For 3,000 years, hundreds of millions of people have remained oppressed under the auspices of the Hindu caste system. Considered untouchable for generations, they have named themselves Dalit, meaning “crushed” or “broken to pieces.” Although the practice of untouchability was rendered illegal with the Indian constitution in 1950 (incidentally written by a Dalit man), the tradition of casteism has been difficult to break, and can still be observed, mostly in rural areas.
From menial vocations to suffering physical violence with little hope for justice, the Dalit are the largest oppressed people group in the world–their numbers estimated at 250 million. They are generally pushed into the outskirts of cities and villages, where they live in slums made of whatever they can find, doing whatever they can.
Generally denied quality education, over the past ten years efforts have been underway to offer free or nearly-free English-medium schooling to Dalit children all across India. Over 100 schools have been built, reaching approximately 25,000 students.
In the midst of this, there exists a powerful connection between a school in the middle of India, and a town in the middle of Nebraska, where high school and college students banded together and raised $23,000 in three months. This money paid for that school. But that was merely the beginning.
In the ensuing months, several of these Nebraska youth put forth the effort to raise additional funds to travel to India to see this school and meet the Dalit children there. In 2004, they went. In 2005, they went again. In 2006, 2007, and every year since, people went. Over the past decade, more than 100 people have gone to meet these amazing children, spend time with them, and love them unconditionally.
The stories that have come back year after year have inspired each subsequent team to go witness what is happening for themselves. Breaking the Cycle is an upcoming feature-length documentary that seeks to share the essence of these stories. It will explore the broad picture of casteism and the work being done by countless people to help Dalits in all areas of life, as well as view this work through the lens of the school built by the students from Nebraska.
“There’s something really grand and important happening over there that needs to be seen and known here.”
Breaking the Cycle is currently in production with a rough estimated completion time of late 2013.