Monday, April 03, 2006

Free The Dalits: Introduction

God made every man forward and free (sub kooch ho sak-ee day*) /
Rich man, poor man, every man free (sub kooch ho sak-ee day) /
Politically, socially, everybody free (sub kooch ho sak-ee day)

Dalit Hymn - Caedmon's Call

Why, you may wonder, am I writing a series on the Dalits of India? I am not of Indian descent, nor have I traveled there. The stresses of war are creating serious hardships in Iraq, and life in Darfur is a highly visible problem; why not address these problems?

There are a few reasons for my interest in the Dalit people. One, my wife has recently returned from working with some Dalits in India, and has first-hand accounts of that trip that I find compelling to address. Many of my co-workers are from India. And the situations in places like Iraq and Darfur are being well-addressed by other bloggers. Most of all, I find I need to do more to help, if I can, a quarter of a billion (yes, "B" billion) people who face a life more dangerous and oppressive than I do.

I'll be honest, though, and concede I'm not an expert. There are many who know more about the Dalits than I do. I am writing this series based on my own learning to date, but there are still gaps remaining. To some extent, then, this series is as much me blogging aloud about something I'm still trying to understand as it is me trying to raise awareness of the Dalits' plight. Please, if you have any understanding in these areas I would welcome your comments.

There are (as of now) six coming parts to this series:

  • Introduction: Who are the Dalits?

  • Background: Caste system

  • Background: History lessons

  • The Nowadays: Modern life

  • The Future: Hope

  • The Practical: Resources

If there is something else you would like to see addressed, please let me know via the comments or email me.

Before I go, though, I'll share the brief story of the well. Christian music group Caedmon's Call went to India a while back. That trip led to their project "Share the Well." The title of the CD alludes to a situation described in this Christian Music Planet article. The story goes like this:

In one city in India, [Caedmon's Call's Cliff] Young says, there is a public well where the residents go to draw drinking water. But only some are allowed to do so. The rest must wait by the well and hope that someone will take pity on them and draw water to pour into their buckets. No one does. In fact, many of those not allowed to collect water are brutally beaten for even being so close to the well. If, somehow, they do get water, they must drink from clay cups so the vessels may be smashed immediately after. That way, there is no possibility that anyone else may drink after them and become tainted.

The Dalits are often beaten for things like trying to get water from a public well. For walking to close to members of a higher caste. For having the misfortune of being born to the wrong parents.

They are a people who need our help, who need our prayers, and most of all who need to know they are loved. I pray this series will in some small way help fill some of those needs.

God bless!

*Sub kooch ho sak-ee dey: Punjabi for "Anything is possible with God"

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