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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Friday, January 02, 2004  
India's Christian & Muslim 'untouchables' continue rights questDec 31, 2003
By Staff

The government of India has rejected a demand that social benefits be extended to Dalit Christians and Muslims, compounding the problems faced by the most downtrodden social class in India, Compass Direct news service reported Dec. 30.

Indian Christians had asked that any Dalit -- a Hindi designation meaning "oppressed" -- who converted to Christianity or Islam be awarded the same benefits already accorded other scheduled castes and tribes under the Hindu caste system, according to Compass Direct.

However, India's social justice minister, Satyanarayan Jatiya, rejected the demand on the grounds that such a move would split the Christian community and lead to an international outcry. "It might look as if India is imposing the caste system on Christians," Compass Direct quoted the minister as saying.

A policy of "social reservations" or quotas was established in the 1950 constitution for members of the scheduled castes, also known as the untouchables, or Dalits. The quotas allocated to Dalits, who at that time constituted 15 percent of the population of India, a corresponding quota of jobs and educational placements, Compass Direct recounted.

In 1956 and 1990, the federal government awarded reservation rights to Dalits who had become Sikhs and Buddhists but was not prepared to do the same for Christians. "Separate treatment of Dalit Christians on the basis of religion amounts to discrimination by the government and a violation of constitutional principles," said Pappu Yadav, leader of the opposition party, Janata Dal.

Jatiya, however, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), justified the award of reservations for Hindu Dalits, saying they suffered most from the social and economic discrimination caused by "untouchability." The BJP insisted that Muslim and Christian Dalits embrace Hinduism again in order to qualify for reservation benefits.

Compass Direct reported that, according to the All India Christian Council (AICC), awarding social benefits would not impose the caste system on Christians. In fact, it would assist them to break free from it.

The hold of the caste system is so strong that Christian Dalits continue to suffer from discrimination despite converting to another faith. Christian Dalits are still known by their sub-castes and remain at the lowest level of society.

The Hindu majority, well aware that freedom from caste restrictions could lead to a mass exodus from the Hindu faith, are reluctant to grant further rights to Dalits who reject the caste system.

"Worse, the laws punish converts to Christianity by robbing them of any existing privileges," Compass Direct quoted John Dayal, general secretary of the AICC, as saying. "This is keeping Christians poor, jobless and landless in many states. Yet Sikhs and Buddhists who also abhor the caste system have been given these privileges of reservation."

"For the last 53 years, Dalits have been demanding these rights," said Joseph D'Souza, AICC president. "They have enough international support, as this is a matter of natural justice.

"This issue was agitated at the U.N.-sponsored world conference against racism and discrimination in Durban two years ago," D'Souza said, Compass Direct reported, "and Dalit forums all over the world have been making similar demands."

In 1996, India's Congress party presented a bill to award Dalit Christians the right to reservation in jobs and education. However, the bill was rejected when the present BJP government came to power in 1998.

The AICC, in collaboration with a number of secular civil rights groups and Dalit organizations, plans to address this issue in court and at the highest levels of government.


4:21 PM

Ahmedabad, December 29:
Action against Bhojipara sarpanch for segregating Dalit students
THE state government has taken action against the sarpanch of Bhojipara village of Chotila taluka of Surendranagar district for segregating Dalit children during mid-day meals. A statement from the Joint Director of Information says a police complaint has been lodged against the sarpanch and other persons involved in the incident. Officials like the district social welfare officer, Limbdi prant officer, mamlatdar and commissioner of mid-meal scheme have visited the villages and sorted out the issue, the statement added. None of the students are now being segretated in any of the schools during the mid-meals, the statement said.


4:13 PM


NEPALNEWS.COM, 1 January 2004
Roadmap for reforms - Hurdles Ahead
The issue of reservation could open a can of worms even as many laud the roadmap for reforms in civil service


Under pressure to address issues of under-representation of women, Dalit and indigenous people, the government has formulated a roadmap for civil service administration.

But the hurry in which the government has introduced the roadmap has raised serious questions over its long-term efficacy with senior bureaucrats expressing doubts even as activists have welcomed it as a positive beginning.

The government has formulated the roadmap proposing 20 percent reservation for women, 10 percent for Dalit (untouchables) and 5 percent of indigenous people beginning April next year.

The Administrative Reform Commission (ARC) headed by the Minister for General Administration Buddhiman Tamang has already approved the roadmap, which now awaits the cabinet green light and amendment in the present Civil Service Act. As the Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, himself, is said to have taken the keen interest, the roadmap is expected to be approved within April.

The government officials have said that the roadmap will propose time-bound reservations for the said communities. The government’s chief secretary Dr. Bimal Koirala hinted that initially, it would be in place for five years.

To facilitate women’s recruitment, it also proposes that female employees in the universities and state-owned public enterprises will be provided the opportunity to fight for the first and second class officers’ posts without any age bar.

The women and other activists have welcomed the step as a positive beginning while senior bureaucrats opine that it may not work effectively.

Agrees Dr. Krishna Bhattachan, former chief of the department of sociology at the Tribhuwan University – the oldest and largest university in the country. “The discrimination against minorities like women, Dalit and Janajatis are extreme. This step, although grossly inadequate, is a positive one,” said Dr. Bhattachan, who has been involved in the advocacy of the rights of Dalits and indigenous people.

However, senior civil servants do not think the new roadmap will work for the country’s benefit. “Look at how the reservation policy failed in our neighboring country India. We should have gone for better advocacy and training to make women, Dalit and Janajatis capable of fighting civil service exams on their merit. Even now, the civil service remains unattractive to qualified people. There is an urgent need to make our officers more efficient and capable. Such reservations will not help as it will mean that while one set of people will have to work and study hard while another set of people can just benefit from the quotas,” said a member of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

In fact, the government had proposed reservations for the under-privileged segments of Nepalese society in its ‘progressive agenda’, which it had put forth during the government-Maoist dialogue in August this year. Although the dialogue collapsed, the government had been saying that it will go ahead with its proposals.

There are well over 100 ethnic and caste groups in the country and well over 100 languages and dialects. However, there is a tell-tale disproportionate domination of limited caste groups particularly Brahmin, Chhetri and Newar in politics, administration and education. Occupying around 37 percent of the total population, these groups' share in the integrated national governance is 81.7 percent. Their involvement is strong in all major spheres of nation including politics, judiciary, parliament, business and economy. While the Dalit communities share almost 20 percent of the total population of Nepal (23.4 million), the country did not see a single Dalit minister since the restoration of democracy in 1990. The case of Janajatis, though not as bad as Dalit, also warrants serious attention.

Many say that the disproportionate representation of various communities is also one of the reasons for the conflict in the country.


4:06 PM

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