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Executive Director of Dalit Freedom Network Presents Lecture at Mount Union College

November 10, 2006

Nanci Ricks, Executive Director of Dalit Freedom Network, presented a lecture on Thursday, November 9 in Presser Recital Hall.

Ricks recently returned from a three week trip to India where the Network is attempting to rid India of caste system-based discrimination.

"Although it may not be widely known," said Ricks, "India is still using the caste system today. Some think of the caste system as similar to our class system, but this is a false comparison. A class system is based on economics and social standing within economic wealth whereas a caste system is completely a social structure. A low member of the caste system will still be a low caste member even if he or she is a millionaire."

The term Dalit refers to the most oppressed population of India; the lowest of the caste system. Ricks explained that Dalits are not allowed to talk to or even let their shadow pass by a member of a higher caste. 'Many people believe they are human beings without souls; a different species,' Ricks said.

Hindus in India are brought up to believe in this caste system, and their place in the world because of the caste system.

'The people of India are imprisoned into this mindset; they believe it because they've been told this for so long,' Ricks said.

The Dalit Freedom Network works to build Dalit Educational Centers in India. There are 54 schools so far. The schools and the work that the Network does are 'completely transforming communities.'

Along with building schools, the Dalit Freedom Network has an adopt-a-child sponsor program where, for $28 per month a person can 'adopt' a child in India and help them maintain a better way of life. A medical school is also in the works, as are regional health centers in the country. They've helped to set up an economic development program which is a type of self-help program for Indians, and are working on social justice.

Although the group is working to give Indians social justice, the people of the group are not anti-Hindu. They believe that they can change the way Hindu children view themselves and their worthiness in the world around them. 'We believe we can change their (Hindu children) future and their paradigm about themselves,' Ricks said.

She concluded by stating that, 'It is in America's best interest to hold its feet to the fire when it comes to caste-based discrimination.'

The Dalit Freedom Network, based out of Colorado, can be visited on the web at www.dalitnetwork.org.

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