I can’t quite believe how much we pack into each day. It’s after 11pm and I’ve been up since 4am, having flown from Delhi in the North to Chennai in the South. So tonight’s blog will be shorter not just because of how long I’ve been on the go but because I’m mentally and emotionally trying to process what I saw and heard.
Today we met our partner SASY, who work on human rights issues on behalf of Dalits. As you probably know, there is a caste system in India which has been in existence for hundreds of years. Dalits are outside the caste system and are referred to as ‘the untouchables‘ or ‘the non humans’.
SASY briefed us on the issues and what they are doing to help bring change as a result of Christian Aid’s support. The stories are horrific, it is unbelievable to think that people are treated this way. But it only really hit home when we went to visit a Dalit community to hear firsthand what their life is like.
As we drove to the village I was struck by two things: the beautiful, lush, green countryside and the shacks and huts on the sides of the roads. I was really taken aback by how these people lived. I assumed these were Dalit communities only to be told that Dalits were not ‘allowed’ to live on the main street as they called it. Their villages were set further back, in more remote areas with poorer roads.
I didn’t speak much for the rest of the journey – I was worried about what I would see and how I would react. I can’t really talk about it here just now, but what I can say is that I met some wonderful people, who told us all about what has happened to their community – arson, murder, discrimination, violent attacks and the list goes on.
I sat with their children, who told me what they wanted to be when they grow up – a doctor, an engineer, a computer engineer. They had no shoes but they had dreams like every child does. I also believe they have the ability.
What they need and deserve is the right to pursue their dreams regardless of cast. The right to be seen as human and the right to be treated as equals. We have got to support them achieve those rights.