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NCDHR recieves 'RAFTO Human Rights Prize-2007' on November 4 in Bergen,Norway

by udaya — last modified 2007-12-01 17:43
An international recognition to the cause upheld by the organisation for the rights and justice to India's Dalit population.
 National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) from India was awarded  with the prestigious "Rafto Human Rights Prize" 2007 in a ceremony in Bergen, Norway on November 4 evening, 2007. On behalf of the campaign NCDHR leaders Paul Divakar, Vincent Manoharan and Dr. Vimal Thorat recieved the award .  
rafto award
 NCDHR leaders participating  the Human Rights rally after the award ceremony
on 4 November, 2007 at Bergen, Norway
Prior recipients of this annual award include Nobel Peace Prize winners Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi, Jose Ramos-Horta, and Kim Dae-Jung.  
Vincent Manoharan, General Secretary of NCDHR, declared that he was accepting the award on behalf of the 167 million Dalit women, men and children in India who incessantly struggle to break the caste-based social order - casteism - which manifests itself in the crude forms of untouchability, exclusion, segregation, exploitation and violence. “The unbroken chain of struggle for generations and across 550,000 villages in the country has been hidden from the eyes of the world. The RAFTO prize helps to affirm the aspirations for promoting a more humane, egalitarian and just society, and is a source of inspiration, recognition and strength for human rights defenders, Dalit activists, movements, NGOs and Dalit human rights platforms, like NCDHR.” , he added
Dr. Vimal Thorat, Co-Convenor of NCDHR said, “NCDHR shares this prize with hundreds and thousands of Dalit human rights defenders - women and men - Dalit activists whose efforts have been the foundation of NCDHR. This honour belongs to every one of them who work in every nook and corner of our country to address this inhuman issue of caste and caste-based discrimination.”
N. Paul Divakar, the National Convenor for NCDHR, recognised the foundation made by the great leaders of this nation, who were also Dalits - Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, an Icon in India, and all the leaders including Guru Ravidas , Mahatma Phule and Ayyankali. It is due to their contribution and many other many other sisters and brothers who have struggled towards justice to the community which has borne this crime of untouchability for ages in India as well as whole of South Asia. He said “Today, through this 2007 award for NCDHR, RAFTO Foundation has also joined this struggle for dignity and justice to the Dalits throughout the world. NCDHR dedicates this prize to all those who have lost their lives in the many atrocities that have been committed and to those who have dared to raise their voice against injustice and have fought relentlessly against untouchability and caste based discrimination.”
Rikke Nöhrlind, Coordinator, International Dalit Solidarity Network, Copenhagen, commended the Rafto Foundation for “recognising the plight of Dalits as a major human rights crisis of our time and for honouring the Dalit Campaign with its 2007 award.”
Prof. Smita Narula of NYU School of Law and -founder of the International Dalit Solidarity Network pointed out that “Violence against Dalits is on the rise as Dalits rise up to claim their rights; their demands are met with brutal retaliatory violence and economic boycotts. The impunity enjoyed by perpetrators must be addressed if we are to prevent a further escalation of violence and civil unrest. Respect for human dignity and the protection of human rights is a responsibility we each owe to current and future generations, in India and around the world.”
According to official statistics, which themselves grossly underestimate the extent of the violence, 13 Dalits are murdered and 5 Dalit homes are destroyed every week, and 3 Dalit women are raped and 11 Dalits are assaulted eve"ry day. A crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes. Perpetrators enjoy virtual impunity for these crimes against Dalits due to the wilful negligence of the criminal justice system, and ineffective justice delivery mechanisms run by officials belonging to the dominant castes. As noted by Dr. Vimal Thorat, “In all these crimes and humiliations, Dalit women endure the triple burden of discrimination on the basis of gender, class and caste. Of particular concern is the caste-based occupation of manual scavenging—in which over one million Dalits, mostly women, are forced to clean human waste with their bare hands. Dalit women are also subject to forced prostitution under the devadasi system prevalent in many Indian states. These and other forms of degrading and dehumanizing practices reinforce Dalits’ social exclusion and severely limit their occupational mobility.”  
The leaders of NCDHR vowed to join hands with those who challenge the anti-people socio-economic policies which intensify divisions and disparities among and lead to disastrous effects on the climate and the environment, resulting in an unsafe world and agony for vulnerable communities like Dalits, Tribals and other marginalized people across the world.
The Indian Constitution adopted in 1950 outlawed untouchability and caste discrimination, making such practices a crime.   The Constitution was framed under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a great visionary and a Dalit leader of independent India. A series of special legislation was adopted to address untouchability and atrocities committed against Dalits. Special measures, including affirmative action, have been adopted for the empowerment of the discriminated and underprivileged population groups.   However, even after 60 years of independence, the operating Brahmanical system in our country continues to dominate the cultural, religious, civil, economic and political life and deny Dalits their constitutional rights.
Dalits in India today suffer from:
v     pervasive debt bondage due to poor remuneration for lower-caste occupations, leading to bonded labour and child labour practices;
v     high levels of illiteracy, poverty, health hazards, homelessness and landlessness as compared to so-called dominant castes;
v     lack of access to common resources, like water taps or wells, and public places;  
v     degrading and dehumanising language to humiliate low-caste communities;
v     widespread and brutal violence against Dalits, including murders; massacres, rapes, dismembering of limbs and the burning down of Dalit villages; and
v      lack of media attention to these inhuman practices.
There was a joint call by the leaders of NCDHR and International Dalit Solidarity Network to all who stand for an inclusive society and a world free of discrimination to commit and strive for Dalit human rights to join us in our struggle for a better tomorrow where all children, women and men will live with human dignity and peace.
Chindu, Dalit Arts and Culture team led by Suresh and Sabrina gripped the audience at the award ceremony and the rally presenting the struggle of Dalit rights through their performing arts.
NCDHR recalled the proclamation of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar:
With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality!!!
N. Paul Divakar                                 Dr. Vimal Thorat                    Vincent Manoharan
Convenor                                            Co-Convenor                          General Secretary
National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
4 November 2007
NCDHR, 8/1, South Patel Nagar, Second Floor, New Delhi - 110 008, INDIA.
Phone: +91 - 11 - 25842249, E-mail: info@ncdhr.org.in
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