India: Nectar for justice

Musahars, or ?rat-eaters,? are a most marginalized Dalit group in India, mainly found in the north-east, with about 3 million in the State of Bihar alone. They own no land, have a literacy rate of 2 per cent (among women, 0.9 per cent), and their children regularly die of malnutrition. Despite 53 years of Independence, their lives remain untouched by the country?s great projects. ?Manthan? Social Action Centre, led by the Jesuits of Patna Province, is involved in helping educate and liberate Musahars, Dalit women and children, unorganised labourers and other downtrodden groups. ?Manthan? means churning, because according to classical Hindu mythology, there were two groups of gods churning the sea for nectar, the medicine for eternal life. Thus, ?churning? a society of marginalized people will bring about nectar, a medicine to heal unjust structures and inhuman practices. Manthan strengthens equality and fraternity by educating people to become aware of their constitutional and basic rights. The Centre offers vocational training to Dalit boys and girls, especially the Musahar children, with special attention to girls, whose literacy rate is far below that of boys. The Centre offers courses for solar energy technicians; cutting, tailoring and dress making; repairing and servicing of electronic equipment; and coaching for completion of elementary school. See www.indev.nic.in/manthan [HL20705]