IDSN January 2010 Newsletter


Happy New Year – and welcome to the first IDSN newsletter of this new decade. Our annual report will be published in a few weeks, and we are therefore including the Executive Summary to provide you with an overview of major developments in 2009. Another highlight of this issue is the news of the eagerly anticipated report from the Dalit rights organisation Navsarjan Trust on caste discrimination in Gujarat.

Other important reports are a UNESCO study on education and a Human Rights Watch country report on Nepal. And finally, we have learned that caste bias even permeates the modern world of social media, including Facebook.


A momentous year for Dalit rights: The year 2009 was a significant one for the struggle against caste discrimination. Read the Executive Summary of the upcoming IDSN annual report to get an overview of events during the past year. Click here to read the summary

Key issue pages introduced on IDSN website: We are delighted to introduce a new addition to our website. The ‘key issue’ pages focus on human rights violations and other serious problems that Dalits have to face. They include: Bonded labour; gender discrimination; forced prostitution; manual scavenging; political participation and non-implementation of legislation. Click here for the ‘key issues front page’

International News

Caste systems obstruct South Asian education: A new report from the UN organisation UNESCO mentions caste discrimination as a cause of the lower education levels of Dalits in India and other South Asian countries. Read more here

Dutch poll shows increasing awareness of caste discrimination: The Dutch public believes that the country’s government should take a stand against caste discrimination in the UN and EU. Read more here

Main National News


‘Untouchability’ still rife in modern India: A ground-breaking study on caste discrimination in the Indian state of Gujarat shows that the practice of ‘untouchability’ is still prevalent. The report also makes clear that the Indian legal system is failing to address the issue. Read more here

Everyone should fight the caste system: One of the leading lights of the Dalit rights movement, Manjula Pradeep, was interviewed by the Insight Young Voices Blog recently. In the interview, she elaborates on the study mentioned above and her own motivation for struggling against caste discrimination. Read the interview here

Homeless suffer in freezing cold: A cold spell in the north of India has costs hundreds of lives among homeless people. A significant number are believed to be Dalits. Read more here

Government neglect leads to death of Dalit woman: Kumari Sunita, a 30-year-old Dalit woman, died of starvation on December 16, 2009. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, hear death was caused by government neglect and corruption. Read the AHRC appeal here

New Statesman – Caste discrimination is intact: The UK magazine New Statesman has published a comprehensive article on caste discrimination in India. The piece concludes that the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year will be an ideal opportunity to put India’s caste system in the spotlight. Click here to read the article

Top government posts elude Dalits: Dalits constitute approximately 17 percent of India’s population. In the upper echelons of government bureaucracy, however, they are few and far between. According to a report in Top News, not one of 88 central government secretaries is a Dalit. Read the article here 

March frees women from manual scavenging: Dalit activists have succeeded in liberating more than 500 women from the vile, inhuman and officially banned practice of manual scavenging during a march in November and December. Read more here

Caste system persists in cyberspace: India’s entrenched caste system has also made its way to modern social media. According to an article on the Global Post blog, thousands of online communities on networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook relate to caste. Read the article here

Leading professors oppose quotas: Top professors at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University have expressed strong opposition to a quota system for Dalits and other groups. They believe that the reservation system will lower the university’s academic standards. Read the article here

Dalit consciousness in Hindi literature: Dalit literature in Hindi used to lag behind writing in other languages such as Marathi and Tamil. But now, creative Dalit writing in Hindi is reaching a more visible level of popular recognition, writes Laura Brueck, an assistant professor of Hindi Literature at the University of Colorado. Read the article here

New reports from the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies: Two new reports from the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) focus on business and children’s access to health care respectively. Click here to downloadDalits in Business and here for the report on Access to Health Care and Patterns of Discrimination.

Press clippings: Inside the mind of young India – The Economic Times; Sixty years of change in India – Guardian comment;  Dalits welcome HC’s quota verdict – Express Buzz; Law sought on quotas for SC/ST in private sector – The Hindu; Being called a Hindu is like an abuse to me – Times of India; Caste bias against Dalits not down – Times of India; Dalit girl set on fire after rape attempt – The Hindu; Dalit girl’s gangrape has hung for 11 years – Indian Express; Teenage Dalit girl gang-raped – The Hindu; Tamil Nadu Dalit youth alleges he was forced to eat human excreta – DNA; Death of Dalit farmer sparks off protest – The Hindu; UP Legislative Council to get first Dalit chairman – The Pioneer; A new cooking experience for Dalit women – The Hindu


Online exhibition depicts Dalits in Dhaka: The organisation Bangladesh Dalit Human Rights and the British NGO One World Action have launched a landmark online photo exhibition on YouTube. ‘Defiant Voices’ illustrates the daily lives of Dalit communities in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Click here to view the exhibition

Touching Bangladesh’s ‘untouchables’: Bethan Cobley, Asia Regional Co-ordinator at One World Action, has written a moving piece for Guardian Weekly on Dalit women in Dhaka. Read the article here

Young Dalit man killed: Robindro Das, a 20-year old Dalit youth, was beaten to death by a group of men on 16 January. A labourer in the town of Jhenaidah, Mr Das accidentally hit a motorcycle belonging to a son of his employer. The son and some other men, started beating Mr. Das, who died six days later. Local Dalit groups have protested against the killing and the lack of subsequent arrests. Read a press report here


HRW praises Nepal’s stance on UN principles and guidelines: Human Rights Watch has given credit to the Government of Nepal for its endorsement of the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination. Read more here

Ambedkar Award for State Minister Gautam: State Minister for General Administration, Jitu Gautam, received the Dr. Ambedkar International Award in New Delhi in December. Last September, the State Minister endorsed the UN principles and guidelines on behalf of the Government of Nepal at an event in Geneva.Read more here


Minorities dumped into janitorial jobs: Christians and Hindus – many of whom are Dalits – suffer discrimination in government departments. According to an article in The News, they are often only offered menial jobs as sweepers. Read the article here

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