“I believe in hope that one day caste-based discrimination will be eliminated from the planet. But it is going to take a long, long time… Probably it might not happen in my lifetime, but I am hopeful that one day it will happen."
Ritwajt Das is a human rights defender and climate change activist who is currently working for one of the NHRF's grantees, the International Dalit Solidarity Network, a global network who is fighting to end caste-based discrimination globally. There are more than 260 million Dalits in South Asia. Dalits are among the most oppressed communities in the world, and are facing widespread discrimination and massive violations of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
"[Dalits] are denied to have access to shared resources and utilities, like farm lands, water access, medical access, education, religious services, jobs, […] and even face discrimination after death."
Dalits are were formerly known as "untouchables" and are still today subjected to "untouchability" practices including being forced to to the most dirty and hazardous jobs, such as manual scavenging, as well as being subjected to forced and bonded labor. Most Dalits in South Asia live in severe poverty.
"The caste-based system will be eliminated. Dalits will be empowered with justice, equity, inclusiveness, and equality. What I can do now is to do my bit to push the line. It might seem like the line is not moving, but [in] hindsight I will realize that the line has moved and it has made a difference."
In his I Defend Rights story, Ritwajit Das talks about why he stays motivated to fight against caste oppression. Listen to his story below: