…After spending six weeks in India in February of 2010, traveling across the nation with a television producer from Canada to investigate what was really happening on the ground, my heart was moved and I knew that I had to do something. Initially, at the suggestion of several Indian Dalit leaders I had met, I was planning on sponsoring a child to receive a quality, English-medium education. But when I met the ladies at the Lydia store, and heard their stories, I was suddenly hit with another idea. What if instead of just giving money once a month, I could purchase bracelets from these ladies, sell them, and then use all of the profit to sponsor as many kids as possible? And hence, the movement was born. And it continues to grow, day by day. ~ Jon Lash
India is indeed an up-and-coming world power. This is not to be denied. With a booming economy and the world’s second largest population- some 1.2 billion strong and growing – India is certainly a force to be reckoned with. However, buried deep below the surface of this “modern society,” ripe with technological innovations and modern commercial facilities, lies a system of government sanctioned oppression and discrimination so merciless and so thorough – so pervasive and so “normal” – that it has almost become invisible. Underneath this unrelenting taskmaster, some 250 to as much as 900 million people - known as the Dalits – struggle to survive from day to day, their life constantly being threatened by a system that views them as less than animals. This is the tragedy of our modern day. This is India’s Hidden Apartheid.
If you want to talk about “Modern Slavery” and Human Trafficking – 80% of the “Modern Slaves” today are Dalits! They are the “Untouchables.” “However,” Indian government officials would (and do) say, “the practice of “untouchability” has been abolished in our constitution. It is now illegal, and no longer exists.” Oh that I wish this were true.
In 1950, the practice of “untouchability” – the systematic discrimination of an individual based solely upon their caste (i.e. the family they were born into) – was officially “abolished” by the Indian Constitution. However, and quite unfortunately, this system of social discrimination and oppression still persists in a pervasive manner throughout the entire nation.
In stark contrast to the term Gandhi gave to these people (“Harijan”, which means “Children of God”) the Dalit people have rejected this term, and given themselves the name “Dalit,” which means “Broken” or “Crushed.” They have chosen to give themselves this name to symbolize their current state of being oppressed, as well as to symbolize their struggle for liberation.
So THESE are the Dalits. THAT is the issue, and YOU are the solution. Will you join the Dalits in their struggle?