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CONTACT: Vikram Masson
(201) 674-2065
navyashastra@shastras.org
(www.shastras.org)

Navya Shastra announces apology to the Indian Dalit community in wake of recent mass conversions

Apology to be issued Novemeber 15. Organization dismayed at lack of support by Hindu leaders

Troy, Michigan--October 19, 2006--Navya Shastra, the international Hindu reform organization, has announced its intention to issue an apology to the Indian Dalits for the systemic discrimination meted out to members of the community by caste Hindus in India. In addition, the organization will acknowledge the important contributions Dalits have made to the philosophical, ritual and artistic dimensions of Hindu culture. The apology is set to be released globally on November 15, and comes at a time when thousands of Dalits have declared their allegiance to Christianity or Buddhism in mass conversion ceremonies held throughout India.

The organization hopes to initiate a national dialog on Dalits in an effort to eradicate still-prevalent discriminatory practices directed against the 160 million member community, and to begin a healing process. "During the Diwali season, we would like Hindus to reflect on the continued mistreatment of Dalits, and to remember that the heart of Hinduism recognizes the spiritual equality of all beings, which is a necessary precursor to social equality," said Dr. Jaishree Gopal, Navya Shastra Chairman. "The great number of religious conversions in recent days indicates that there is widespread disaffection with Hinduism among the Dalits," she added.

The organization expressed dismay that many prominent religious institutions have ignored the call for an apology. "We were hoping that every Hindu religious institution in India would support our efforts. Sadly, there have been few takers so far, said Sugrutha Ramaswami, the convener of the apology project.