Vincent Manoharan (centre), Secretary General of the NCDHR, Dr. Vimal Thorat (left), Co-Convenor and Paul Divakar (right), Convenor received the award on behalf of the organization.
Of India’s 1,3 billion citizens, 215 million are labelled Scheduled Castes, and to various degrees considered ‘impure’ or ‘untouchable’. These people call themselves Dalits, meaning ‘the downtrodden’. For thousands of years they have suffered humiliation, discrimination, and exclusion by being born into a social and cultural system which fundamentally conflicts with the notion that all human beings are born free with equal rights. The forms of caste-based discrimination vary largely between localities. It traditionally includes that Dalits are only allowed to work in occupations with low status and income, primarily occupations requiring the handling of ‘impure’ material, such as garbage, human and animal waste, animal skin and products of the soil. Dalits customarily; have to live segregated, are often also segregated in schools and in the workplace, are not allowed to hold real estate as property, are not allowed to use public utilities such as roads, water, temples and public office buildings. They are disproportionally poor, undereducated, and victims of violence. Many Dalits work as bonded labour, or in forms of modern day slavery. Caste-based discrimination is prohibited by law in India, but still prevalent, and especially in rural areas.