Skip to main content

European Parliament passes resolution treating casteism on par with discrimination based on race, religion, gender

By Our Representative
In a resolution with far-reaching implications for Indian policy makers, the European Parliament, which met in Strasbourg, Austria, has declared that caste-based discrimination in several Asian countries, including India, should be treated on par with other grounds of discrimination such as “ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexuality”. Passed after a debate opened by Green member of European Parliament (MEP) Eva Joly, prior to adopting the resolution, several MEPs argued that “goods from caste-affected countries should be boycotted”, the International Dalit Solidarity Network said in a statement from its office in Copenhagen.
Tabling the resolution, Joly, who is chair of the Committee on Development, said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had compared caste discrimination in his country to South Africa’s apartheid. “Despite this declaration, despite the abolition of ‘untouchability’ in the Indian constitution, despite laws, 260 million people worldwide is suffering daily from atrocities committed with complete impunity,” Joly said.
Labeling it “one of the biggest paradoxes of the 21st century”, Liberal MEP Leonidas Donskis noted that “it is imperative to ensure that the fight against caste-based discrimination becomes part of the standard EU human rights language and is systematically included in the Union's efforts worldwide.” Another MEP, Paul Murphy, said the way forward was to encourage Dalit activists who want to confine “this barbaric feudal remnant to the dustbin of history.”
 The resolution says that caste discrimination should be seen in the context of international human rights conventions which relate to “contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” Looking at caste in “a socio-religious context, as in Asia, where those who fall outside the caste system are considered ‘impure’ and ‘untouchable’ by nature”, it adds, “more broadly” it is a “system of rigid social stratification into ranked groups defined by descent and occupation; whereas discrimination based on work and descent.”
The European Parliament resolution expresses serious concern over the fact that “despite the steps taken by the governments of some caste-affected countries to provide constitutional and legislative protection and introduce special measures against caste discrimination and untouchability, caste discrimination continues to be widespread and persistent, affecting an estimated 260 million people worldwide.”
Pointing out that “caste-based discrimination exists in numerous countries across the globe, with the highest number of victims being found in South Asia”, it regrets, “there are large concentrations of victims in other areas, including Africa, the Middle East and the diaspora community”, too. It notes “non-implementation of legislation and policies and the lack of effective remedies and effectively functioning state institutions, the judiciary and police included”, saying these “remain major obstacles to eliminating caste-based discrimination.”
Saying that caste-based discrimination in “severe forms of social exclusion, poverty, violence, segregation, physical and verbal abuse linked to prejudices and a concept of purity and pollution” continues and “untouchability practices remain widespread and are taking on modern forms”, the resolution notes, this has led to communities facing “restrictions in “political participation and serious discrimination in the labour market.”
The resolution specifically expresses “serious concern” over “the violence perpetrated against Dalit women, often do not report such violence for fear of threats to their personal safety or of social exclusion.” It says, Dalit women face “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on caste, gender and religion”, adding, they are subjected to “forced conversions, abductions, forced prostitution, and sexual abuse by members of dominant castes.”
While noting that in India “mandatory affirmative action has to some extent contributed to the inclusion of Dalits in the public sector”, the resolution adds, “Lack of protective non-discrimination measures in the labour market and the private sector adds to exclusion and growing inequalities”. It refers to the International Labour Organisation documents to say that “overwhelming majority of bonded labour victims in South Asia are from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”.  This type of labour, it adds, is “particularly widespread in the agriculture, mining and garment production sectors, which supply products to a number of multinational and European companies.”
Pointing out that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines and the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility, “specifically mentions caste-based discrimination as a serious form of discrimination”, the resolution urges the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to “mainstream the fight against caste-based discrimination in EU legislation, policies and programming documents and to adopt operational guidelines for its implementation.” OECD is the apex body of western developed countries.
Expressing alarm  that “in certain countries perpetrators of such discrimination hold high-level government positions”, the resolution recommends that the European Union (EU) should “carry out a systematic assessment of the impact of trade and/or investment agreements on groups affected by caste discrimination, and address these issues with industry representatives, government authorities and relevant civil society organizations.”

The resolution calls for “the inclusion of caste-based discrimination as a human rights issue in future EU human rights policies, strategies and action plans” adding, there should be a “stronger support for development projects combating caste-based discrimination as a serious human rights violation that exacerbates poverty, and to take this form of discrimination into account in all projects with a focus on education, women, access to justice, political participation or labour.” 

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there. 

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.