. . . . . . "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, January 20, 2006  
Yankee Hindutva: Indian Jim Crow in “Victim” Garb

January 19, 2006

by Raja Swamy

2005 has been a terrible year for the human rights of African Americans in the United States. Facing assaults on livelihoods, falling incomes, rampant police violence and brutality, cuts in social spending and a generally cruel and undisguised contempt from the reactionary Bush administration, African Americans will remember 2005 as the year that saw the destruction of the great city of New Orleans, first by the hurricane (made possible by years of neglect and siphoning of levee funds to the “war on terror”), followed by the cruel racism of the state, media and mainstream white society as survivors were classified as “looters”, “holdouts” and “thugs”, which opened the way for a full-scale forcible displacement of the African American population of the city.


But it is a bizarre departure from reality when a supremacist movement represented by a well-funded, very affluent section of the immigrant Indian American community claims to be oppressed like African Americans, especially when this claim is couched not in the aftermath of some terrible episode of racial violence or institutionalized brutality, but in the context of an effort to rewrite middle-school history textbooks in California.

California’s school textbooks come up for review every six years. Recently the State Board of Education has become the center of an intense struggle over the content of middle school history textbooks pertaining to ancient India. [1] It is widely acknowledged by scholars that these textbooks leave much to be desired, some of these problems being factual errors (such as the idea that Hindi is written in the Arabic script with 18 letters) and others glaring displays of text writers’ ignorance and ethnocentrism (such as asking “do you see any monkeys around” after stating that Hindus worship a monkey god).

What is needed is a thorough inspection and revision of these textbooks to overcome these problems with the view of advancing knowledge of ancient India consistent with the available historical research on the subject. Sensing an opportunity given the shoddy nature of these textbooks, an alliance of organizations with names such as “Vedic Foundation,” “Hindu Education Foundation” and “Hindu American Foundation” have attempted to radically rewrite these textbooks by proposing various edits that not only fail to address the problems inherent in these textbooks, but actually attempt to promote views that are consistent with Hindu supremacist ideology.

The edits proposed by these organizations are consistent with the institutional and ideological ties these organizations have with the Hindu supremacist movement (Hindutva) led by the R.S.S. (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) in India. What is surprising and disturbing for anybody concerned with the rights of minority communities in the United States, is that these supremacist organizations have cast their efforts to rewrite California’s textbooks as if they were a struggle for minority rights. This claim could hardly be farther from the truth. The HEF and VF have together proposed edits to the textbooks that seek to erase the importance and centrality of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization by asserting without evidence and contrary to the established body of historical evidence, that Indo-Europeans (Aryans) are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.

They wish to mask and downplay the oppressive character of the caste system by treating it as if it were a form of social contract between people endowed with different capacities. This is a grievous insult to the historical experience of Dalits (erstwhile “untouchables”) and Sudras (lowest caste, mostly manual laborers and peasants). Additionally these proposed “edits” change references to the unequal rights of women in caste Hindu society into idyllic notions of “different duties” for men and women.

Take for example the following paragraph from a MacMillan/McGraw Hill published history textbook, and the alternative proposed by the HEF which follows:
MacMillan/McGraw Hill, page 252 last paragraph:

“There was one group that did not belong to any varna. Its members were called untouchables. They performed work other Indians thought was too dirty, such as collecting trash, skinning animals, or handling dead bodies.”

HEF wanted to delete the above paragraph and replace it with:

“There was one group that did not belong to any varna. Its members were called untouchables because they performed dirty work such as skinning animals or handling dead bodies.”

What this edit suggests through the subtle use of the word “because” is a causal relationship that inverts the reality of caste society. People are supposedly classified as untouchables because of the “dirty work” they do. In reality the term “untouchable” was part of an imposed social order whereby forms of labor considered impure by the social elites were imposed on those classified as untouchables. Elsewhere the HEF changes references to the mention of the “four castes” in the Rig Veda (an ancient sacred text of the Brahmins) into the “interrelationship and interdependence of the four classes” again with the intention of erasing caste as a system of discrimination and inequality. For a comprehensive account of the proposed edits by the HEF and the VF please see: www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/TextbookEdits.html

The similarities between racism and the caste-based discrimination prevalent in India has been the subject of vigorous debates, most recently at the 2001 U.N. Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. [2] Dalit efforts to make the issue of Dalit human rights a part of the conference’s agenda faced stiff opposition from Hindu supremacist organizations in India who objected to this inclusion on the grounds that the abolition of the caste system would constitute a violation of Hindu human rights! The HEF and VF however believe that the oppression of Dalits in contemporary India is nonexistent since in their view such things cannot happen in post-independence India where untouchability is outlawed in the constitution. Such a denial is definitely comparable to the ridiculous notion that racism in the United States is nonexistent since the law forbids it! In fact the erasure of caste based discrimination proposed by these edits is far worse: the HEF and VF want to remove the word Dalit itself from the textbooks.


Read the full article

9:28 AM

Thursday, January 19, 2006  
Mixed human rights report card for India

18 January 2006


Giving a mixed report card for India, the Human Rights Watch has said the government took "some important positive steps" with respect to human rights in 2005 but slammed New Delhi for failing to contain "religious extremism".

Among the positive aspects that have been taken note of are the appointment of a committee to review the armed forces special powers act, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally apologising for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, and for the first time the army in Kashmir apologising last July for the killing of three boys mistaken for militants.

At the same time New Delhi has been slammed for failing to contain "violent religious extremism" and to prosecute those who instigated or participated in religious violence. "Such failures only reinforce communal resentments," HRW has said.
"Some problems persisted however and new problematic issues emerged," the 2006 report says pointing to incidents in Kashmir as also the Naxalite movement through central India resulting in a number of deaths.

"Despite legislative measures to protect marginalised groups, discrimination based on caste, social or religious status continues widely in practice with the failure to implement anti-discrimination policies being especially apparent after the December 2004 tsunami," HRW said.The report is generally scathing in its comments about major powers, including Russia and China but has made the point that among a few "bright spots" developing nations have also played a positive role. The report notes that while generally India may not have used its increasing influence with smaller neighbours to press for better compliance with human rights standards, the exception here is Nepal.

"India suspended most military aid to Nepal after the King's coup," the report says.
The report says Scheduled Tribes in India suffer from high rates of displacement and that this has had a serious effect on the overall development of the communities.

"The government continues to use the 1984 Land Acquisition Act to displace indigenous peoples from their lands without sufficient compensation," the Report notes.
The communal violence of 2002 in Gujarat continues to merit attention with the Report stressing that "there has still been little accountability for the deaths of more than 2000 Muslims" with HRW making the point that there continues to be delay in the investigation and prosecution of cases.

The Report talks about the "impunity" of the Indian Armed Forces saying that the central government earely prosecutes army and paramilitary troops in a "credible and transparent" fashion. "The result has been an increase in serious abuses by security forces throughout the country".

Link to the article

8:44 AM

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