which interrogated me using Intelligence Bureau personnel before dismissing my application for passport renewal, should have granted me permission to travel to The Netherlands for receiving the award, which would have been a recognition for 200 million Dalits,” said Mr. Bharathan.

He said that the country, a signatory of Human Rights Defenders Protection Treaty, should not have let him down.

“After I was named as an accused in the murder case, three attempts were made on my life. Since I’m facing all these problems only because of being a Dalit activist, I’ve been selected for this award, I believe. However, I’ll continue to fight for the rights of my people and this award has further strengthened me,” said Mr. Bharathan, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on January 9, the day on which he was supposed to receive the award.