The struggle for Dalit human rights received a boost in 2009 as an increasing number of international figures – including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – raised their voices against the outrage that is caste discrimination. These important benchmarks are reflected in the IDSN Annual Report, which has just been published.
Other developments this month include plenty of news from Nepal where the constitution-building process has reached a crucial stage. We also introduce leading Dalit activist, Bhakta Bishwakarma, in a web interview. In India, one of the main figures of the Dalit movement, Paul Divakar, recently went on television to explain the relevance of budget issues for Dalit rights. In the UK, a newspaper article revealed a significant level of caste discrimination in the Midlands.
And finally, IDSN is marking its tenth anniversary in March. You can read more about this special occasion in the next edition of this newsletter.
IDSN publishes annual report: Highlights in 2009 included UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s ground-breaking statement against caste discrimination, the emergence of new national Dalit networks, the publication of the draft UN Principles and Guidelines, and intensified lobbying by Dalit activists in national and international forums. Download the IDSN Annual Report 2009 here
Caste discrimination – a UN priority in 2010-2011: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has made caste discrimination one of the thematic priorities in its struggle against discrimination and impunity in 2010-2011. Read more here
UN Expert promotes caste guidelines: The UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms Gay McDougall, has made a specific recommendation on the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of caste discrimination. In Paragraph 8 of her annual report, Ms McDougall describes these guidelines as “an important contribution to the global struggle to combat discrimination on the grounds of work and descent.”Read the report here
Main National News
Nepal urged to address constitutional gaps: A new report from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice provides Nepal’s Constituent Assembly with a clear roadmap for ensuring the rights of all Nepalese people – including the country’s sizeable Dalit population. Read more here
Dalit girl murdered – risk of poor investigation: An eight-year old Dalit girl may have been the victim of a sacrificial murder because of her caste status. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is concerned that the local authorities may not do enough to investigate the crime. Read more here
Nepalese Dalits meet Indian Speaker: A delegation of Dalits from Nepal has visited Meira Kumar, Speaker of India’s Upper House, at her New Delhi residence. The meeting focused on Dalit issues in Nepal and India.Read more here
Dalits are “skilled, industrious and honest”: In an interview, leading Dalit rights advocate Bhakta Bishwakarma tells IDSN about the struggle for Dalit rights – and what it means to be Dalit. Read the interview here
Conference – “Envisioning the New Nepal”: The Samata Foundation is hosting an international conference in Kathmandu this May. Scholars and activists from around the world are to discuss issues relating to the dynamics of caste, identity and inclusion of Dalits in Nepal. Read more about the conference here and the Samata Foundation here
MPs launch plan for cooperation: A group of Dalit parliamentarians have launched a common forum, which will coordinate their work. Read an unoffical translation of the regulation here and a press clipping here
NCDHR leader explains budget issues in TV interview: Paul Divakar, General Secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, gave a ten-minute interview to the ‘Unstoppable Indians’ programme on the NDTV station on 16 February. He eloquently discussed budget issues that are relevant to Dalits. Follow this link to the NDTV clip – Paul Divakar appears after appr. 17:30 minutes.
Rise in inter-caste marriages: More inter-caste marriages involving Dalits took place in India in 2009 than the previous year – and the trend is expected to continue in 2010, the Times of India reports. Read the article here
Speaker makes strong statements on caste: Meira Kumar, the Speaker of India’s Upper House (Lok Sabha), made a couple of strong statements on caste discrimination recently. Herself a Dalit, Ms Kumar, said on 7 February that changing that dumping the baggage of ‘untouchability’ and caste discrimination was needed to build a truly egalitarian society. A couple of days later, she called upon students to fight against discrimination. Read a press clipping here
‘Untouchability’ wall demolished: A wall that was allegedly built by dominant castes across a public road to keep out Dalits has finally been demolished by the authorities in Coimbatore. Read more here
‘Dalit unity is undermined’: In an interview with Frontline magazine, Hugo Gorringe, a university lecturer from Edinburgh, discusses the emergence of Dalit movements and the future of Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu. Read the interview here
Press clippings: Have quotas served their purpose? – Asian Age; Dalit families migrate from Gujarat village – OneIndia; 478 hostels for SC/ST students – ExpressBuzz; Lives of Dalits have improved (Minister) – The Hindu;Dalit woman set on fire for objecting to molestation – Times of India; Kalyug: Descent into darkness – HardNewsMedia; Hidden apartheid – Frontline; Opening temple doors to all – The Trinidad Guardian
Misery of the ‘untouchables’: UK reporter Mary Griffin writes about the Dalits of Dhaka in the Coventry Telegraph. Read the article here
Mentally disabled Dalit burned by villagers: In January, a mentally disabled Dalit man was assaulted and burned by a group villagers who accused him of stealing. Read more here
Sono Khangharani portrayed on website: Pakistan’s leading Dalit rights advocate, Dr Sono Khangharani, is sympathetically portrayed on the News on Sunday website. Click here to find the portrait in the ‘Voices from Thar’ section.
UK Government urged to include ‘caste’ in Equality Bill: More than 20 national and community Dalit organisations in the UK have called upon the Government to include ‘caste’ in an amendment of the UK Equality Bill. This is a unique opportunity for the UK Government to ensure the rights of more than 250,000 of its citizens, as the UK can become the first European country to protect victims of caste discrimination. Read the full report and download a joint statement by UK organisations
Caste out in Coventry: Last year, UK reporter Mary Griffin published a much acclaimed article on the Dalits of Bangladesh in the Guardian newspaper. Now she is focusing on the Dalit community in Coventry. Read the piece from the Coventry Telegraph here