WASHINGTON, DC (June 30, 2008) - In a landmark, trans-Atlantic effort to combat caste-based discrimination, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) in collaboration with the Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), a leading non-governmental organization based at The Hague, Netherlands, announced calls for applications for the first annual Shri Narayana Guru Award for Outstanding Leadership in Social Reform earlier today.
The Award seeks to recognize individuals or organizations working for social upliftment and human rights advocacy for "Harijans", a common term of self-identity used by Hindus considered to exist on the bottom rung of the South Asian social order (or caste), the announcement relayed. The specific areas of work the award seeks to recognize include women's rights, health, education, economic upliftment, social equality, religious equality, and justice.
The Award is dedicated to the 19th century sage and social reformer Shri Narayana Guru, a member of the so-called lower-caste Ezhava community, who was revered for his deep spiritual attainment, humanistic philosophy and commitment to social reform and equality. He taught the ideal of "One caste, one religion and one God for mankind" and stressed social self-upliftment by the so-called lower castes.
"Despite its abolition legally, caste based discrimination is still a reality in India where 160 million are excluded from society and denied basic human rights." stated S. Sital, Chairman of the GHRD. "It is our hope and that of our friends at HAF that this Award will recognize and support modern social reformers who embody these qualities of Shri Narayana Guru in their work for social justice."
The award, along with a $10,000 prize, will be presented in November in India. Award nominees will be selected based on their track record in the area of Harijan human rights, vision for future initiatives and commitment to tolerance, pluralism and respect for indigenous traditions. HAF also plans to simultaneously release an extensive report documenting the ongoing human rights violations against Harijans in India.
"We are excited to recognize the work of reformers who diligently seek social equality for members of castes who continue to face widespread discrimination", said Jay Patel, member of the Executive Council of the Hindu American Foundation. "We hope that this award will stimulate interest and attention to caste-based discrimination and support ongoing efforts to eradicate it."
The Foundation clarified that the term "Dalit," that is often erroneously used interchangeably with "Harijan," is a term of self-identity used by those of the same social status as "Harijans" who have chosen to leave Hinduism or were born non-Hindu.
Nominations can be submitted on the HAF website by September 1, 2008 at http://www.hafsite.org/harijan-award/
Printed applications can be mailed to:
Hindu American Foundation
5268G Nicholson Lane #164
Kensington, MD 20895
Applications can also be faxed to HAF's fax line at (301) 770-7837
Media contact: Suhag Shukla, HAF Managing Director, Phone: 301-770-7835 or email: suhag at hafsite.org
The Hindu American Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, non-partisan organization promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism. Contact HAF at 1-301-770-7835 or on the web at www.HAFsite.org.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hindu American Foundation