Dalit Freedom Network Hosts Historic Conference on Capitol Hill:

Conference and House Hearing Mark a New Awareness of Caste Atrocities in India

9/28/2005 11:57:00 AM


To: National, International and Assignment desks

Contact: Nanci Ricks of Dalit Freedom Network, 303-221-1333, 866-921-1333 (toll-free) Or info@dalitnetwork.org ; Web: http://www.dalitnetwork.org

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- On October 6, 2005, the Dalit Freedom Network will host an historic Conference entitled "Racism and Caste Based Discrimination in India: Implications for the US-India Relationship" followed by a House Hearing on ongoing Caste atrocities. The event marks a new awareness among
U.S. lawmakers about the struggles of lower caste people in India. DFN will host a press conference on this event on October 5 at 9 a.m. in the National Press Club's Zenger room.

"The growth of the Indian economy has not affected the 250 million Untouchables (called Dalits) who are denied economic opportunity, education, and equal treatment under the law," said Joseph D'souza, international president of the Dalit Freedom Network. "It is time for the
United States to work with the government of India to end caste and stop atrocities against low caste Indians."

The conference and hearing will address the problem of caste in
India. Caste, a social stratification rooted in Hinduism, organizes people by a combination of descent and employment. The lowest group in the caste system is the Dalits. While atrocities against the Dalits have been practiced for thousands of years, caste-based atrocities are reaching new heights and are causing tension across many areas. If not addressed, the social and economic problems facing the Dalits, including educational and economic disenfranchisement, the AIDS crisis, and growing religious tensions could threaten the stability of the US-India partnership

The conference will include speeches from notable Dalit advocates and leaders from India, including Dr. Joseph D'souza, Dr. Udit Raj, and Dr. Kancha Ilaiah.

Dr. Joseph D'souza is the International President of the Dalit Freedom Network and also the President of The All India Christian Council, one of the largest interdenominational alliances of Christians dealing with human rights and caste based discrimination. The Council is ecumenical in its composition. D'souza is also the co-convener of "FORCE", a body that brings together oppressed communities and castes in
India such as the Dalits, the backward castes, the tribals, the Buddhists, the Christians and the Muslims to champion the implementation of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Dr. Udit Raj is the national chairman of the All-India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe Organizations. He is also the Chairman of the Justice Party. Udit Raj's Confederation represents nearly 5 million Dalit government employees. Raj, who was formerly known as Ram Raj is known all over the world for leading over 100,000 Dalits into Buddhism on
November 4th, 2001. Raj has emerged as one of the main voices for Dalit emancipation at the present time.

Dr. Kancha Ilaiah is Professor Head of the Political Science Department at
Osmania University in Hyderabad, India. He is the author of several books on the Dalits and Other Backward Castes in India, including "Why I am Not a Hindu: A Critique of Sudra Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy," "Democracy in India: A Hollow Shell" and "Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism." In many ways Kancha Ilaiah has become the main ideologue for the Dalit- Bahujan movement against caste discrimination.

The Dalit Freedom Network is a Denver-based organization that seeks to work with individuals, foundations and organizations outside of
India to knit together their combined resources on behalf of those who are working for the emancipation of the Dalits within India. The work of the Dalit Freedom Network in the aftermath of the December 2004 Tsunami was covered by the Rocky Mountain News on January 17-28 in a series called "Wave of Hope: Mission to India," available at http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/news/india/.

DFN is a registered 501 (c) 3 organization.

Source: http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=54171