IDSN Newsletter August/September 2010


Autumn is approaching, and it will be a busy time for IDSN. A delegation will be present at the 15th session of the UN Human Rights Council, and several lobbying trips are planned to European capitals. A number of UN reports refer to caste discrimination, once again demonstrating the importance of this international human rights issue. In several caste-affected countries, Dalits continue to suffer discrimination on a daily basis. They have been denied access to aid during the disasterous floods in Pakistan and are prevented from defending their rights in India.

International News

Caste aspects of domestic servitude: The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, has established an intrinsic link between caste discrimination and domestic servitude in a new report to be presented at the Human Rights Council. She notes that Dalits make up the “vast majority of people in domestic bonded labour, which is a form of domestic servitude.” Click here to read the report – paragraphs 51, 69, 72 and 99 are particularly relevant.

IMADR calls for adoption of UN caste guidelines: The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) has reiterated its call for an early adoption of the UN Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of caste discrimination. This happened during the 14th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June. IMADR is a close associate of IDSN and has made several such statements at HRC sessions. Read the statement here

New Finnish network will strengthen IDSN: A new Dalit Solidarity Network has been established in Finland. It has been widely welcomed by IDSN members. Read more here

Main National News


False charges against Dalit activists: Five human rights defenders from the Dalit Foundation were arrested on false charges at a police station in Tamil Nadu on 15 August. IDSN and other international organisations have condemned the arrests. Read more here

India admits diversion of Dalit funds for CW Games: The Indian Minister for Home Affairs has admitted that the Delhi state government was wrong to divert funds earmarked for Dalits to the budget of the Commonwealth Games. NCDHR has called for the prosecution of officials who illegally diverted these funds.Read more here

People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal violence: A three-day “People’s Tribunal” on the Kandhamal violence concluded that sectarian “forces used religious conversions to incite horrific forms of violence and discrimination against Christians of low caste origin and their supporters in Kandhamal.” A report from the tribunal, held in New Delhi on 22-24 August, noted that the objective of the violence, which took place in 2008, was to “dominate the poor” so they would remain subservient to higher castes. Read the report here and press clippings here

Haryana government criticised by parliamentary panel: A parliamentary panel has expressed skepticism towards the Haryana state government’s appointment of a single-member inquiry commission without Dalit representation to probe the attacks in the village of Mirchpur in April, which cost two lives. Previously, the Supreme Court gave the Haryana government a deadline to arrest all suspected perpetrators. Read press reports here

ALRC statement on bonded labour: The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) has issued a statement on bonded labour in India for the 15th session of the UN Human Rights Council in September. In the statement, the organisation notes that “bonded labour in the farming sector is mostly due to caste-based prejudices practiced against the Dalit communities.” Click here to read the statement and here for IDSN information on bonded labour in India

Conference brings together excluded women: Women – and a few men – from marginalised communities, including Dalits, met at a conference in New Delhi from 4-6 August. Among the demands of the Dalit group was a 50 percent reservation for women, the abolishment of manual scavenging and training of Dalit women in various skills. Read a media report here

Supreme court for lasting Jogini solution: The Supreme Court has allowed an advocate to file an application in a case relating to providing a lasting solution to the living conditions of Joginis in Andhra Pradesh. Joginis are women and girls forced into prostitution by religious custom. There are an estimated 27,000 Joginis in the state, most of them Dalits and tribal women. Click here for IDSN information on forced prostitution and read a press clipping here

National consultation on disaster response: Two statements and a final report from the national consultation on the exclusion of Daltis from disaster response have now been published. The consultation took place in June. The ideas and statements from the consultation are aimed at instituting effective mechanisms for the inclusion of Dalits and other marginalised communities in all interventions pertaining to disaster management and risk reduction. Read the statements here and here and  the report here

‘Black Day’ for Dalit Christians and Muslims: The National Council of Dalit Christians marked 10th August as a ‘black day’ for Dalit Christians and Muslims. On this date in 1950, it was decided not to include Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam in affirmative action programmes. Thus, millions of Dalit converts do not enjoy the status of Scheduled Castes. Read more here

Press clippings: Will manual scavenging be eradicated from India? –; India mulls private sector caste quotas – FT blog; Companies to disclose staff’s caste in annual reports – Indian Express; Shampoo and social equality – The Financial Express; Dalit woman branded a witch – IANS; Rape, torture by landlords forces villagers to flee – Times of India; Raped Dalit teen immolates herself – IANS; MPs unite to protest atrocities against Dalits – Times of India; Delegation of SC/ST MPs meet Manmohan Singh – The Hindu;Untouchability still practised in Gandhi’s land – Times of India


President against discrimination during relief efforts: The President of Pakistan, Asif Alif Zardari, has spoken out against caste discrimination during the flood relief operation. Following reports of Dalits being denied access to aid, IDSN has issued a statement urging the international community to incorporate measures against this form of discrimination during disasters relief operations. Read more here

Floods in Sindh hit Dalits hard: Dalit families in Sindh province are being doubly affected by the disasterous floods that are ravaging Pakistan. The actual floods have displaced them from their homes, and according to the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN), they are now facing caste discrimination during relief efforts.Read more here

Dalit village attacked by mob: A Muslim mob attacked a Dalit village in Sindh province on 23 August following allegations of blasphemy. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received information that houses were burnt and villagers forced to leave their homes. The village in Mirpurkhas district has been populated by a Dalit Meghwar community for a century. Read the AHRC appeal here


UN experts express concern for Dalits: Two UN Independent Experts have published a joint report from their visit to Bangladesh in December 2009. They call on the country’s government to take concrete steps to address and eliminate caste discrimination, including the establishment of a special commission on Dalit issues. Read more here


NGOs call for end to Haliya system: The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and the Jagaran Media Center, a Nepalese NGO, are urging the UN Human Rights Council to end the Haliya system of bonded labour in Nepal. Most Haliyas are Dalits. Read more here

FEDO leader speaks on prevention of torture: In an interview with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on the issue of torture, Durga Sob, leader of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), notes that Nepal’s “common citizens are being smothered by people in power. Worst and most critical is the condition of Dalits and especially of Dalit women in this sense. Dalits are hardly enjoying any rights.” Read the interview here

Dalits demand census amendment: Representatives of Dalit communities have submitted a charter of demands to the National Planning Commission, asking for a review of census procedures. Read more here

Press clipping: Bennett meets PM Nepal – Himalayan News Service


UN report links caste and slavery: The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, has published a report from her country visit to Mauritania. She mentions numerous examples of caste-based slavery, and also urges the country’s Minister of Justice to consider introducing a law “against discrimination practices based on caste and ethnic slavery”. Click here to download the report – paragraphs 9, 10, 12, 17, 51 and 105 are particularly relevant.

United Kingdom

UK Dalits on course to win argument: The Indian newspaper, The Hindu, has published an opinion piece on the campaign in the UK to make caste discrimination illegal and the anticipation among Britain’s 200,000 strong Dalit community that this will happen in the near future. The article specifically mentions a ‘long-standing campaign for caste discrimination to be recognised as racism.’ IDSN would like to note that the campaign primarily focused on recognising caste discrimination as a distinct form of discrimination under the law, not necessarily a form of racism. However, the fact that it will soon be declared illegal is to be welcomed. Read the article here and read IDSN’s position paper on caste, descent and race here

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