Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anti-untouchability resolution: National Dalit rights body urges on "effective" measures to end discrimination

By Our Representative
Following the European Parliament resolution favouring engagement with countries where untouchability is rampant, particularly in South Asia, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which is the apex body of all Dalit rights organizations, has urged the Government of India to take “effective measures” to prevent and address violations stemming from caste discrimination. It adds, “More in depth debate in state institutions and civil society is needed on how to tackle the issue of lack of implementation in political, civil society and also among media spheres.”
In a statement issued from Delhi, the NCDHR says that “the practice of untouchability of the caste system and the related caste based discrimination in various forms is still rampant and remains as one of the main human rights concerns in India”, adding, “Although India has an impressive range of constitutional provisions and laws that ban caste discrimination and untouchability, the lack of implementation remains a chronic problem.”
“Welcoming” the European Parliament resolution which exclusively addresses the issue of CBD in India and other South Asian countries, the statement says, the resolution, passed on October 10, was “strongly worded” and was “adopted with an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament”. Going into the merits of the resolution, it adds, “The resolution recognizes the presence of caste based dicrimination globally and points out series of issues related to caste discrimination as well as various forms of caste related violence against Dalits, especially against Dalit women.”
It adds, “The European Parliament reiterated its serious concern about the violence perpetrated against Dalit women from its resolutions of December 13, 2012 on caste discrimination in India, of January 17, 2013 on violence against women in India, of February 1, 2007 on the Human Rights Situation of the Dalits in India, and of April 18, 2012 on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World.”
The statement highlights how several other “major issues highlighted by the resolution were the presence of caste based discrimination in the labour market and also in the private sector which adds to exclusion and growing inequalities and how there should be strong legislations and policy measures to counter such issues”.
It says, “Lack of implementation of caste prohibiting legislation in caste affected countries was taken up as a serious concern in the resolution. India also faces this as the biggest challenge and the Government of India needs to take effective measures to address impunity of the state”.
The statement, however, falls short of saying what exactly should the Government of India do as an immediate follow-up, and how the NCDHR will ensure that the European Parliament resolution would be implemented in India. In fact, there is a distinct view among human rights activists in Gujarat that the resolution may be wanting European officials business to “engage” with the private sector and the officialdom in India wherever caste-based discrimination is found, but it is doubtful if it will be implemented. 
"Economic interests reign supreme, and usually such resolutions, though important, are rarely recalled, let alone implemented", a senior activist said, asking not to be named.
Be that as it may, the statement welcomes the European Parliament urging the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and also other states parties affected by the caste system “to mainstream the fight against caste-based discrimination in legislation, policies and programming documents and to adopt operational guidelines for its implementation; and to enhance monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in order to assess effectively the impact of European Union (EU) action on the situation of people affected by this form of discrimination”.
The statement quotes the European Development Committee specially emphasizing on the need to “to develop and apply caste-sensitive approaches in times of humanitarian crisis and ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to all marginalised groups, including people suffering from caste-based discrimination”.
Welcoming the EU view, the NCDHR said, “It encourages the EU itself, as an important global stakeholder in upholding human rights, to engage with many of the countries in South Asia and Africa where caste discrimination is prevalent. The resolution will help the EU strengthen its development cooperation and human rights dialogue with these countries, so it could address the issue effectively. We support all countries to work together to develop a world free of caste discrimination.”
Among those who signed the resolution are Vijay Parmar, convenor, NHRDC, apart from other Dalit rights leaders associated with the organization, N Paul Diwakar, Vimal Thorat, Asha Kowtal, and Prasad Sirivella.

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