. . . . . . "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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007  
European parliament criticises India for abuses against Dalits

6 February 2007

by Nirmala Carvalho

India is accused of not doing enough to protect Dalit rights. Strong-worded Indian diplomatic reaction finds support in the European parliament itself.

Strasbourg (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The European Union has passed a resolution expressing concern over India’s treatment of its Dalit community. I

ndian diplomatic sources have called the motion flawed; similarly, the parliament’s position has been criticised from within.

The Development Committee of the European Parliament approved a resolution that calls India’s laws protecting Dalits “grossly inadequate” and highlights abuses Dalits face such as child labour, illiteracy, violence, landlessness and employment discrimination.

MEPs expressed their concern that abusers are not prosecuted to the fullest of the law and that very few are convicted.

The European parliament urges the Indian government to take appropriate legal measures against these crimes and their perpetrators and asks Indian authorities to heed complaints by Dalits and take special steps to protect Dalit women.

In India, Dalit community leaders have welcomed the resolution by the European parliament. They point out that in 59 years of independence the economic and social conditions of their community have not substantially improved. For this reason, they see statements by foreign powers like the European Union as a positive step towards getting Indian authorities to act.

By contrast, Indian reactions were far from positive. Amar Sinha, a spokesperson for the Indian Embassy in Brussels, said that the resolution was “unfortunate,” lacking in “balance and perspective.”

“It [the resolution] indicates a highly negative mindset on the part of the people who have drafted it,” the Indian diplomat said, adding that the “report focuses only on the negative aspects and has selectively used statistics to prove its hypothesis.”

British MEP Neena Gill condemning the report saying, it “is riddled with inaccuracies and does a clear disservice to the human rights cause! The value of this report is seriously drawn into question by the whole lack of scrutiny applied to it.”

Gill, who is the president of the delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia and the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the European Parliament, noted that of the 785 MEPs, less than 30 took part in the vote.

“This is a highly sensitive report on a very important issue and the way it has been rushed through Parliament without consultation of either the SAARC delegation, the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, nor the Foreign Affairs Committee, is outrageous!” Ms Gill said.

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10:49 AM

EU Parliament Passes Resolution on Untouchability

Journal Chrétien
6 February 2007

From Dalit Freedom Network
In association with OM India/A.I.C.C/SC-ST Federations
For Immediate Release

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, CO (ANS) — The Dalit Freedom Network commends the passage this past week of a resolution advanced by the Development Committee of the European Union Parliament dealing with untouchability in India. The resolution describes laws protecting Dalits as “grossly inadequate” and highlights the ongoing atrocities facing Dalits, including child labor, manual scavenging, illiteracy, violence, and landlessness.

“This resolution is an important step in encouraging EU nations and the world to engage with India on the inhuman persecution facing Dalits across India,” said Joseph D’souza, International President of the Dalit Freedom Network. “EU members and allies should follow this resolution with concrete steps, including engaging India on untouchability and ensuring the Dalits benefit from direct aid from the World Bank, IMF, and other development organizations.”

The EU resolution follows several recent high-profile attacks on Dalits, including the September 30, 2006, rape and killing of Dalit Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange’s wife and children in response to his pro-Dalit activism.

D’souza continued, “We hope the United States Congress and individual European parliaments can follow this resolution with similar legislation. Ending Caste discrimination, like ending Apartheid, will require help from the international community.”

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10:44 AM

NEPAL: Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers

Peace Journalism
6 February 2007

By: Human Rights Watch
The Maoists’ policy of recruiting children for fighting or supporting combat is one of the most disturbing aspects of Nepal’s decade-long civil war. The concept of "recruitment" covers any means (formal or de facto) by which a person becomes a member of the armed forces or of an armed group, so it includes conscription (compulsory/obligatory military service), forced recruitment, and voluntary enlistment.

The Maoists have used a variety of techniques for recruiting children: kidnapping of individual children; abduction of large groups of children, often from schools or at mass rallies that they are forced to attend; and use of propaganda campaigns to attract children as “volunteers.”
At the height of the civil war, in areas firmly under their control—particularly in the insurgency’s heartland in Nepal’s west and far west—the Maoists operated a “one family, one child” program whereby each family had to provide a recruit or face severe punishment. This campaign operated at a particularly high capacity in 2004 and 2005, as the civil war was escalating.

Media reports, citing high-level Maoist leaders, suggested that it was called the “Special People’s Military Campaign” and involved training secondary and higher secondary students from many villages in “secret camps.” Citing the same source, the paper suggested that “15,000 recruits have completed their basic training there.” According to the account, the “model districts” for the campaign were far-western Jumla and Jajarkot.

Over half of the children interviewed by HRW were from these districts. Our research strongly suggested that systematic abduction of children, or forced recruitment, also occurred in other areas where the Maoists could operate unfettered.

The Maoists conducted a systematic campaign of recruiting child soldiers. This campaign operated at a particularly high capacity in 2004 and 2005 in Nepal’s west and far west, the insurgency’s heartland.

Human Rights Watch’s interviews supported investigations by credible Nepali groups such as Children as Zones of Peace and Advocacy Forum that indicated that most of the affected children are initially recruited by and for local Maoist militias, not the People’s Liberation Army (PLA, the armed wing of the CPN (M)). Militia units are expected to, and do, provide crucial military and logistical support to the PLA during combat operations, for instance by carrying supplies, providing frontline medical care, transporting the dead and injured away from battle, and, most directly, engaging in offensive or defensive military maneuvers. While local militias are not as well trained and well armed as the PLA, nonetheless both empirical evidence and statements by the Maoist leadership indicates that the CPN (M) closely monitors and controls the activity of local militias and exercises an effective chain of command when required.

We also interviewed some children who told us that they served with the PLA.
Most children were recruited by and for local Maoist militias. Militia units provided crucial military and logistical support to the Maoists’ armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army.

confirming accounts by Nepali NGOs and international monitors about the PLA’s use of children. While the PLA and local militias may differ in their degree of professionalism and military training, both groups have taken part in major military operations, and both have been subject to attacks by Nepali security forces. Maoist military strategy has relied on overwhelming government forces by superior numbers.

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10:40 AM

Monday, February 05, 2007  
India slams European Parliament resolution on Dalits

India News in Europe Programme
2 February 2007

Brussels, Feb 2, INEP – A resolution adopted by the European Parliament(EP) here Thursday on the human rights situation of the Dalits in India has come under strong fire from several sides.

“It is unfortunate that the European Parliament could come out with such a resolution which lacks balance and perspective,’’ Indian embassy spokesman in Brussels, Mr. Amar Sinha, told INEP Friday.

“It indicates a highly negative mind-set on the past of the people who have drafted it,’’ he said , adding that the “report focuses only the negative aspects and has selectively used statistics to prove its hypothesis.”

In a strong-worded resolution put forward by the Development Committee, the EP resolution said that implementation of laws protecting the rights of Dalits remains “grossly inadequate, and that atrocities, untouchability, illiteracy, inequality of opportunity, continue to blight the lives of India’s Dalits.”

The EP resolution noted with concern “the lack of substantive EU engagement with the Indian Government, notably within the EU-India Summits, on the vast problem of caste-based discrimination.’’

British MEP Neena Gill condemned the report saying, it “is riddled with inaccuracies and does a clear disservice to the Human Rights cause! The value of this report is seriously drawn into question by the whole lack of scrutiny applied to it.”

Gill, Chair of the SAARC Delegation in the EP, noted that of the 785 MEPs, fewer than 30 members took part in the vote.

"This is a highly sensitive report on a very important issue and the way it has been rushed through Parliament without consultation of either the SAARC Delegation, the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, nor the Foreign Affairs Committee, is outrageous!" said Gill.

Mr.Sunil Prasad, Secretary General of Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC) and President of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Belgium also condemned the resolution. “The European Parliament’s Resolution on protection of Dalits in India is somewhat ideologically misplaced and strategically misguided. It is not fair on part of the European Parliament to rush and pass a resolution before verifying the facts and the current situation,’’ he told INEP.

The EP resolution urged the EU Council and the European Commission to raise the issue of “caste-based discrimination during EU-India Summits and other meetings as part of all political, human rights, civil society, development and trade dialogues and to inform the committees concerned of the progress and outcome of such dialogues.”

The House nevertheless welcomed the various provisions in the Constitution of India for the protection and promotion of the rights of Dalits.

The resolution followed a hearing in the EP’s Development Committee on December 18 on the human rights situation of the Dalits with Ruth Manorama, President of the National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW), and Paul Divakar, National Convenor of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in India.

Both alleged that human rights of the 165 million Dalits were being violated in India.

The meeting was chaired by a Danish MEP for the Greens, Margrete Auken, who is also the rapporteur of the EP report.

"In the context of expanding trade relations with India, the EU must put pressure on the Indian government and demand basic human rights for all Indian citizens,’’ she said in a separate statement.

"Caste discrimination in India is one of the best kept secrets in terms of human rights violations and to date the EU has failed to address this serious issue openly,’’ claimed Auken.

Explaining why no representative of the Indian government was present during the hearing, Mr. Sinha said a draft report had already been prepared and was in circulation even before the first hearing on the subject took place.

The EP resolution also calls on the Government of India to “ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of Dalits facing torture.’’

Mr. Prasad said, “I do not think Dalits are being subjected to any type of human right violations or discrimination in India. The government has taken many policy initiatives and economic measures to see that Dalits have the same rights as all Indians. “

“The Indian constitution outlaws caste and caste bias cannot be equated with racial discrimination. The Parliament should know that altering of an age-old tradition takes time, and India has taken numerous laws and schemes as a measure of its commitment to protect Dalits,’’ added Prasad.

Link to the article

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2:51 PM

NEPAL: Low caste communities still suffering discrimination

Reuters Alertnet
05 January 2007 2007

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Nepal's impoverished low caste 'Dalit' community continue to be discriminated against almost 20 years after the caste system was banned, human rights activists in Nepal's southwestern city of Nepalganj have complained.

"We still have to live with the hard reality of being discriminated [against] in every aspect of our lives," said Dalit school teacher, Hari Bahadur Biswokarma, in Nepalganj, 600 km west of the capital Kathmandu.

Biswokarma added that the situation was much worse in the remote western areas of Nepal, which remain among the least developed areas in the country with a per capita income of less than US $1 a day.

The Dalits have suffered from caste discrimination ever since the former Nepalese rulers, the Mallas, introduced the system in the 13th century. It was only in 1990, following the restoration of democracy, that the new constitution declared the practice of caste discrimination a crime.
"But even today, the situation has barely changed as discrimination is rife in both social and economic aspects," said Dalit activist, Parsuram Nepali, from the local rights NGO, Neglected Community Awareness, Nepal.

He added that due to discrimination, the Dalit families are excluded from most development and economic activities, children are often deprived of education, and women have to work under exploitative conditions in the cities in order to make a living.

According to the Dalit NGO Federation (DNF), around 80 percent of the five million-strong Dalit population lives below the poverty line. DNF explained that the literacy rate is barely 10 percent, with only 3.2 percent of women literate, and most Dalit children suffering malnutrition.
Until recently, the former Maoist rebels had been supporting the Dalits while engaged in a decade of conflict with the Nepalese government. However, following a peace agreement between the two parties in November, the Maoists have been preoccupied with their own political issues, Dalit activists have complained.

"The Maoists had proved themselves committed to end discrimination by punishing especially the high caste landlords who had been exploiting the low caste farmers," said activist Bhim Nepali from the NGO, Dalit Sewa Sangh.

"The only way to end the discrimination is by empowering and educating more Dalits, but the government has to be seriously committed, otherwise another civil war will start in the country if the neglect continues," claimed activist Ram Singh Karki, who explained that one cause of the armed conflict over the past decade was related to the social exclusion of the low castes. He warned that the Dalits may be forced to take up arms if their wellbeing is constantly ignored by the state.

Link to the article


2:05 PM

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