At the UN review of the human rights situation in India, more than a dozen UN Member States recommended actions to ensure the rights of Dalits. The recommendations come following reports and statements from civil society, including Dalit rights organisations, documenting the lack of enforcement and protection of the human rights of Dalits in India.

Several states addressed the need to introduce new policies and implement existing ones to prevent violence and attacks against Dalits, as well as ensuring justice for victims of such crimes. Others addressed the need to ensure free and compulsory universal education and prioritise anti-discrimination measures in its provision, protect the rights of Dalit women and uphold the countries anti-discrimination policies in practice. Thirteen recommendations directly addressing caste or Dalits are included in the final report.

Ahead of the review a UPR fact sheet on caste-based discrimination and a Joint Stakeholders’ Report on Caste-Based Discrimination in India, were prepared and released by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR).  An Alternative report by The Working Group on Human Rights in India also included a specific section on Dalit rights.

The reports document that caste-based discrimination, social exclusion and untouchability practices continue to exist in all the spheres of Indian society. Atrocities against Dalits and Tribals are increasing every year and particularly heinous crimes are being targeted against Dalit Women.

Despite the concerns raised by civil society and member states, participants at the UPR review comment that the Indian delegation failed to give convincing assurances that concrete steps to improve the situation would be taken.

“The position of Indian Government in the 2017 UN UPR review has been defensive stating introduction of new amendments to the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. Introducing new amendments alone will not address structural caste based discrimination and atrocities inflicted against Dalits and Adivasis,” said Ramesh Nathan from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR).

“The State must recognize that there is a consistent failure to protect Dalit and Adivasis from violence by not ensuring effective implementation and monitoring of such laws. I strongly feel that there is a tendency to minimize the significance of the problem by the insensitive Police and Judiciary, who enjoy the impunity and caste bias in their own way,” he continued.

The States who brought recommendations to the floor were spread across Asia, Europe, South America and North America, thus showing the global nature of the concern over this issue.

“We are encouraged to see that many UN member states are speaking out against caste discrimination. However, we are yet to witness the Indian Government truly stepping up to the plate, despite some excellent legislation being in place, and taking a serious swing at combatting this heinous form of discrimination.” Said IDSN Acting Director, Meena Varma.

“The Government of India should be a committed member of the team fighting discrimination and address the needs of the scheduled castes and tribes,” she continued.

Several other issues relating to the rights of Dalits were also raised, including the need to secure protection for human rights defenders and concern over the detrimental effects of India’s Foreign Contributions Act (FCRA), blocking funding for thousands of civil society organisations working to further human rights.

The review took place on 4 May 2017 in Geneva.

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