Friday, June 13, 2008

Adopt a Dalit village in India


The plight of the Dalits
Dalits are the people formerly known as untouchables. They have been historically excluded from human society, and were deprived of the most basic opportunities. Globally, more than 250 million people suffer discrimination based on "descent or work and occupation" (UN, 12 August 2004). Of these, about 160 million to 180 million are in India (2001 census). Untouchables, or those from former untouchable communities can be found also in Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Yemen.

This discrimination affects every aspect of life: health, housing, education, work, marriage, social interaction. For most Dalits, there is no opportunity to escape from caste-imposed discrimination. Tens of millions of Dalits are trapped in debt bondage.

The plight of the Dalits is one of the biggest moral challenges and one of the worst human rights problems in the world.

The largest population of Dalits is in India, where Hinduism and the caste system are traditionally associated with the evil practice of untouchability.

India has passed legislation abolishing untouchability and providing for positive discrimination.
Dr. Ambedkar, the father of modern India’s Constitution, Dr. K.R. Narayanan, a recent President of India, and Justice Balakrishnan, the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court were all born Dalits.
Despite these legal provisions and symbolic but important milestones, enforcement is weak or non-existent, and the reality for most Dalits is most discouraging.

In rural settings Dalits live in isolated slums, and their economic and cultural opportunities are severely restricted. Atrocities against Dalits in India are frequent and most go unreported.
Their access to modern medical care is almost non-existent; they are exploited as vote banks, and they are targets for religious conversion. Rampant superstition, the practice of internal untouchability and desperate poverty are the hallmarks of most Dalit communities.

Further information is available at

What can IHEU and Humanists do?
The origins of the problem are historically and sociologically in religion, be it in India, France, Spain, Japan or Nigeria. Humanism is based on the concept of human dignity and Human Rights, the Humanist attitude welcomes the scientific method, and the Humanist embraces the rest of humanity on terms of equality. In contrast to life-denying religion, a life-affirming Humanism is what will restore Human dignity to the so-called untouchable communities.

IHEU has been attempting to alert the international community to the continuing plight of the Dalits through its consultative status at the United Nations and informal contacts; IHEU Member Organisatiosn also fight the caste system through their activities, their literature etc.. However,

if Dalit communities are to liberate themselves, they need exposure to modern ideas, protection from exploitative pseudo-religious charlatans and harmful superstition,
and medical help apart from counselling. IHEU has already launched a number of program to offer practical help to Dalit communities. This is what IHEU proposes to do.

What can YOU do to help? Adopt a Dalit village!
Join hands with IHEU and adopt a Dalit village.

It will cost just £2,000 or €3,000 or $4,000 a year to make a positive difference to the lives of nearly a thousand Dalit men, women and children*. That is just $4 a year per person.

IHEU will work with its member organizations in India (for example, the Social Development Foundation) to identify a Panchayat* where Humanist intervention is urgently needed and can be effective quickly.
This amount will convert to about Rs. 160,000.

With this money, over a 12-month period, through its member organization, IHEU will:
- appoint a local Humanist Dalit leader as project-coordinator
- identify volunteer doctors to make monthly visits to the village
- within budgetary limitations, offer free medicine
- develop a library on Humanism in the local language
- promote a Dalit Humanist Youth group
- organize six miracle exposure programs
- organize six science education programs (Rs. 6,000)
- organize 12 women’s counseling programs with a counselor
- organize six career counseling programs for the youth
- organize training in alternative income generation activity (Rs. 10,000)

What will this achieve?
The intervention will provide services that are not usually available. The community will see some of the benefits of modern medicine and this will help to loosen the grip of superstition. Professional counseling and career guidance will help young people to see alternatives to their traditional family occupations and help them to integrate into the modern economy. Discussions and meetings will include explicit Humanist content and will expose young Dalits in particular to Humanist ideas and to human values. The village will be nurtured to welcome and cultivate Humanist ideas and ideals, providing all of them a clear alternative to oppressive religion.

How will the project be run?
IHEU’s member organizations involved or project partners will be responsible for the program implementation and IHEU will be responsible for overseeing the project. IHEU will provide progress reports to the sponsor twice a year. IHEU and the implementing organization will organize visits of the sponsor to the village to see the project in action (at the sponsor’s or the sponsor’s representative’s own cost). Villages will be chosen by the Implementing Organisation in consultation with IHEU.

Further information
We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have, and (if desired) to involve you in the selection of a suitable Panchayat or village and the operation of the project.

How can you pay?
Please pay to International Humanist Trust (individual UK taxpayers under Gift Aid only) or IHEU (all other donors) by cheque drawn on a UK bank or bank transfer (ask us for details).

How to Contact IHEU
1 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HD Tel/Fax +44 870 288 7631

* In India, village clusters form Panchayats; a Panchayat is usually made up of six or seven villages and the number of Dalits in a Panchayat may be about 1,000. When we invite you to adopt a Dalit village, we are actually inviting you to make a difference to the lives of 1,000 victims.

For further information, please visit the Dalit FAQ.

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