This Policy Brief reports on oppression and discrimination against Dalits (the ex-untouchable castes) and Adivasis (tribal groups) perpetuating labour exploitation and land alienation, entrenching poverty and inequality in India. Dalits (officially called Scheduled Castes by the Indian Government) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes), account for 200 million and 100 million people respectively, together making up one-quarter of the Indian population, and one in twenty-five of the global population. This brief is based on research carried out across India by the Programme of Research on Inequality and Poverty, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics.
A first hand account of caste and gender discrimination in the private sector in India
The Dalit female farmers of India’s Tamil Nadu state are working together to overcome a daunting set of challenges.
A first-of-its-kind snapshot of the distribution of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes community in the city reveals a patchwork of caste-segregated neighbourhoods where socio-economically backward castes are ghettoised. In 40% of blocks, SC/ST community constitutes less than 5% of residents.
While 84% and 89% of those in general and OBC categories, respectively, received the government-announced immediate assistance, the percentage of Adivasis and Dalit Christians, who received the assistance, were 62% and 68%, respectively. The last minute changes in the eligibility criteria made the assistance inaccessible to a large number of the marginalised people, the fact sheet said.
Asha Kowtal of AIDMAM-NCDHR comments on the Dalit Women Fight movement and online harassment.
In the last five years of the Modi government, there has been no movement even on assistance and rehabilitation of manual scavengers. In fact, in the interim budget, the Centre has reduced by more than half the allocation for rehabilitating manual scavengers.
On Friday 8 March, Ruth Manorama, a Dalit human rights defender, delivered a statement, co-sponsored by the International Movement Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination and by the Right Livelihood Award (in solidarity with IDSN), during the 40th regular session of the Human Rights Council. She also spoke on the panel at the Right Livelihood side-event on Women Human Rights Defenders.
The statement from CIVICUS highlights the 10-year deferral of IDSN’s application for UN consultative status and calls for all members of the committee to immediately discontinue any arbitrary actions to block applications from non-governmental organisations and strongly encourages governments that are committed to promoting an enabling environment for civil society to nominate themselves for future seats on the Committee.
Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the Dalit Women’s Movement AIDMAM-NCDHR, an IDSN member talks about the Dalit Women Fight movement in this 5-minute video made by UN Women and Google. “We are not silent. You are not silent. You are fighting. We are also fighting. We need to connect together because injustice is injustice, whether it’s your class, your caste, your sexuality or your ethnic identity.” Says Asha Kowtal in the video.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, raises concern over increasing marginalisation and discrimination in India, in her speech to the UN Human Rights Council in March. Speaking about the situation in India, the High Commissioner shows concern over the fact that, despite significant poverty reduction in general terms, there has been, “increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis”. She points out to narrow political agendas in that country lead to further marginalisation of vulnerable people.
Twenty members of the European Parliament have written to Central Government ministers in India, expressing concern about “worrying signs of shrinking civil society space in India,” calling for the government to “take urgent steps to change course, release all detained human rights defenders in the country, drop all charges against them, and allow them to carry out their work free from risk or impediment.” Dalit activists were among those mentioned in the letter.
More than 32 districts were represented at IDSN member BDERM’s 9th National Council meeting in Bangladesh. Discussions centered around the need for Dalits to be officially recognized by the Government if SDG goals of ‘leaving no-one behind’ were to truly be addressed.
The Government have announced a rise in budgets allocated for the welfare of Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) in India. However, human rights activists are saying that the rise is irrelevant as the allocations are not in fact benefitting those they are supposed to be aimed at. Speaking at the India Today Conclave on 1-2 March, Paul Divakar, of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), commented that, "It is all a mirage. While funds are being allocated on paper, only about 2 per cent of this is actually being spent on Dalit issues." IDSN Board Member, Beena Pallical (NCDHR), also spoke at the Conclave.
Columbia University in New York hosted a pioneering 2-day Dalit Film and Cultural festival, featuring films that give direct voice to the Dalit experience and reflect on society from a Dalit perspective. The festival took place from 23-24 February, and was organised by the US Ambedkarites.
On Friday 22 February, thousands marching to end sexual violence against women and children in India, took to the streets of the capital to demand justice and raise awareness about the need to fundamentally change the attitude generally held about victims of sexual violence. The 65-day march has covered over 10,000 km across 24 states. The march was kick-started by 5000 survivors of sexual violence on the 20th of December in Mumbai and organised by Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan.
Transparency International have released a comprehensive report analyising the specific challenges of Dalits in Bangladesh. The report offers key recommendations for the fulfilment of rights and inclusive public service provisions for Dalits in Bangladesh.
“Criminal Justice in the Shadow of Caste” is a pioneering report looking at the administration of criminal justice in India through a caste lens. The findings reveal discrimination at all levels, including within prisons. The report has been released by IDSN member, the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ-NCDHR), in collaboration with the National Centre for Dalit Human Rights.