Fifteen states made interventions with explicit recognition of the challenges faced by Dalits, at the United Nations human rights review (UPR) of India, which took place in May. Responding to the review in September 2017, the Indian Government has accepted nine of the recommendations concerning caste-based discrimination. However, the Government did not accept any of the recommendations related to protecting civil society space and amending the foreign contributions act, which were of great importance to ensuring accountability, support to civil society and protection of all human rights defenders.

The nine recommendations accepted by India relating directly to caste were brought by a cross-regional group of states including USA, Peru, Argentina, France, Germany, Mexico, Kyrgyzstan and the Holy See. Additional caste-related recommendations were also made by Czech Republic, Bahrain, Pakistan and Ireland, but these were only noted and not accepted by India. In addition, Guatemala and Sweden made observations related to caste during the interactive dialogue and Norway, Czech Republic and Germany raised questions on the situation of Dalits in advance of the review.

The interventions mentioned combating caste-based discrimination generally, accountability, implementation and enforcement of laws to protect Dalits, combatting violence against Dalits, eradicating caste discrimination in education, ensuring access to adequate housing, water and sanitation for Dalits, and enhancing activities aimed at eliminating discrimination against Dalit women.

IDSN has published a document with the full wording of all the accepted and noted caste-related recommendations. The caste-related recommendations that were not accepted included –

“Step up its efforts against caste-based violence, discrimination and prejudice, including by eradicating all forms of caste-based discrimination in the educational system.” (Czech Republic)

“Remove barriers prohibiting scheduled castes and schedule tribes from registering their children’s births and obtaining birth certificates.” (Bahrain)

“Take visible policy and other measures to ensure the freedom of religion and belief and address the alarming trend of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance including mob violence committed, incited and advocated by right-wing parties and affiliated extremist organizations against minorities, particularly Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits.” (Pakistan)

Nonetheless, the acceptance of nine recommendations is a definite improvement since the 2012 UPR review of India, where only two out of the ten caste-related recommendations were accepted.

The most concerning outcome of the review however is the systematic non-acceptance of all the recommendations concerning the cutting off of foreign funding for key human rights NGOs in India, using the FCRA act, and the need for protecting the space for civil society.

These recommendations included ensuring the right to freedom of association, including the ability of civil society organisations to access foreign funding; protecting human rights defenders against harassment and intimidation; ensuring transparency; guaranteeing freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. These are fundamental human rights principles and it is hoped that the Government, having at least noted the recommendations, will also prompt a review of the situation and due diligence paid in respect to India’s international human rights obligations.

More information

The Government of India’s responses to caste-specific UPR recommendations IDSN briefing note (October 2017)

IDSN UPR 2017 recommendations: Caste discrimination in India and the UK (submitted ahead of the review)