Welcome to the December edition of the IDSN newsletter – the final one in 2009. A year ago, we were still only dreaming of launching this publication, but IDSN has come a long way since then – as has international attention to one of the world’s most serious human rights issues, caste discrimination.
On 10 December, as Human Rights Day was marked in many countries, Dalits raised their voices in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. On the same day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has championed the international struggle against caste discrimination in recent months, mentioned “members of particular castes” as a group that faces discrimination. And as the world community gathered in Copenhagen to address climate change, Dalits were also present.
We are constantly trying to improve the newsletter as well as our website and would welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. May we take this opportunity to wish you a Happy Holiday Season – we at IDSN will do our very best to provide you with updated and relevant information on caste discrimination in 2010.
Pillay refers to caste on Human Rights Day: “Complacency is discrimination’s best friend,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said prior to Human Rights Day. In her statement, she included “members of particular castes” as a group that faces discrimination. Click here to read more
A Dalit view on climate change: As world leaders gathered in Copenhagen to discuss one of the most pressing issues of our time, three Dalit women from Andhra Pradesh joined a protest outside the conference area because they felt that their voices had not been heard. Click here to read the news story and here for an interview with the Dalit women
“But where is the moral responsibility?” In November, Dalit rights activist Asha Zechariah from India participated in the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Trinidad. In a compelling interview with a local newspaper about the lives of India’s Dalit population, she described Dalit culture as a “struggle”. Read the full interview here
Ambedkar in Hungary: The Romas, a discriminated minority in Europe, have turned to the philosophy of Dr. Ambedkar in their quest for dignity and equality. Through the Hungarian Jai Bhim Network, they cooperate with young Dalit activists from India. The Dalit blog Insight Young Voices has published a couple of dispatches from Hungary. Read the dispatches here and an article in The Hindu here.
Main National News
UN experts visit Dalit ‘colony’: Two Independent Experts expressed serious concern about the human rights situation of Dalits during their visit to Bangladesh earlier this month. Their itinerary included the largest Dalit colony in Dhaka. Click here to read more
Dalits form human chain in Dhaka: The Dalit community has urged the government to make caste discrimination a punishable offence. On 5 December, Dalit activists demonstrated in Dhaka. Read more here
“We are not thought of as human”: The Guardian has published an investigation into the lives of Dalit women in Bangladesh, written by journalist Mary Griffin. The project came second in the British newspaper’s International Development Journalism Competition. Read more here
Lower caste families face eviction: Around 300 people from a lower caste Hindu community in Chittagong are facing eviction. According to an urgent appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission, the land they live on is to be seized by the government. Read the AHRC appeal here.
Press clipping: Ensure economic emancipation of marginalised communities – Daily Star
Call to action as Nepal’s Dalits rally: On Human Rights Day, a coalition of human rights groups, including IDSN, issued a press statement urging Nepal’s Constituent Assembly to ensure the rights of all its citizens, including Dalits, in the new constitution. On the same day, thousands of Dalits rallied for their rights in the country’s capital. Read more here
The rights of Dalit women: Dalit women in Nepal suffer not only as Dalits, nor only as women, but as Dalit women and as the poorest citizens in the country. In an oped in the Kathmandu Post, two human rights workers argue that the new constitution should protect against both direct and indirect forms of discrimination.Read the oped here
Police fail to charge abusers: Police have put pressure on a Dalit woman to withdraw a case against a group of people who accused her of being a witch, beat her, and forced her to eat human excreta. Read the Asian Human Rights Commission appeal here
Experts condemn India’s stance on caste: India should adopt the UN principles and guidelines to end caste discrimination, a group of eminent panelists said at a briefing in New Delhi on 4 December. The panel included Miloon Kothari, a former UN Special Rapporteur on housing, and Paul Divakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. Read more here
Dalits submit memorandum to PM: The National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) has met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and presented 80 demands aimed at empowering the poor and deprived. On 5 December, NACDOR also organised a rally in New Delhi. Read more here
Calling the world’s attention to the caste issue: Caste discrimination was not on the agenda during the November meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama. The Indian PM has largely ignored the issue, professor Ramaiah Avatthi contends in an interview with Worldfocus. Read the interview here
Tatas lead India Inc. in hiring Dalits: The largest Indian business conglomerate is leading the way in applying positive discrimination towards Dalits. Read the article in The Economic Times and click here for an OutlookBusiness report on corporate caste policies. Read more about caste discrimination in business operations here.
Caste discrimination rife in Gujarat: A new ‘Census on Untouchability’ – a study representing 98,000 Dalits across 1,655 villages in Gujarat – is in the process of being finalised by the Navsarjan Trust in cooperation with three US-based organisations. Some of its findings have been published in the Times of India. The study did not find one single village in which no form of caste discrimination was practiced. Read the articles here
“Don’t take benefit of reservations, if you can’t pay back”: Dalit activist Dr. Umakant feels proud to be a product of the reservation policy which enabled him to get a good education. In an interview with the Insight Young Voices Blog, he tells his story of two decades of activism. Read the interview here
Government set to reopen quota debate: The Government of India is reopening the debate on a two year old report, which recommended that Dalit Christians and Muslims should be granted status as Scheduled Castes. The report was submitted in 2007 by a commission led by justice Ranganath Misra. There may be as many as 20 million Dalits in India who have converted to Christianity or Islam, but who still suffer caste discrimination.Read the press reports here
Social boycott of Dalits in Madhya Pradesh: Dalits in a district in Madhya Pradesh have been trying to assert their rights, and as a consequence, they are suffering from a social boycott by dominant castes. A fact finding mission by two local NGOs has issued a report on the matter, which can be downloaded here.
Press clippings: After the flood, a deluge of discrimination – Hindustan Times; Dalit boy set on fire in Madhya Pradesh – IANS; Dalit family sold for Rs 2.75 lakh in Rajasthan – Times of India; Dalit man shot dead for sitting on chair – IANS/ExpressBuzz; Dalit women more humiliated when raped – Times of India; It takes more than poverty to quit school – ExpressBuzz; Laws have failed to check discrimination – Indian Express; SC/ST Confederation to go on hunger strike – Times of India; SC/ST welfare funds diverted, basic demands still unfulfilled – The Hindu; Six get life for massacring Dalits – IANS; Two get lifer under SC/ST Act – Times of India; Violation of human rights still goes on – Daiji World; 26/11: Day when statute was adopted – Times of India; Orissa: Accused let off in 11 cases – Orissa Diary
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is in the process of publishing its country reports for 2009. The report titled ‘India: A Democracy in Peril’ contains a specific chapter on manual scavenging as well as numerous references to caste discrimination in a chapter on the right to food. Read the full report here and click here for the IDSN information page on manual scavenging