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Shri Ramapir Mandir/Temple in Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Landmark Report Confronts Caste-based Discrimination in Indian Subcontinent

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Washington, D.C.  Caste-based discrimination is an ongoing human rights problem in India that must be eradicated, according to a landmark report released today by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a prominent U.S. based advocacy group. In its report, Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste - Seeking an End to Caste-based Discrimination, the Foundation analyzes the explosive subject of caste in the Indian sub-continent while rejecting the notion that caste is intrinsic to Hinduism. The discrimination represents a failure of Hindu society to live up to the essential spiritual teachings of the tradition, according to the authors, and the solution lies in proper application of Hindu teachings as well as the enforcement of existing Indian laws.
The report comes as a culmination of five years of research and documentation by the Foundation’s Board and Executive Council members, staff, supporters, and advisors. Today's release of Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste coincides with the observation of U.N. designated International Human Rights Day.
“This report is the Foundation’s sincere effort to join the many Hindus, both past and present, who have courageously fought caste-based discrimination, birth-based hierarchy, and other injustices against humanity,” said Swaminathan Venkataraman, HAF Board Member and editor of the report. “By creating a fairly comprehensive report on the caste system, and the present day challenges to eliminating caste-based discrimination, the Foundation hopes to empower those continuing their struggles, while affirming that the solution to this problem is in the adherence to Hinduism’s inherent principle of recognizing divinity in all beings.”
The 172-page report presents details of atrocities perpetrated against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (as designated by the Government of India) who constitute 22 percent of the Hindu population. Many members of these groups not only face discrimination in India, but also throughout South Asia. According to the report 33,165 crimes against members of Scheduled Caste (SC's) and Scheduled Tribes (ST's) were recorded in India in 2008 alone.
“The Hindu American Foundation’s pivotal report is an important contribution to that process [of eradication],” said Professor Ramdas Lamb, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Hawaii and President of the Sahayog Foundation, a U.S. based non-profit supporting educational and health needs of rural poor and Dalits in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.  “It is the first major study to be done by a Hindu organization to try to understand the problems of caste prejudice from within and attempt to take concrete steps to help ameliorate them.”
The groundbreaking report highlights the historical efforts by Hindu groups as well as that of the Dalit movement in modern India to eliminate caste-based discrimination.  While much remains to be done for SC's and ST's, Venkataraman adds, the report acknowledges the significant progress in the six decades since India’s independence.
“Our report covers the complexities of the dynamics of caste today, but strongly asserts that Hindus must take responsibility for perversions of the caste system," stated Venkataraman reflecting on the potential impact of the document.  "We urge Hindus to look at the situation objectively, realistically, and compassionately, in spite of the exploitative roles of foreign rulers, predatory proselytizers, and current Indian politicians that have also contributed to the complexity and persistence of caste.”
Many Hindu leaders are working to eliminate the vestiges of caste-discrimination, according to the report, and statements from several such religious and spiritual leaders denouncing this discrimination are included.
“Unfortunately, as a practicing Hindu, there are aspects of my cultural heritage that must be dealt with as they have harmed others,” said Pawan Deshpande, HAF Executive Council member and key contributor to the report. “But I firmly believe that birth-based caste discrimination is a social ill. I am proud that one of Hinduism’s sustaining strengths is the ability of its followers to recognize evils within their own society and reform these problems through the teachings found in Hindu scriptures as well as through the guidance of Hinduism’s spiritual luminaries.”

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