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American Hindus Applaud Decision of Dalits in India to Build Own Temple 

San Francisco, CA (April 14, 2006) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) today applauded the recent construction of a temple by members of the Scheduled Caste (Dalit) community in Chauriberhampur village in the state of Orissa, India. The Hadi community built the temple in response to the unjust denial of entry into the traditional village temple by Hindus of other castes.

Many Hadis make a living by scavenging, sweeping streets and removing waste. Despite their depressed economic circumstances, the Hadi community was able to raise over Rs. 200,000 (US$4,000) for the construction of a temple dedicated to Goddess Maa Mangala.

“Hindu religious leaders, who have largely focused on individual spiritual counsel, must also engage in social activism and speak out against such atrocities,” said Pawan Deshpande, Member of the Hindu American Foundation Executive Council. “The Hadis have demonstrated their pride and faith in the Hindu religion. In the past, such indignities have undoubtedly contributed to communities converting out of the Hindu fold.”

HAF calls for all Hindus in India, especially the leaders of Hindu religious, social and political organizations, to articulate and forcefully implement reforms against casteism. HAF believes that while the government has the immediate responsibility of upholding the law, religious organizations are uniquely positioned to enable a long-term social change.

“The ancient Sanskrit and Tamil scriptures of Hinduism are unambiguous in their declaration that Divinity is inherent in all beings and that the goal of religion is to help manifest that Divinity”, said Swaminathan Venkataraman, Member of the Hindu American Foundation Executive Council. “While economic changes have already diminished casteist distinctions in many parts of India, it is also imperative that all Hindus, regardless of caste or social class, enjoy equal spiritual and religious rights.”