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Friday, May 19, 2006

ASSIST Ministries

Dalit leader Udit Raj was arrested on Wednesday, May 17, on his way to a protest in the Indian capital of New Delhi .

Dr. Raj, who speaks for the most under-represented people in India, the Dalits, (formerly “untouchables”), was due to visit the UK next week, but has had to cancel his visit.

“He was detained overnight after he led a group of Dalit and ‘Backward Caste’ doctors and other activists in a demonstration in support of the government’s plan to grant affirmative action benefits to backward caste students in higher education, an action opposed by upper caste students,” said a spokesperson for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), who released the story.

“A national rally has been called by former Primer Minister of India , Mr. V.P. Singh, in support of the backward castes. Dr. Raj, President of the Indian Justice Party, which is committed to a caste-free society founded on equality and religious freedom, will address the rally, on May 30 in Lucknow .”

According to a statement issued by the Dalit Freedom Network, Dr. Raj said: “We have to struggle against the power monopoly of the upper castes who have garnered most of the privileges in Indian life, including in the field of education. It is impossible to understand why the upper castes, with all their access to money, education and power, are not willing to share and include the majority backward castes and Dalits in the fruits of development and prosperity, and the building of a successful India .”

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “We are concerned that a national Dalit leader such as Udit Raj should be arrested, although we are pleased he has now been released. We regret that he is unable to come to London as planned, but we will continue to stand with and speak out for the oppressed Dalit people of India until they can enjoy basic equal rights and religious freedom.”