Welcome to the November edition of the IDSN newsletter. There have been lots of interesting developments since our last issue, including further support from two top UN officials to the international efforts to end caste discrimination. In the UK, a new report from the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance clearly shows that this form of discrimination is rife in South Asian diaspora communities.
In India, Frontline Magazine has published a series of articles marking the 20th anniversary of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The situation of the Dalits of Bangladesh has made the cover of the Canadian magazine Upstream Journal. Many Dalit activists have travelled to Europe in recent weeks to inform politicians, government officials, journalists and the general public about the nature and scale of one of the world’s most serious human rights problems.
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High Commissioner Pillay calls for UN convention on caste: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, followed up her strong statement from last month by calling for a UN convention on caste discrimination. In an interview with US weekly The Nation, she said that caste systems can be removed “through an expression of international outrage”. Click here to read more
UN Special Rapporteur supports caste guidelines: The UN principles and guidelines to end caste discrimination have gathered further support from high ranking officials. The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Githu Muigai, has issued a call to states to “rally around” the guidelines.Clickhere to read more
AI USA urges Obama to address Dalit issues: Amnesty International USA has urged the US President, Barack Obama, to address a number of human rights concerns, including caste discrimination, in his upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh. In an open letter to the President, AI USA Executive Director Larry Cox lists a number of abuses committed against Dalits, including killings, arson-burnings and gang rape. Click here to read more
Ambedkar groups appeal to Obama: Another appeal to President Obama on the eve of his meeting with Prime Minister Singh was launched by two American groups supporting the principles of civil rights advocate and Dalit leader Dr. Ambedkar. The appeal refers to US Congress Resolution no. 139 from 2007, which calls on the United States government “to work with India to address the problem of untouchability by raising the issue of caste discrimination” through various channels. Read the appeal here
Dalit delegation meets EU officials: Two Dalit activists from India, one from Nepal and their colleagues from the IDSN Secretariat had a number of meetings with European Union officials in Brussels from 9-11 November. The delegation urged the EU to work against caste discrimination on a number of levels. Click here to read more
Dalits raise their voices at UN Minority Forum: A significant number of Dalit representatives – including many activists and an Indian MP – took part in the UN Forum of Minority Issues in Geneva on 12-13 November. The Forum focused on political participation – a highly relevant theme for Dalits. Click here for an IDSN news story on the Forum, here for more detailed information and here for a press report
LWF calls for Dalit justice: On 27 October, the Lutheran World Federation adopted a resolution on “Justice for Dalits”, committing itself to strive for the elimination of caste discrimination. The LWF Council also commended the work of the UN and other international organizations on this issue. The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) later expressed its support for the resolution. Click here to read the LWF resolution and here to read the NCCI statement
Main National News
Frontline magazine covers atrocities act: The Frontline magazine focuses on Dalits in its most recent issue. In a series of well researched articles marking the 20th anniversary of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, the magazine notes that state governments have shown a “remarkable reluctance” to implement the act. It concludes that this piece of legislation has failed to make Dalits any safer. Click on these links to read the five articles: Victims always; Unwilling to act; Beyond politics; Tribal travails; Walls in minds
India urged to end corporate apartheid: India needs more affirmative action policies for Dalits. In an OutlookBusiness column headlined “End The Apartheid”, Meena Varma, Director of the Dalit Solidarity Network-UK, calls on global corporations operating in India to address caste discrimination through employment policies. The Ambedkar Principles and the Dalit Discrimination Check are tools that enable companies to implement affirmative action policies. Click here to read the article
Newspaper gives Dalit women their own voice: Dalit and tribal women in two districts of Uttar Pradesh run their own newspaper, Khabar Lahariya (“News Waves”). The Los Angeles Times reports that many of the dozen or so women were beaten or sexually abused as children, married off young, endured abusive marriages and fought mightlily for an education or a divorce. Click here to read the article
Discrimination affects Karnataka relief efforts: The floods in Karnataka state destroyed more than half a million dwellings and killed as many as 226 people. There were numerous allegations of caste discrimination during the relief efforts. Frontline Magazine reports that Dalits and tribal people were particularly affected by the floods, but that relief measures were being controlled by influential people who belong to the dominant castes. Click here to read the article
NHRC asked to consider plight of Dalit children: Following an article in Outlook Magazine on children of manual scavengers in Gujarat, the human rights organisation People’s Watch wrote a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. The organisation appealed to the NHRC to consider the matter, collect records of cases and take action. The article ‘Manu Over Ambedkar’ describes the lives of Dalit children who took part in a public hearing in Gujarat in August. Another recent article ‘Ahmedabad’s man-eating manholes’ also focuses on the plight of manual scavengers in Gujarat.
Press clippings: UN’s caste declaration riles India – Asia Times; Safai karamcharis seek alternative jobs – The Hindu; Dalit children beaten up for going to school – Express news service; Dalits enter TN temple first time in 100 years – Times of India; Dalit woman dies after being denied medical attention – IANS; “Extend SC status to Dalit Christians, Dalit Muslims” – The Hindu; Eshwarappa calls for end to caste discrimination – The Hindu;Rajasthan town free from manual scavenging – IANS; Caste bias rules in Virudhunagar village – Express Buzz
Police neglect investigation into murder of Dalit girl: Police in the village of Naktajhij, Danusha District, are accused of negligence during the investigation of the gang rape and murder of an 11-year old Dalit girl. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the family of the victim has reported police resistance in investigating the case, although there are two suspects – both non-Dalits. The girl, Runchi Mahara, was found raped and murdered in an orchard on 1 September. Read the AHRC appeal here
Dalit youths fined for marrying ‘upper caste’ women: Two Dalit youths from different villages have been ‘fined’ 60,000 and 50,000 Rupees respectively for marrying ‘upper caste’ women. The Society for Inter-caste Marriage Protection Nepal (SIMPN) expressed its serious concern over one of the incidents, calling it a ‘mockery of democracy’. The government of Nepal recently announced a Rs 50,000 bonus for inter-caste marriages. Read press reports here and here
Press clipping: Nepal’s Dalit Women: Fighting for Dignity – Global Voices
UN experts to visit in December: The UN Independent Expert on water and sanitation and the Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty will undertake a joint country visit to Bangladesh in early December. They plan to visit Dalit communities in Dhaka to get a first-hand impression of the poor conditions that the estimated 5.5 million Dalits in Bangladesh live under. The Dalits suffer from a lack of access to basic social services such as water, sanitation, adequate housing, health care, social services and school facilities.Click here to read more
Cover story on Dalits in Bangladesh: The harsh realities of Dhaka’s Pongue Sweeper Colony are revealed by the Canadian Upstream Journal in its November issue. In a cover story, sociologist Ryan Higgitt describes the struggle for emancipation of the Dalits of Bangladesh. Click here to read the article
BDERM urges government to ensure Dalit rights: Leaders of Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) have urged the government to ensure their human rights. They have also called for inclusion of Dalit representatives in the National Human Rights Commission. These and other demands were made at the second general council of BDERM. A new national executive committee was elected. Read more here
UN guidelines presented at meeting: The draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discriminationwere presented in Dhaka on 24 October by Dalit activist Mazharul Islam. A number of Dalit rights groups participated in the meeting, which was held to commemorate the third anniversary of the death of prominent Dalit activist B.G. Murthy.
Kidnapped activist freed after 34 days: Amarchand Bheel, a Dalit lawyer and human rights activist, was released by his abductors on 28 October after enduring 34 days of captivity. He believes that his abductors were associated with a powerful landlord who is accused of using Dalits as bonded labourers. Read more here
Caste discrimination rife in UK: Tens of thousands of people of South Asian origin face caste discrimination in the workplace, the classroom and the doctor’s surgery, says a new study by the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA). The Alliance is campaigning to make caste discrimination illegal in the UK. Read more here
UN caste guidelines presented in London: On 10 November, the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination were presented at an event in the UK Houses of Parliament. The presentation was attended by NGO representatives, parliamentarians and human rights activists. Among the speakers were Dalit activists Ruth Manorama from India and Durga Sob from Nepal. The event was organised by One World Action and Dalit Solidarity Network UK. Click here to read the summary report
DSN-UK marks World Toilet Day: The Dalit Solidarity Network-UK organised a meeting on 19 November to mark World Toilet Day. The event celebrated the humble, yet vitally important convenience and lifted the lid on the ongoing practice of manual scavenging, which affects an estimated 1.3 million Dalits in India. The meeting was chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP. Click here to read about the practice of manual scavenging
Introduction to the South Asia regional network: The South Asia Research Network on Caste-Based Discrimination is hosting a virtual resource centre. The objectives are: to promote research on caste discrimination; to facilitate academic exchange; to function as a resource centre and network for Dalit researchers and researchers on Dalits in South Asia; to compile and disseminate information on caste discrimination for scholars, civil society and policy makers. Read more here