IDSN fully endorses the Call to action on Labour Law changes in India, issued by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The statement calls on businesses sourcing in India to respond to the news that several Indian states will suspend key fundamental labour rights for a period of up to three years, under the cover of the Covid-19 crisis.
A new report published by the human rights NGO Arisa has found that children under 14 years account for over 18% of the workforce in the cottonseed farms surveyed, with over 50% of the child labourers in the sector being Dalits or Adivasis. The majority of the child labourers were not attending school. IDSN welcomes ‘Sowing Hope’ and urges companies looking to address child labour and the working conditions in the seed sector to address caste discrimination directly, as it is a key root cause of child labour, also evidenced by the large percentage of Dalits engaged in this work as documented.
DSN members and affiliates in Nepal are raising awareness and demanding justice in a case of caste-based murder in the country that is still under Covid-19 lockdown. What started as a love story between two young people in Nepal ended in tragedy. The young man was a low caste Dalit and the woman was from a dominant caste group. It is alleged that the woman’s family did not approve of the relationship due to the man being a Dalit. As the couple wished to elope, the young man and several of his friends were attacked, beaten and chased into a river where three of them died, and another three are still missing ,according to news reports.
“Nepal has laws against caste-based crimes but they are rarely applied, and often the police refuse to even register cases – such as rape – when the victim is a Dalit … The alleged role of local politicians in these cases can lead to obstruction of justice, which means that an independent investigation is essential.” - Statement by Human Rights Watch
“It is distressing that caste-based prejudices remain deeply entrenched in our world in the 21st century, and I am filled with sadness for these two young people who held high hopes of building a life together despite the obstacles presented by their accident of birth … Caste-based discrimination remains widespread, not only in Nepal but other countries, and often leads to serious harm and, as in this case, even loss of life. Ending caste-based discrimination is fundamental to the sustainable development vision of leaving no one behind.” Read the full statement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The United Nations Resident Coordinator, in Nepal, Valerie Julliand, also made several statements on Twitter on the killings.
A joint statement by the EU Delegation and EU Member States represented in Kathmandu was issued on 3 June deploring the tragic loss of life in Rukum, condemning violence based on caste and other grounds and expressing the EU’s support to efforts undertaken to conduct a fair investigation leading to action to ensure justice and reparations for the victims and their families. The EU Ambassador to Nepal, Veronica Cody, also tweeted on the killings in Rukum on 30 May expressing the EU’s heartfelt condolences to the families and love ones of those killed , condemning such caste-based acts of violence and standing together with all those calling for justice for the victims.
IDSN member the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ-NCDHR) has issued a press release detailing a wide range of atrocities against Dalits over the past months under the Covid-19 lockdown. NDMJ highlights that the lockdown has led to a surge in caste-based violence and atrocities and that access to justice for Dalits remains deeply flawed. The organisation has collected a wide range of case reports and has made interventions in these. NDMJ has also collated media reports documenting examples of the violations.
DSN-UK has issued an appeal to the public, governments and companies to raise concern about the plight of Dalits during Covid-19 - "We have the opportunity to reshape the world – so raise your voice and make sure that our government is reminded that equality does not exist for all."
“This neglect always existed, even historically, because we are Dalits … No one is bothered about the unhygienic and undignified working conditions we have to bear… We should never have to touch waste with our hands. However, while earlier we had to fight for gloves, raincoats, gumboots, today, we have to fight for PPE kits.” Amnesty India has launched an appeal for signatures to urge the government to ensure the dignity and protection of India’s sanitation workers – who are predominantly Dalits.
IDSN strongly condemns the murder of George Floyd. Our hearts go out to his loved ones and the loved ones of all those killed because of systemic inequality, racism and discrimination every day across the globe. We stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the fight for justice and a world free of racism and discrimination.
“Social distancing is nothing new to us (Pakistani Christians) … People usually hate the sight of a sanitation worker, let alone coming close, shaking our hand, or eating and drinking with us. Unofficially, the caste-based ‘untouchable’ stigma remains synonymous with Christians, because over 90% of them come from what was the Dalit caste, the poorest of the poor.”
“This online public event is designed to take a pledge against discrimination based on caste, religion and race, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement in the US, condemning the brutal murder of the Afro American, George Floyd at the racist white American Police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25th May. We stand united with the black and other coloured people of the US who have been suffering racial discrimination for more than four centuries. We from India have special interest in the Black Lives Matter Movement, as we are ourselves up against caste discrimination, which is another form of racial discrimination.” A signature campaign and joint letter has also been organised.
“Key national priorities to improve the situation of Dalits in Bangladesh should be set in a comprehensive national action plan to eliminate caste, work and descent based discrimination.”
By undermining the reservation system in health education, the government may undo the public healthcare system.
"Let me also comment on the IDSN's application to an ECOSOC consultative status. The EU is fully aware of the repeated and unjustified defenals of IDSN by the UN NGO Committee, due to the opposition of one member state in the Committee. The EU has publicly expressed its concern regarding both the ill-functioning NGO Committee in general and the new deferral of IDSN during the last session of the Committee in January 2020."
“Social distancing also has a dark and ominous side. In South Asia, where it has unfurled into a spider’s web of practices, it also directs violence, exclusion and bigotry upon marginalised people whose only ‘sin’ is caste, occupation or descent.”
"In India, people need to admit their role in everyday discrimination faced by Dalits and only then can a dialogue for change be initiated. We hope what they are seeing unfolding globally will lead to soul searching."
Call on the European Commission to human rights and environmental due diligence. Signed by IDSN in October 2019
National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), headquartered in New Delhi, has released a detailed report on increasing human rights violation cases against Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized communities of India during COVID-19 lockdown.