The latest in the Indymedia/BRFF Monday night film series at the Cube Cinema, Bristol, was an eye-opening event in conjunction with the Dalit Freedom Network; an organisation that fights for the freedom of India’s ‘Dalits’: those considered to have such little worth to be literally out-cast from India’s caste system. Dalits make up a staggering 25% of India’s population, millions of people deemed ‘untouchable’ by ‘upper’ castes.
Programmed was the short Kavi, about a young Dalit boy born into an enslaved family, coupled with a second short, Emerging Solidarities, shown for the second time at a BRFF event; a short film about the lives of immigrants and worker abuses closer to home in Greece.
Speaking was Kumar Swamy, South India Human Rights Convenor, himself from a Dalit background, who has flown from India to tour the UK promoting the cause; and Andrew Wallis, CEO of Bristol-based anti-trafficking charity Unseen. Both were interviewed by DFN chair Malcolm Egner about their work, and answered questions from the audience in the post-screening discussion. Wallis, also chairman of the Centre for Social Justice panel, offered the news that their report ‘It Happens Here’ has led to the Home Secretary introducing a Modern Slavery Bill for this session of parliament. But likely the most memorable illumination of the night was the extremity of the impasse in question: the total number of people in modern slavery in India is 13.9 million – almost half of the the global total of 29.8 million slaves. This includes millions of children in forced ‘bonded labour’ from birth; a problem, like these people, considered untouchable and irrelevant by those in power.