He barely escaped death in 1986 when colleagues were murdered during a land rights campaign. Since suffering this tragedy, Macwan has fought to bring the killers, a group of feudal Darbars, to justice. He founded the Navsarjan Trust in 1989 to promote the rights of Dalits, addressing issues of land rights, minimum wages, and women’s rights. He served as the organization's director until 2004, and he has also served as a convener of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.
Macwan has been trying to gain more exposure to the plight of his caste, and has argued that the caste system violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in hopes of gaining international attention to the discrimination against the untouchable class. He argues that the caste system cannot be considered simply a domestic matter: "We say that India did support the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960's, and also the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa ... In this era of the globalization of markets and of human rights, no country can claim that it's a domestic matter. It's a universal concern."
The U.S.-based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights presented him its Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000. In the same year, Human Rights Watch named him one of the year's five "outstanding human rights defenders".
- Barbara Crossette (November 16, 2000). "An 'Untouchable' Says Caste Is Truly a Human Rights Issue". The New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- Annie Zaidi (September 22, 2006). "'System has become more pervasive'". Frontline. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- Anosh Malekar, Martin Macwan is going to Capitol Hill in glory, The Week, accessed at Dalits' advocate, www.ambedkar.org  Oct 19, 2006
- "Martin Macwan profile". article. Every Human has Rights. Retrieved 5/7/2012.
- "RFK Center Award Laureates".