RL Rosario’s social conscience developed from an early age and his organisation began in 1987. ‘I was 16 and I didn’t know anything about law. Not just as a Dalit, but as a human being I wanted to do something.’
The idea of formal registration came in the minds of the promoters of POPE in 1986. The founder and the present director of POPE, Mr R.L. Rosario was a student in rural based hostels where the Dalit students were discriminated. The Dalit students were organized together in the hostel by Mr R.L. Rosario and established justice in the hostel. This particular incident gave an insight to register POPE as a formal society to protect the rights of the poor and oppressed including the Dalits.
R.L. Rosario has a degree in Law, degree in English Literature and a Master degree in Sociology.
He is a catholic christian human rights lawyer, practicing for the voiceless vulnerable community like Dalits, widows, under privileged youth, poor people in India. More than 20 years, organising Indian Dalits for their land rights, livelihood rights, women rights, child rights, health rights, fundamental rights and organising various educational and awareness creation programmes. He is working in the area of Dalit Land Right and Dignity, as Director of the Dalit Revival Centre.
He is providing legal advises to the various Dalit movements and federations who are in involved in the area of human rights and caste violence. The progress under the eradication of child labour, he admitted 35 boys who are staying at the Children Development Centre at Thallakulam.
Christian Dalits like R.L. Rosario are a doubly oppressed segment of Indian society. The few concessions from the government that the Dalits had won in the past were accessible only to Hindu Dalits, and Dalits of other religions were excluded. An example of this is the government schemes on scholarships. Dalits are allocated a proportion of scholarships for higher education. These quotas are called ‘reservations’ and applied to a large number of different sectors. However, looking for funds for his law degree, R.L. Rosario received no financial support on account of his being a Christian and not a Hindu Dalit. He still counts himself lucky, that his father, through his position as a teacher, was granted a loan to pay for his studies. To receive such an education is a privilege for most Dalits, R.L. Rosario is sharp to point out though, that such privilege, 'doesn't help me overcome casteism.'
At university R.L. Rosario learned quickly that the legal status of the Dalits was very different from their actual position in society. ‘As I was studying I was surprised to see how many rights the Dalits had already gained’ How could such an oppressed group have what would appear to be so many legal provisions in their favour? He couldn’t believe it. In seeing this, he dedicated himself to finding out exactly what the Dalits were legally entitled to. At first, with his obsession with government legislation and legal documents, other members of the Dalit community perceived R.L. Rosario as something of a radical. Such a rebellious approach was not common among Dalits, the majority of whom had long accepted their destiny as India’s perennial outcasts. But Rosario was relentless in his pursuit for justice through the legal framework that was already in place.
Rosario was spurred by the 1989 Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which clearly stated the acts of violence and social and political exclusion against Dalits that were punishable by law. The previous legislation was the 1955 Protection of Civil Rights Act that didn’t focus solely on the Dalits. Despite severe oppression and violence throughout this period not one case had been filed, as the provisions of this act were vague and not made easy to access. The 1989 act prompted a host of new measures, including the installation of a department dealing strictly with Dalit issues in each district. The act also states that the government can be punished if it does not suitably follow up a Dalit complaint. By the time R.L. Rosario had become a lawyer in 1993 at the age of 25, he had established an organisation to deal with all forms of Dalit complaints of discrimination and violence. The experience and contacts he had made with Human Rights organisations during his studies gave him a firm base to realise his ambitions. What's more, his first hand understanding of the suffering of his people in the village where he grew up enforced his commitment to action on a local level.