Every first Wednesday of the month people meet at Raftohuset to discuss current global matters. The forum is called Wednesday Dialogue and is arranged by the different organisations at the house. Last week Dag Erik Berg from the University in Bergen was invited to talk about the human rights situation of Dalits in India, and how proactive Dalits have made use of the human rights discourse to communicate the problems of caste discrimination.

India is the world’s largest democracy with more than one billion people, thirty different languages and several religions existing side by side. The republic is founded on a modern and secular constitution from 1950. However, cultural diversity is keeping traditional values alive. The caste system is still very prominent, especially in rural India, in spite of the many laws made by the Indian state to deal with the problem.


They call themselves Dalits, which means oppressed
As a description of their own social experience and identity, they call themselves Dalits, which means oppressed. Dalits mainly represent the poorest part of the Indian population, and constitute about 160 millions. Many live in colonies outside the villages, and are often denied access to water taps, temples or other public areas. On the Internet you can read about daily harassments of Dalits. Human Rights Watch reported in 1999 that Dalit women are particularly vulnerable and that there is a widespread problem of sexual harassment, rape and abuse. See the work of the Human Rights Watch on www.hrw.org/campaigns/caste/.

International recognition

The Dalit situation and the deprivation of every prospect in life, illustrates how discriminating values can persist in modern democracies. For some time they have fought for international advocacy and recognition of their rights. A coalition called the International Dalit Solidarity Network (www.idsn.org) has been active in this regard, and along with other important networks, Dalits will hopefully get international attention and support. In relation to the work of human rights organisations, Dag Erik Berg emphasis the importance of listening to Dalits own statements and experiences, as well as the need for critical reflection about the contemporary human rights practices and the role of rights.


For further information about Dalits, see www.ambekar.org

Please contact us by mail regarding future network prospects in Norway: thomas@raftohuset.no