"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.
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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.
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Friday, March 26, 2004
25 - 3 - 2004
Between invisibility and dignity: India’s Dalit and globalisation
India’s Dalit – formerly known as “untouchables” – are mobilising at a global level to move beyond a long history of oppression. A French anthropologist finds a community poised between two worlds.
The road that took me to the 4th World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), in January 2004, started with my work as an anthropologist in Britain. There, I had my first encounter with caste identity and practices of “untouchability”. This took place among a Sikh diaspora community that saw itself as an egalitarian brotherhood, and thus overtly rejected caste divisions.
This apparent contradiction – between a community both defined by and refusing caste – drew my attention to the intricacies and complexities of caste identity. It also led me to an interest in the growing mobilisation of Dalit people – in India, in the rest of south Asia, and around the world.
In Mumbai, it was virtually impossible to avoid the Dalit political presence in the alleyways of the huge disused industrial complex that housed the WSF. After a six-week march and rally across India, tens of thousands activists had reached Mumbai, there joining their brothers from elsewhere in south Asia – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
An elusive enemy
The passing of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 1989 has not been effective in halting these violations. The Indian state has in recent years often proved itself unable or unwilling to protect Dalit; indeed, state representatives – police especially – are frequently accused of active participation in anti-Dalit violence. In response to the non-implementation of the act, and to counteract state inertia, several Dalit intellectuals created the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights in 1998. The NCDHR was one of the most vocal organisations at the World Social Forum in Mumbai.
The aim of their mobilisation at the WSF was to help forge a sense of solidarity between all minorities: untouchables, women, Muslims, Christians, “tribals” (as India’s indigenous peoples are known) – for all share some form of oppression. In this sense, the term Dalit seems to be acquiring a more political and broad-based meaning, as “black” did in the United States and Britain in the 1970s.
Touching the world
But if Dalit representatives are antagonistic to globalisation as it impacts on their communities in India, they increasingly seek to internationalise their own cause. This internationalism was exemplified at Mumbai in the way that Indian Dalit had invited their brothers and sisters from Nepal and Sri Lanka, Roma from Romania, burakumin from Japan, lower-castes from West Africa – all of them the object of systematic, descent-based mistreatment. Dalit are also organising through the (Europe-based) International Dalit Solidarity Network, created in 2000. The IDSN, active in Britain, Denmark, Holland, Germany, and France, owes much of its campaigning style to the anti-apartheid campaign over South Africa.
The IDSN lobbies national governments in Europe to include the question of caste-based discrimination in their bilateral relations with India. Dutch diplomacy has been especially active in this respect, and this has led to tensions with India. The movement also pressurises the UN Sub-commission on Human Rights, Forum Asia, and its Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination to seek to have caste-based discrimination taken as seriously as any other form of human rights violation.
In all this activity, Dalit in India and elsewhere seek no more or less than to be at last recognised as equal human beings.
OneWorld South Asia
24 March 2004
Indian Activists Hail Dutch NGOs' Call to UN on Caste, Riots
NEW DELHI, Mar 24 (OneWorld) - Indian activists are supporting a demand by eight Dutch nongovernmental organizations(NGOs) to raise the issue of human rights violations in India at the ongoing session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
In a letter to the Dutch foreign minister, the NGOs have stressed the need to highlight at the 60th session of the commission, on in Geneva till April 23, caste discrimination and the status of Muslims in Gujarat, a western Indian state that witnessed widespread anti-Muslim violence in 2002.
"We request you to take the initiative or support a resolution in the UN Commission on Human Rights in India, in particular on the situation in Gujarat," the NGOs have said in a letter to the Dutch foreign minister, B. R. Bot. "We request you to make all possible efforts in the European Union context to promote a resolution by the UN Commission on Human Rights on caste discrimination and similar forms of discrimination on the basis of work and descent," the letter says.
"The international community needs to take these matters up," says Shabnam Hashmi of the New Delhi-based ANHAD, an NGO that has been working for communal harmony in Gujarat. "It is important that they do so, for the Indian government has been trying to sweep the issues under the carpet," she says.
The letter dated February 19, written by NGOs including Justitia et Pax, ChurchinAction, Cordaid and Hivos, was issued earlier this week by India Committee of the Netherlands, an NGO advocating the rights of Dalits, a group once referred to as the "untouchables" in India.
Dalits still face severe discrimination on social and economic fronts in India. Every year, 13,000 to 15,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits are registered - though Dalit experts believe the figures are just a fraction of the total number of such cases that occur in India.
"At that point in time, due to resistance from India, no official progress was made," the letter says. "However, the presence of several hundred Dalits did result in a lot of attention being paid to the issue of caste discrimination."
The problem, says Dalit academic S K Thorat, director of the Institute of Dalit studies, a New Delhi-based organization affiliated to India's National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, is the fact that caste is not mentioned in the United Nations human rights charter.
"External pressures certainly help," says confederation chairman Udit Raj. "The Indian government does succumb to the pressures of western powers," he says.
The letter to the Dutch foreign minister points out that the European Parliament has also, on several occasions "explicitly advocated" more active EU and UN policies against caste discrimination.
The NGOs also refer to the situation in Gujarat, which, it stresses, "has hardly improved with regard to the impunity of the perpetrators, the lack of rehabilitation of the victims and/or their next of kin and the discrimination and exclusion of Muslims."
Human Rights Watch
People's Union for Civil Liberties
National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
The Financial Express
23 March 2004
Is a 21st century “soon-to-be-developed” economy about to resurrect it?
Invoking The Manu Samhita
The Madhya Pradesh government has recently promulgated an ordinance banning cow slaughter. Whether cow-slaughter should be banned or not is a separate issue. However, the ordinance also invokes the Manu Samhita to justify the ban on cow-slaughter. The Manu Samhita states that it was originally compiled by Brahma and taught to the sage Manu. Manu taught it to Marichi and the other sages. Bhrigu taught it to the other sages. As such, it is impossible to date the Manu Samhita. Suffice it to say that one can date it back to 1,500 BC. But more plausibly, it was probably composed between 200 BC and 200 AD. The Manu Samhita codified what was already common practice and unfortunately, often continues to be the practice today.
If Manu Samhita becomes the base and justification for Indian law, as is suggested in the ordinance, we should shudder. I am going to give translations about Shudras, although equally nasty sections can be cited about women. And for reasons of space, this is not an exhaustive citation. The word Shudra must be used carefully, because it has both a narrow and a broad definition. In its narrow sense, a Shudra is the lowest of the four castes
A Brahmana isn’t punished much for killing a Shudra. That is a minor offence (11/67). Like killing small animals. “He who has slain a Sudra, shall perform that whole penance during six months, or he may also give ten white cows and one bull to a Brahmana[...]
However, punishments imposed on a Shudra are pretty serious.“He who raises his hand or a stick, shall have his hand cut off; he who in anger kicks with his foot, shall have his foot cut off. A low-caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat with a man of a high caste, shall be branded on his hip and be banished, or (the king) shall cause his buttock to be gashed. [...] A Shudra who assumes the marks of higher castes will be put to death.
The Manu Samhita has been symbolically burnt in the past. Is a 21st century “soon-to-be-developed” economy about to resurrect it?
Monday, March 22, 2004
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
MARCH 20, 2004
Quota for dalit Muslims demanded
PATNA : The rally of the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj on Saturday demanded that dalit Muslims should be given the benefit of reservation and other privileges as scheduled cases.
The meeting was addressed by several prominent social workers and political activists. A resolution adopted in the meeting point out that many sections of the dalit Muslims have the same caste name and occupation as that of their Hindu counterparts. But while there are 119 Lok Sabha seats and 1059 seats of the state legislature reserved for SC and ST, not a single dalit MLA has become an MLA.
The meeting demanded stress on hand looms and power looms and said that the alternative to the new economic policy is to bring sections of the people in the forefront by giving them means of livelihood. It noted that the situation among Muslim weavers, cultivators, tailors, washer-men, butchers, barbers and many other artisans in becoming worse day by day and the government needs to check the decline.
Noted Pasmanda activist from Pune Bilas Sonawane dubbed the attitude of secular parties towards Muslims as ‘Brahamnical'. "The Muslim society is not homogeneous as they make it out to be and Religion does not provide for livelihood", he remarked. He said that even in Maharashtra all institutions concerned with Muslims wee dominated by upper caste Muslims. He recalled that due to their agitation dalit Muslims had been able to win two seats. The resolutions were moved by Mahaj's convenor Ali Anwar and co-convenor Md Usman Aalakhor.