IDSN Newsletter January 2011


Dear Subscribers,

Campaigners for Dalit rights finished 2010 on a strong note with lots of activities around Human Rights Day on 10 December and participation in various international events. In India, terrible atrocities against Dalits continued to make headlines, and in Nepal, the efforts to include strong provisions against caste discrimination in the constitution gained further momentum. The United Kingdom move closer to making caste discrimination illegal, as government commissioned research provided evidence of this form of discrimination in British society.

The staff at the IDSN secretariat would like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. We shall do our best to ensure that the struggle for Dalit human rights makes further headway in 2011 – and we shall strive to keep you informed about such developments. You can now also follow IDSN’s work on the IDSN Facebook Page.


International News

Human Rights Day: Speak Up! Stop Caste Discrimination: In the run-up to Human Rights Day 2010, Dalit activists in a number of caste-affected countries highlighted the plight of their communities through marches, human chains, an exhibition and other awareness raising activities. These are excellent initiatives for this particular occasion, but the battle for Dalit rights is fought every day in many places. Read more here

Dalits participate in UN Minority Forum: The third UN Forum on Minority Issues took place in Geneva on 14 and 15 December. It provided an opportunity for Dalit leaders from India and Nepal to speak on the issue of caste discrimination as panelists, at side events, and in plenary discussions. The overall theme was ‘Minorities and Economic Participation’. Read an article on the Forum here

Lenin Raghuvanshi receives German award: The Indian human rights activist, Lenin Raghuvanshi, received the German city of Weimar’s annual human rights award on 10 December for his fight for the dignity of Dalits and other marginalised groups in India. Read the press clippings here


Main National News

United Kingdom

Study finds evidence of caste discrimination: The UK moved a step closer to making caste discrimination illegal as a government commissioned study identified this form of discrimination in the workplace, education and other areas. Caste discrimination exists amongst people with roots in the Indian sub-continent. Read more here

Human rights award to Bangladeshi Dalits: On 14 December, Dalit activist Moni Rani Das received the OneWorld Action Sternberg award on behalf of the Dalit Women’s Forum in Bangladesh. The presentation took place in London following a week long photo exhibition and a seminar at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), focusing on Dalit communities in Bangladesh. Read more here


AHRC report on human rights in India: A report on the state of human rights in India from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) highlights widespread caste discrimination in access to justice, health care, land, social services and right to food. It also outlines cases of atrocities committed against Dalits and points out that India’s treatment of caste issues as an ’internal matter’ only exacerbates the problem. Read relevant excerpts from the report here or the full report here.

Mob burns Dalit sisters to death: Two young Dalit women, aged 22 and 25, were murdered by an angry mob in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, on 19 December. Their house was set ablaze and they could not escape the flames. The murderous attack may have been an act of revenge as two brothers of the young women are suspects in a murder case. In a statement, the Asian Human Rights Commission described the killings as ’yet another reminder of almost every day recurrence of attacks on Dalit communities in India’. Read the AHRC statement here and press clippings here

Police refuse to investigate rape of Dalit woman: The police in a district in Haryana state are alleged to have received bribes in a rape case involving a 20-year old Dalit woman. The Asian Human Rights Commission has received this information from the Gujarat based Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan. Read the AHRC urgent appeal here

A village in a million: A correspondent for the Economist newspaper has spent a week in a village in Uttar Pradesh. The result is a remarkable article on life in India’s languishing countryside – including the caste divide, corruption and erosion of ancient customs. Read the piece here

Documentary captures lives of scavengers: A new documentary on the inhuman practice of manual scavenging by filmmaker Gopal Menon was screened in New Delhi on 20 December. ‘Marching towards freedom’ captures the lives of people engaged in manual scavenging. The event was hosted by Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), a movement that campaigns against the banned, but still existing, practice. Among the guests was the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall.Read about the event here and read a new feature article on manual scavenging here

Urban rules of untouchability: In India, it is often said that discrimination against Dalits only exists in rural areas. A very interesting cover story in Media Voice Magazine dispelsthis myth and examines various examples of caste discrimination in urban India, e.g. when looking for a home, sharing a meal or seeking promotion in the workplace. Click here to read the story

Dalit campaigner passes away: Bhagwan Das, a well respected scholar and Dalit rights campaigner, passed away in his residence in Delhi on 18 November at the age of 83. He worked for the elimination of caste discrimination, not only in India, but also in Japan where the Buraku community faces similar discrimination. Bhagwan Das was an advisor to one of IDSN’s international associates, the Japan based human rights NGO, IMADR. Read IMADR’s obituary here and the Frontline Magazine obituary here

Press clippings:Dalit tsunami victims still not rehabilitated – Deccan Herald; Beyond the rat race – Times of India; Dalit families evicted, houses razed – The Hindu; Controversial wall demolished – Times of India; How Bollywood is starting to deal with India’s caste system – The Guardian; Dalits still untouchable, deprived in India – Daily Bhaskar; Court demands explanation on allegation of social discrimination – Law et al news;Dalits denied pattas, driven out – ExpressBuzz; Problems facing Dalits discussed at ‘sansad’ – Times of India;Wild flowers and morning has broken – Hardnews


NDC and OHCHR analyse ‘untouchability bill’: The National Dalit Commission (NDC) and the Office of the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) have joined forces in analysing new draft legislation on caste discrimination. While welcoming the drafting of the ‘untouchability bill’, the two bodies also point out a number of shortcomings. Read more here

Nepal urged to include caste measures in constitution: Five organisations campaigning for Dalit rights in Nepal, including IDSN, have written to the Constitutional Committee and the High Level Taskforce in Nepal, urging them to include measures to combat caste discrimination in the constitution. Read more here

AHRC report on human rights in Nepal: Caste discrimination continues to affect every aspect of life of the Dalit community in Nepal. According to a new report from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), provisions against caste discrimination in the country’s interim constitution have so far had ‘limited effect in reality’. Read relevant excerpts here and the full report here

Discrimination continues against Dalits: Dalit communities in Nepal are still marginalised. They have the lowest human development rankings in the country, and almost half of them live below the poverty line. In this background article on their plight, the Nepali state is accused of doing little to change the situation. Read the article here

Dalit conference report published: The final report from the conference ’Envisioning New Nepal: Dynamics of Caste, Identity and Inclusion of Dalits’ has been published by the Samata Foundation. The conference took place in Nepal in June 2010 and brought together scholars, politicians and activists working on Dalit issues across South Asia. Click here to download the report

Press clippings: Destitute Dalit family living in cave – Himalayan Times; Dalit discrimination at political level – Ekantipur; Minister: Statute possible in five months – Himalayan Times


BDERM holds annual meeting: The Bangladesh Dalit and excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) held its Annual General Meeting on 26 November. It was attended by Dalits from many different parts of the country. IDSN coordinator Rikke Nöhrlind also attended the meeting and was impressed by BDERM’s efforts to mobilise the Dalit population. Dalits are increasingly succesful at attaining political attention to their demands for a constitutional amendment, special legislation to protect Dalit rights and a national budget allocation. The concern of the donor community for Dalit issues was confirmed in meetings with multilateral and bilateral donors. Read about BDERM here


Events coming up

Nepal to be reviewed by UPR: The United Nations Universal Period Review mechanism will examine the human rights record of Nepal on 25 January 2011. A coalition of NGOs and a number of national human rights bodies, including the National Dalit Commission, have submitted reports prior to this UPR session. Click here to read the reports and here for an IDSN news story on the subject


Call for research fellowship: The Samata Foundation in Nepal is looking for two highly qualified fellows who can take part in fellowship activities researching Dalits in South Asia for a period of two years. The research project is part of a partnership agreement with Fredskorpset (FK) Norway. The application deadline is 15 January this year. Read more here

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