Today's Struggle from Slavery to Freedom in Karnataka
Come hear Shivanna and Kiran talk about the important work they do in rural India with the courageous grassroots organization JEEVIKA. Shivanna Puttaiah and Kiran Kamal Prasad are the 2010 recipients of the Harriet Tubman Award, as part of the Free the Slaves Freedom Awards.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
JEEVIKA is a courageous grassroots organization that works in rural villages outside Bangalore, where the Dalits or “untouchable” castes have endured centuries of poverty and humiliation. Many Dalits are trapped in debt bondage slavery. They’ve borrowed small amounts from wealthier farm owners to pay for family emergencies. Then they are forced to continue working off the loans, sometimes for generations. JEEVIKA estimates up to 500,000 people are in debt bondage slavery in Karnataka. JEEVIKA helps them understand their rights and free themselves from bondage. By standing together against powerful landowners and complacent public officials, slaves discover that freedom is possible.
A mini-documentary will be screened to show how debt-bondage affects lives in rural India today. The film shows activists from JEEVIKA going door to door, educating villagers about their rights and help the enslaved assert their freedom from slavery and debt. Introductions will be given by Professor Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy from the Department of Ethnomusicology.
JEEVIKA will also be appearing at the 2010 Freedom Awards, taking place Sunday, November 7 in Los Angeles. Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Jason Mraz and Sir Ken Robinson are among the performers and presenters.
Biography of Shivanna Puttaiah:
Shivanna grew up in slavery when he was taken out of school to work off a family debt and made to work for 12 years as a farm laborer. Shivanna is now free: After learning from JEEVIKA that bonded labor is outlawed in India, he slipped away from the farm and filed court papers to win his freedom. Now, he is a leader in JEEVIKA and spends much of his time eradicating slavery, through the union of bonded laborers and agricultural workers that is linked with JEEVIKA. He has developed himself as a community organizer, public speaker and a cultural activist. He lives with his wife and two children and earns a living as a farmer on a small piece of land. “This is a heinous system,” says Shivanna Puttaiah. “When I was a bonded laborer, I was treated like an animal. When I see bonded laborers, I have fire in my heart.”
Biography of Kiran Kamal Prasad:
Since his early youth, Kiran prepared himself to work with the “untouchables” and indigenous people. This desire led to him becoming a Jesuit priest and studying social anthropology and Kannada, the local language. He also realized that building people's awareness, organization and leadership to solve their own problems was most effective. His first involvement was to live with Siddis, an African community of 15,000 living in Karnataka who were former slaves in the Portuguese Goa. He successfully struggled to get them officially recognized as a “Scheduled Tribe”. Since 1985, his work alongside Dalits (the lowest castes) took him deeply into the issue of bonded labor. After a local survey of levels of bonded labor, he lobbied the state government for eradication of bonded labor and built a union of bonded laborers. These efforts were expanded to the entire state in 1993 under the banner of JEEVIKA which now makes its presence felt in all of Karnataka’s 30 Districts. In 1997 he came out of the Jesuit order to dedicate himself fully to the cause of bonded labor. He was invited by the Karnataka Government to draft its Action Plan on Bonded Labour, which was then published in 2009. With support through the Free the Slaves Harriet Tubman Freedom Award, Dalit youth are now mobilized in almost all the Districts to fight against slavery and ensure that the Action Plan is brought to life.
Parking is available at Lot 3 for $10 all day. Please see the following link for a campus map: http://www.ucla.edu/map/ucla-campus-map.pdf.