Evolution of UnCaste India
A Grassroots Network
Ravi Kumar and his team of local volunteers originally focused their efforts on investigating human rights atrocities against Dalits living in rural Andhra Pradesh, India. They suspected that local media underreported cases. They traveled hundreds of miles to investigate and expose an ongoing conspiracy against Dalits. Despite comprising almost 25% of the population of India, they continue to be denied their constitutional rights. They are viewed as expendable and are being left behind as the gap between the rich and poor grows wider. ARV’s findings raised awareness of failings within the government. They also began building a strong network of concerned volunteers willing to work without compensation on behalf of these disenfranchised castes.
An International Partnership
The Asian Tsunami of 2004 brought Shawn Rubin and Laura Westberg to the devastated coastal area of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. An American couple assisting in disaster relief efforts, they were inspired by ARV's work and knew they wanted to continue to support ARV after returning to the US. They this founded Longitude upon their return in 2005. Later that year, Rick Mickelson led the first Longitude volunteer expedition to India. He mobilized an international team that helped build safe, permanent homes in the village of Kothasathram Indirinagar (KI).
A Visionary Approach
ARV recognizes that survival needs must come first before empowering communities to seek out greater civil liberties. These communities suffer from a lack of adequate food, safe drinking water, medical care, and basic, sturdy housing. They are often left emaciated and without hope. In 2005, with the help of funds raised by Longitude volunteers, ARV began offering a range of services, including housing, nutrition, healthcare, and emergency relief. The programs that provide these crucial services comprise the first phase of the UnCaste India Campaign: Survival.
As ARV works to meet a Dalit village's basic needs, they also raise awareness of fundamental human rights - and violations of these rights - through education, advocacy and lobbying. ARV and the village committees they work with have already had much success convincing local government leaders to support the projects that ARV has started and securing government grants for Dalit villagers. Their ongoing efforts to raise Dalit voices and hold the government accountable represent the second phase of the UnCaste India Campaign: Empowerment.
Through awareness campaigns and educational programs, ARV strives to ensure that all Dalits exercise their rights and access their entitlements both now and in future generations. When Dalits fully recognize themselves - and are recognized - as members of society deserving of these fundamental rights, then the third and final phase of the UnCaste India Campaign, Equality, will be complete, and India will truly be UnCasted.