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With its genesis in the upsurge created by the World Conference against Racism at Durban in 2001, which challenged the conscience of humankind against racism and other forms of inequality, cross-country solidarity building among Dalits has had a decade and a half old history. On that significant occasion, the powerful voice of the strong contingent of civil society organizations reverberated around the globe and caught the imagination of progressive human rights activists and social intellectuals, media pundits and donor partners, UN agencies and international governments regarding the form of hidden apartheid suffered by Dalit communities in India.
This voice grew louder and stronger with Dalit communities in South Asian countries joining the chorus of protest against caste discrimination and violence suffered in their own respective countries, and asserting claims for their rights and entitlements. With the NCDHR-initiated International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) advocating on the international scene the cause of communities discriminated on the basis of descent and work, the upsurge of Dalit communities for public visibility, global official recognition, and access to rights and entitlements gained force, strength and momentum.
It is in this background that Asian Dalit Rights Forum as a collective of Dalit rights protagonists, originated as a germinal idea at the World Social Forum 2004 in Mumbai, India. This led to events being organized for Dalit rights activists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the India Social Forum, Delhi in November 2006. This collective idea of an Asia Dalit Rights Forum gained further clarity of perspective at the Karachi Social Forum in 2007. The rationale for this networking lay in the contiguity of the South Asian region countries, and the commonality of the systemic nature of discrimination and violence suffered by the peoples living in this region.
Genesis of ADRF: The idea of ADRF, as a collective platform of Dalit rights protagonists, emerged during the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India in 2004 and was consolidated in the events for Dalit Rights activists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the India Social Forum, Delhi in 2006. Greater clarity of perspective emerged as Dalit rights activists again came together at the Karachi Social Forum, Pakistan in 2007.
Advocacy with UN Bodies at Geneva: ADRF acquired strength as a solidarity platform to do advocacy with UN bodies and various States Parties at the international level at Genevain 2007on behalf of the Descent and Work based Discriminated peoples in the South Asia regionand in the global diaspora.
The Bangkok Conclave: ADRF organized a Strategic Planning Meet in Bangkok in 2007 with the support of Forum-Asia. A Coordinator was appointed to set the network in motion. This ADRF conclave was a significant milestone and helped to expand its reach by establishing a stronger working relationship with Buraku Liberation League (BLL) of Japan and IMADR and to engage with the governments in South Asia for making responsive policy changes and interventions at the global level through existing human rights mechanisms.
Decade of Dalit Rights: In June 2011, several members of the ADRF organized a week of Decade of Dalit Rights to review the existing situation, stock taking of the past and strategizing interventions for the future as well as advocacy with Special Rapporteurs and Country Missions in Geneva.
Envisaging a Formal Structure for long term future: In subsequent years, the phase of interactions in Geneva for sharing work experiences in the respective countries and deliberating on UN advocacy efforts in close collaboration with IDSN moved into a new era of journey: ADRF members felt the need to evolve a formal network.
ADRF acquired strength as a solidarity platform to do advocacy with UN bodies and various States Parties at the international level at Geneva in 2007on behalf of descent and work based discriminated peoples in the South Asia region and in the global diaspora. The ADRF conclave in Bangkok in 2007 is noted for three significant policy and programmatic directions: (1) the decision to expand its reach by including into its fold the Buraku Liberation League (BLL) of Japan in recognition of the fact that the Buraku community faces similar discrimination and violence; (2) the collective deliberation on engaging the governments in South Asia to make responsive policy changes for safeguarding and promoting rights Dalit communities in the respective individual countries and in the region as a whole, buttressed by solidarity interventions in global governmental, human rights and humanitarian institutions; and (3) deliberations on some action programmes affixing responsibilities to partner organizations.
The one and half decade of interactions, experiences and achievements led the partners to give a formal shape and structure to the ADRF platform at the Kathmandu consultation on February 26-27, 2014. The 12 founding members made a unanimous decision to formalize the platform as the Asia Dalit Rights Forum (ADRF).