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Defending ‘untouchables’ wins them this year’s Rafto Prize

Posted by African Press International on September 24, 2007

An organization dedicated to challenging India’s caste system and helping the country’s so-called “untouchables” won this year’s Rafto Prize in Bergen.

The National Campaign on Dalit Human Right (NCDHR) won the prize for its work against discrimination of the “untouchables,” more respectfully called Dalits.

The Rafto Foundation cited the group’s “brave struggle to promote Dalit rights, and for its efforts to emphasise that the discrimination and oppression resulting from caste prejudice is a serious violation of international human rights.”

Arne Liljedahl Lynngrd, chairman of the Rafto Foundation, said he hoped the prize would help publicize the work of NCDHR and highlight the human rights problems tied to the caste system.

NCDHR demands “freedom from cast bondage” for the 260 million Dalits of Asia. NCDHR officials say they’re part of a wider struggle to abolish “untouchability.” Caste discrimination continues to be a “brutal reality,” the organization claims, for more than 160 million Dalits living in India today.

On the very day the Rafto prize was announced, the secretary general of NCDHR was on his way to Bihar, India, where 10 persons who’d been thrown out of their caste were massacred a few days ago.

“This happens again and again,” said Rikke Nhrlind of the International Dalit Solidarity Network. “Police don’t manage to protect the Dalits.”

She was in Bergen when the Rafto prize was announced. The prize, an annual human rights prize awarded in memory of Norwegian Professor Thorolf Rafto, will be formally awarded November 4 at the National Theatre in Bergen.

Several previous winners have also won the Nobel Peace Prize, including Shirin Ebadi of Iran and Kim Dae-jung of South Korea.

By Nina Berglund

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN africanpress@chello.no source.aftenposteneng.

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