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September 05, 2001


Chung-Wha Hong

Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

One of the largest NGO delegations present in Durban are some 200 Dalit Indians. Dalits are the lowest caste in the Hindu religion, the so called "untouchables" of society. Dalits number around 250 million. For many years, Dalit people have been subject to daily abuses of their human rights, they are not allowed to drink water from public government water sources, they cannot enter temples, they cannot even wear their shoes in the streets of temple villages. And Dalit people are also victims of vicious hate crimes. Last week a 24 year old Dalit man was burnt alive in a hay stack by upper-caste villagers where he lived. Dalit people are in Durban demanding that Indias oppressive caste system be put on the official UN conference agenda, and also in the final declaration against racism. The Indian government argues that a racism forum is not the place to debate issues of religion. The Dalits say the discrimination they face because of their caste in India is the equivalent of racism and apartheid.


- PAUL DIVAKAR, National Advocacy Convenor for the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.


- SUDHA VARGHESE Dalit woman, and rape councilor in a Dalit community in Bihar, India. CONTACT:
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