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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jambudvipa reports on hard-hitting anti-caste work

Many readers of FWBO News will be aware that at the twelfth session of its Human Rights Council, the UN moved to declare discrimination based on the Indian caste system to be a human rights abuse.

TBMSG - as the FWBO is known in India - is a grass-roots Buddhist community which has been working for 30 years to spread the ‘Dhamma Revolution’ in India.  Creating a caste-free society open to all Indians has long been central to their vision, and besides their long-running Dhamma teaching and extensive social projects they have more recently moved into advocacy work. The Jambudvipa Trust, based in Pune, is their most active ‘advocacy’ project; their work is an inspiration.

We’re proud to reproduce here this editorial from ‘Padmapani’, Jambudvipa's annual report and magazine.

Lokamitra, their president, writes -

“The Jambudvipa Trust, under its Manuski project is at present targeting five of the most disadvantaged communities in Maharashtra. One of these, the Paradhi community, along with other similar communities, has been cruelly dismissed and marginalised by being termed a Criminal Tribe. The result is that as well as having to live in unimaginably appalling conditions, they are subjected to arbitrary killings by the police and administration. Jambudvipa is working with such communities to make known their plight and help them develop their own leadership.

“Dr. Ambedkar urged Dalits in the strongest terms to leave behind their traditional degrading work and live a life of dignity. And yet millions of people born into the Mehetar and other sweeper castes think they are destined to do only this work. Scattered in all the towns in India, they are still obliged to work in the most inhuman conditions and carry human excreta, despite the denials of the administration and government. Indeed the latter maintain this system. They need people to clean all the filth and sewers, and, given the caste-contaminated mindset of most people in India, can only turn to these people. To make sure these people do not try and break out of the caste mould, the government hands out sops like housing and a steady wage to the Mehetar community. But without education, and social support and stimulation, these result in little, if any, progress. [see photo on right]

“Manuski has been producing field reports to bring these denied facts out in the open, and working with other like-minded organisations to campaign to end these inhuman practices. Out of these activities Manuski has been encouraging the development of networks of activists from these exploited communities who can take this forward. At the same time it has continued to develop Its advocacy work with regard to the frequent atrocities these people are subjected to. Finally Manuski has been supporting the emergence of a strong network of Dalit women leaders, activists, educators and social workers in Maharashtra which has now developed its own momentum'.

“While our approach in social work is entirely secular, most of the Jambudvipa and Manuski team have become Buddhists, inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, who realised that only a complete change in mindset or attitude will bring about the social change required to destroy the extremely deep roots of caste and untouchability. To this end Jambudvipa works with the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG and other similarly inspired Buddhist organisations to teach people how Buddhist practice can bring about the transformation of mental attitudes. In March 2009 a three day retreat was held in Tamil Nadu, organised jointly by Jambudvipa and the Nagarjuna Institute. It was attended by members of the three most exploited Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu - quite an achievement in itself in that, as stated above, people from different castes rarely co-operate. The enthusiasm and determination of the participants to leave behind the shackles of their old designation and all that goes with it, is developing all over the country.

“India is entering into a period of the deepest and most extensive social transformation it has ever experienced, and we feel proud to be able to contribute to this. In the following pages you will be able to see some of the work we are engaged in to this effect. We would like to take this opportunity to appreciate all the support we get from all those who in one way or another have helped to make this contribution possible.

“Founder President, Jambudvipa Trust”

For more information check their website

 In the UK, the FWBO’s Karuna Trust fundraises to support many TBMSG projects - you can contribute financially or by taking part in an appeal. It’s a great way to get your Dharma practice off the cushion and out into the world!

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Anonymous Furniture said...

Since I was a kid I saw India’s cast system as absolutely unfair, then someone told me that that is the way it has been and that is the way people of the lowers casts think it should be, so I thought, “fair enough”, we should stop meddling with other civilizations and their traditions (I feel the same ambiguity with woman’s place in muslins religions, the tension between what I believe is a rightful right and what it is said by the traditions that people embrace: an identity that cannot be taken away from them, for all people have the right to their traditions). I have always said I am not travelling to India because I just don’t think I can take it, I have seen poverty, I have seen human humiliation but what happens in India is intolerable, is the type of thing I couldn’t live with myself after witnessing) and I think the cast system is just a way to justify such disparity. I am ashamed as a human being to learn what happens there with or with no castes.


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