. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

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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, March 05, 2004  
Frontline - Volume 21 - Issue 5, 28 February 2004


WELCOME to India Shining. To where the government spends - and various media receive - 4,000 million rupees of your money to tell you how good you're feeling.

Let us be fair, though. Most of the India Shining claims are true. As long as we are talking about 10 per cent of the population. When some of this country's top economists and academics tell me we have never had it so good, I believe that too. Truly, some of them have never had it so good. Never in the annals of Indian academia have so many `consultancies' brought so much to so few - at the expense of so many.

But let us not deny true credit where it belongs - to the media as well. India Shines Best when they apply the polish.

Sure, much of this is true. It is happening. Whether food or other items, rich Indians are consuming on a scale even they have never managed before. In a country which accounts for the largest number of malnourished children in the world. Which is still home to about half the planet's hungry people. Where nearly nine out of 10 pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 years suffer from malnutrition and anaemia. And where about half of all children under five suffer moderate or severe malnourishment or stunting. Most of these are girls. (Luckily, we do have a reassuring headline from The Times of India. That is from its Sunsilk Femina Miss India contest: "Beautiful Women Don't Starve." January 21, 2003)

In at least three States, no mid-day meal scheme was in place in 2003. That is, a year after the Supreme Court made it mandatory for them to have one.

It is an India where, as Prof. Utsa Patnaik devastatingly points out: "The average family is absorbing annually nearly 100 kg less of foodgrain today than a mere five years ago. (That is) a phenomenal drop... never seen before in the last century of India's history." As she has shown, the absolute amount of per capita food availability for the year 2002-03 was lower than during the time of the Bengal famine.

Read the full story at http://www.flonnet.com/fl2105/stories/20040312007800400.htm

12:14 PM

OneWorld South Asia
04 March 2004

Former 'Untouchables' Ask Pakistan for Electoral Quotas
Rahul Verma

NEW DELHI, Mar 4 (OneWorld) - Dalits or members of a Hindu group once known as "untouchables," are demanding adequate representation in Pakistan's electoral bodies, emphasizing that they face oppression and abuse by so-called upper caste Hindus even in the Muslim majority nation.

An online petition -- being endorsed by Dalit solidarity groups across the world, including prominent organizations in India -- has urged the government of Pakistan to initiate measures to remove discrimination against Dalits, also referred to as the Scheduled Caste, in the south Asian country.

"The Government of Pakistan should allocate separate seats in Parliament for Scheduled Castes as per their population ratio to ensure their voice is heard at the national level," urges Sadhumal Surendar Valasai, president of the Karachi-based Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan.

A majority of Dalits -- constituting 70 percent of the miniscule five percent or the 2-million Hindu population in Pakistan -- are landless peasants and laborers. Upper-caste Hindus, however, dominate minority politics, says the petition addressed to the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The petition details atrocities against Dalits, emphasizing that oppression is on the rise due to the increasing awareness of their rights, which has prompted the deprived community to raise their voices against discrimination.

The petition gives the example of a young political activist who stood for elections to Parliament last year.

"This enraged caste people sitting at the helm of affairs on the key chairs of the administration. Several hundred employees of Dalit communities were transferred to far-flung areas under different and obnoxious pretexts," it says.

Often, Dalits are not allowed to vote. Dalit political workers are routinely threatened and beaten by members of political outfits who force them to vote for their candidates. "Already under the thumb of local landlords and police officials, Dalit villagers who do not comply had been victimized, beaten and harassed," it says.

An Indian Dalit researcher, Umakant, points out that the plight of Dalits in Pakistan is a reflection of their condition in the rest of the world.

Umakant, who is with the New Delhi-based Institute of Dalit Studies, says that Dalits are still bought and sold in Pakistan. "They are literally chained and are treated worse than animals," he says.

Dalit organizations in India, including the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, plan to raise the issue of the status of Dalits in different parts of the world at regional and international platforms. The Institute of Dalit Studies is a part of the umbrella body campaigning for Dalit rights across the world.

The groups are supporting Valasai's call to the government of Pakistan to set up a National Commission on Scheduled Castes to hear complaints of and take action against caste and racial discrimination.

The petition has also urged the government to give adequate representation to Dalits in national institutions such as banks and give land to landless peasants.


9:40 AM

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