Leaders pledge to end caste discrimination

Bangalore, Karnataka, India
10th March 2007

Adopt a seven-point action plan to end untouchability

BANGALORE, MARCH 10, 2007: A large number of Dalit and caste Hindu leaders on Friday vowed to end untouchability in this country. They adopted a seven-point action plan to this effect at the ‘Truth & Reconciliation Conference’ hosted by Poojya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in New Delhi. The leaders took a pledge to implement the same.

The action plan, which is aimed at spreading the spirit of reconciliation to every corner of India, focuses on ensuring temple entry for Dalits, organising collective celebrations including community feasts, abolition of the practice of keeping separate utensils for Dalits, empowerment of women from economically weaker sections, providing educational facilities especially to weaker sections, providing spiritual and religious education to Dalit children and ensuring equality and justice for all.

As a symbolic implementation of the plan, the leaders partook in a community feast or samuhik priti bhoj.

Addressing the conference, which was attended by over 5,000 people including leaders of about 25 communities,

Gurudev said,“We need to make people realise that discrimination is not sanctioned by religion. Every Hindu should be educated to the fact that many of the sacred texts he or she reads were written by Dalits.”

“It’s time to move forward and not to reel in past mistakes. The anger of the past should not engulf us and divide the country. Fear and communication gap between communities are what is keeping us apart. We must accept the reality and reconcile the differences,” he said.

Stating that many organisations which don’t see eye-to-eye have come together for the first time at the conference, he said,

“What we have started today will resonate across the country and unite the people. When leaders come together and take a vow, the people will follow them. My main concern is how to bring people together. This is not about one religion only. I want to bring all communities together on one platform.”

Regretting that despite several legislations, caste discrimination still prevails in rural India, the spiritual guru said that only a change of heart and mind and a better understanding among communities can bring about social equity.

“The spirit of co-operation and reconciliation should percolate to the grassroots,” he said.

“It’s not only Dalits who are fighting for their rights; there are thousands of committed soldiers of justice and equality from the upper caste who are working for the betterment of the Dalits,” he added.

Several leaders from the participating communities lauded Gurudev for his endeavour to bring the communities together through the historic conference.

“I have been working for several years in this direction. Now I have full confidence that with Gurudev's blessings and leadership, my efforts will get new vigour and inspiration,” said Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation.

Dalit leader and president of Indian Justice Party Udit Raj welcomed the initiatives taken by Gurudev and added that leaders of other communities must contribute to the cause of Dalit upliftment.

“If caste discrimination has to be eliminated, Dalits have to be integrated in all streams of society. The posts of the head of maths, especially the maths of Shankaracharyas should be filled by priests from every caste on a rotation basis,” he said.

Other leaders who attended the conference included Dalit leader Sanjay Paswan; Bijendra Singh of the Jat Samaj; Ms Sabina Srivastav of All India Kayasta Samaj; Bal Kishan Mahaar of Valmiki Samaj; president of Akhil Bharatiya Bhumihar Brahman Ram Nagina Singh; Fateh Singh of Koli Samaj; Ram Babu Arya of the the Akhil Bharatiya Naayee Mahasabha, Presidnet of the Kshatriya Samaj V S Chauhan and Veer Kunwar Singh of Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Sanskriti Shodh Sansthan.

The conference also featured a special exhibition to highlight the contributions of the Dalit Maharishis in Hindu literature. Notable examples would be of two epics that are revered by all - the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which were written by the Dalit Maharishis Vyas and Valmiki respectively.