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Make caste bias top US foreign policy issue: Diaspora rights groups tell government

By Our Representative 

Several US-based Indian diaspora civil rights groups have submitted a policy memo to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the US Department of State asking the department to “recognize and elevate” the importance of fighting caste discrimination internationally as part of the country’s foreign policy thrust.
“We strongly believe that recognizing and elevating caste discrimination internationally represents a fundamental human rights issue and aligns with US foreign policy goals, especially as it champions democracy and inclusion in its upcoming Democracy Summit”, a joint statement issued by the International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR), together with Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Sadhana, Boston Study Group, Dalit Solidarity Forum and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said.
Pointing out that they are ready to provided “multiple recommendations of various complexity to the US Department of State that would help progress the US’ leadership on this issue”, the statement said, “Most urgently, we recommended that the department include caste discrimination within the human rights section of the White House Summit for Democracy, which began for two days on December 9, as well as within the commitments that relevant national governments are expected to bring to the Summit.”
“We further recommended for action the department take a renewed focus on caste discrimination by increasing programming and research funding to the issue, reviewing and refining existent policies — including immigration policies — to account for caste discrimination, and engage with interagency partners and non-governmental organization partners to advance the issue”, it added.
The Democracy Summit is a prime opportunity for the US to be a leader on caste discrimination issues
Said the civil rights groups, according to recent estimates in South Asia, over 300 million Dalits are impacted every day by caste-based atrocities, lynching, and discriminatory practices that were formally outlawed by national constitutions and international laws.
Pointing out that the Congress has “already recognized that caste-based discrimination exists and is unacceptable in India and other South Asian countries”, they said, “In 2007, the 110th Congress (2007-2008) passed the historic House Concurrent Resolution (H Con Res 139), expressing that ‘caste-based discrimination’ is unacceptable and the United States is committed to eliminating it and ensuring the human dignity and rights of Dalits by the US government or US organizations.”
“We believe the Democracy Summit is a prime opportunity for the US to be a leader on caste discrimination issues, and that leadership on this issue now and in the future is strategically advantageous for US foreign policy interests”, they added.

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