Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dalit Victims of Apartheid in India

Over 250 million people are victims of caste-based discrimination and segregation in India. They live miserable lives, shunned by much of society because of their ranks as untouchables or Dalits at the bottom of a rigid caste system in Hindu India. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in slave-like conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection, according to Human Rights Watch.

In what has been called Asia's hidden apartheid, entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste. Caste-based abuse is also found in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Japan, and several African states.

In support of its assertions of Dalit abuse in India, the Human Rights Watch has documented the following abuses:

* Over 100,000 cases of rape, murder, arson, and other atrocities against Dalits are reported in India each year. Given that Dalits are both reluctant and unable (for lack of police cooperation) to report crimes against themselves, the actual number of abuses is presumably much higher.

* India's own agencies have reported that these cases are typically related to attempts by Dalits to defy the social order, or demand minimum wages and their basic human rights. Many of the atrocities are committed by the police. Even perpetrators of large-scale massacres have escaped prosecution.

* An estimated forty million people in India, among them fifteen million children, are bonded laborers, working in slave-like conditions in order to pay off a debt. A majority of them are Dalits.

* According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are manual scavengers who clear feces from public and private latrines and dispose of dead animals; unofficial estimates are much higher.

* The sexual slavery of Dalit girls and women continues to receive religious sanction. Under the devadasi system, thousands of Dalit girls in India's southern states are ceremoniously dedicated or married to a deity or to a temple. Once dedicated, they are unable to marry, forced to become prostitutes for upper-caste community members, and eventually auctioned into an urban brothel.

Although there are laws in India to deal with caste-related problems of bonded labor, manual scavenging, devadasi, and other atrocities against Dalit community members, the reality is that such laws are widely ignored by the law-enforcement agencies and the perpetrators.

Source: World Values Survey and Washington Post

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) now includes discrimination based on caste. Dating back to 1969, the ICERD convention has been ratified by 173 countries, including India. Despite this, and despite the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights reiterating that discrimination based on work and descent is a form of racial discrimination, the Indian government's stand on this issue has remained the same: caste is not race.

Ms. Navi Pillay, the South African judge who became the United Nations high commissioner for human rights last year, recently told Barbara Crossette of the Nation a story about a group of women who came to her in Geneva recently with a brick from a latrine they had torn down in protest against being forced to carry away human excrement in their bare hands. They wanted to make the point that despite India's frequent assertions that untouchables," who call themselves Dalits ("broken people"), were no longer condemned by birth to do this job, there were still tens of thousands of such latrines in the country, and the filthy, soul-destroying work continues.



Judge Pillay, a South African citizen of Indian descent, now wants to force the issue of caste the UN. "This is the year 2009, and people have been talking about caste oppression for more than a hundred years," Pillay says. "It's time to move on this issue."

Caste is now on notice: the UN has failed, she said, to educate people and change mindsets to combat the taint of caste. "How long is the cycle going to go on where those who can do something about it say, We can't, because it's the people, it's their tradition; we have to go slowly.

"Slavery and apartheid could be removed, so now [caste] can be removed through an international expression of outrage."

Here is a video about Dalits in India:



Related Links:

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Slavery Survives in South Asia
India Deploys 100,000 Soldiers Against Maoists

Persistent Hunger in South Asia

Female Literacy Lags Behind in India

Female Genocide Unfolding in India

42 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s 42 Hindu couples tie the knot, reports Dawn:

After the success of the first Hindu mass wedding in Karachi last year, 42 couples came together from different parts of Sindh to tie the knot this year. While most of them belonged to Karachi, couples came from as far as Nawabshah, Daharki, Dighri, Thatta, and Hyderabad among other districts of Sindh. The event was organised by Pakistan Hindu Council at the YMCA ground on Sunday evening and all the expenses were borne by the council members to help the less privileged members of their community.

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/media-gallery/18-42-hindu-couples-tie-the-knot-am-01

Anonymous said...

Good news that the indian deficit is continuously increasing and it is higher than that of pakistan.


-----------------------------------
Indias fiscal deficit more than that of Pak, Lanka

Our Bureau MUMBAI

INDIA has been acknowledged by Standard & Poors as the second-fastest growing economy after China in the Asia-Pacific region . The ratings agency has placed the country at the bottom of a list of 21 nations for running a fiscal deficit as high as 11.1% of its GDP.
At its current ranking, India stands way below its smallerrated neighbours Pakistan (4.4%) and Sri Lanka (8%) which figure in the 11th and 18th slots, respectively. China (3.4%) figures ninth on the list, with Indonesia (0.8%) topping the charts for the year.
This trend also partly explains why India did not get any positive ratings review this year, though neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka did. In an interview to ET, Suzanne Smith, MD ratings of south and Southeast Asia, said: In February 2009, the outlook on the rating (for India) was changed from stable to negative, reflecting a deteriorating fiscal outlook, resulting from an expansionary shift in government spending. The foreign currency rating on Pakistan was raised in August due to improved external liquidity and progress in fiscal deficit reduction.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Indias fiscal deficit more than that of Pak, Lanka"

I don't think it's good news for Pakistan. The government in Pakistan runs huge twin deficits of budget and trade, and it is forced borrow from IMF, and other nations to make ends meet.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a report in the Indian media with an Indian official Syeda Hameed admitting that India is doing worse than Pakistan and Bangladesh on nutrition:

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.


'There has been an enormous infusion of funds. But the National Family Health Survey gives a different story on malnourishment in the country. We don't know, something is just not clicking,' Hameed said.


Speaking at a conference on 'Malnutrition an emergency: what it costs the nation', she said even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during interactions with the Planning Commission has described malnourishment as the 'blackest mark'.


'I should not compare. But countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are better,' she said. The conference was organised Monday by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Development of Northeastern Region.


According to India's National Family Health Survey, almost 46 percent of children under the age of three are undernourished - an improvement of just one percent in the last seven years. This is only a shade better than Sub-Saharan Africa where about 35 percent of children are malnourished.


Hameed said the government's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme, which is a flagship programme to improve the health of women and children, had not shown results despite a lot of money being spent on it in the past few years.


'We have not been successful in improving the status of health of our women and children,' she added.


The annual budget for women and child development (WCD) ministry in 2008-9 is Rs.72 billion. Of this, Rs.63 billion is for ICDS.


According to Unicef, every year 2.1 million children in India die before celebrating their fifth birthday. While malnutrition is the primary reason behind it, other factors like lack of health facilities, hygiene and good nutrition compound the problem.


Narrating her experiences while travelling the length and breadth of the country, Hameed said in many areas women were still starving and finding it difficult to feed their children.


She said emphasis should be given on inclusive breast-feeding for six months after a child's birth, maternity benefits for pregnant women and food fortification of ready to eat mid-day meals.


'We are concerned and worried that we are losing human beings in such a manner. It is a disappointment and a blot. We have just improved a fraction and we are determined that we do not let it get worse,' she said.


'It is frustrating to see this dark and dismal picture of undernourishment in the country. We have to learn the experiences from other South Asian countries,' she added.


The NFHS survey found that levels of anaemia in children and women had worsened compared to seven years ago -- around 56 percent of women and 79 percent of children below three years are anaemic.


Vinita Bali, managing director of Britannia Industries, said the problem was very critical and action was needed from both the government and the industry.


She said their 'Tiger' biscuits had been fortified with iron and had shown amazing results. These biscuits have been provided to children in Hyderabad with a midday meal.


'We conducted a study and found that in six months of taking these biscuits, the haemoglobin increased. The biscuits are not only healthy but also fortified,' she said.


'There should be a balance between prevention and treatment. Our focus should be to target the most vulnerable and then only we will have a much healthier future for India,' he added.

http://newshopper.sulekha.com/india-worse-than-pakistan-bangladesh-on-nourishment_news_927008.htm

Riaz Haq said...

For some of the posters here, let me share with you what Sean-Paul Kelly, a traveler-blogger, thinks of India, based on the recent NY Times story on "India's Innovation Envy":

Indians, it seems, aren’t lacking in the hyper-patriotic, and India certainly doesn’t lack its boosters in the West. Alas, some folks are beginning to see the light:

"BANGALORE, India — In the United States and Europe, people worry that their well-paying, high-skill jobs will be, in a word, “Bangalored” — shipped off to India.

People here are also worried about the future. They fret that Bangalore, and India more broadly, will remain a low-cost satellite office of the West for the foreseeable future — more Scranton, Pa., in the American television series “The Office,” than Silicon Valley."

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley-Asia has called this wage arbitrage (Roach happens to be one of the few American economists that gets it right on India). And Americans are right to worry about this. It’s put downward pressure on services as varied as call-centers and tech support, to financial news reporting, X-ray and MRI interpretation and accounting. I would be especially worried if I were an accountant. But then again, many of the big firm accountants need not be worried, as their shilling game for Wall Street will protect them. For a time.

"Even as the rest of the world has come to admire, envy and fear India’s outsourcing business and its technological prowess, many Indians are disappointed that the country has not quickly moved up to more ambitious and lucrative work from answering phones or writing software. Why, they worry, hasn’t India produced a Google or an Apple?"

Wait a second. India does not have any technological prowess in the true sense of the word. After all, if they did, why would the Ambassador, a car model over fifty years old, made of the heaviest steel imaginable, and horribly inefficient be the best selling domestically produced car in India, still. The Nano notwithstanding.

"Innovation is hard to measure, but academics who study it say India has the potential to create trend-setting products but is not yet doing so. Indians are granted about half as many American patents for inventions as people and firms in Israel and China. The country’s corporate and government spending on research and development significantly lags behind that of other nations. And venture capitalists finance far fewer companies here than they do elsewhere."

Re-read that graph closely and you’ll begin to get an idea of the hurdles India faces. And hurdles it is doing nothing, absolutely nothing to overcome. Instead of using its domestic capital for something like infrastructure building, local elites continue to siphon it all off and live behind huge fenced in compounds paying dalits pitiful, barely life-sustaining wages.

Riaz Haq said...

From page 26 of Unesco report:

Caste systems in South Asia disadvantage many
children (Box 4). One striking example comes from
India, where researchers found that children from
low-caste families performed at far lower learning
achievement levels when their caste was publicly
announced than when it was not revealed. The findings
demonstrate the impact of stigma on self-confidence
and learning levels, and on the treatment of these
children in the school environment.

‘The higher-caste students tell us that we smell bad’, one girl said.
Another added, ‘The ridicule we face prevents us from coming to school
and sitting with higher-caste children’. These girls from the hamlet
of Khalispur, near the city of Varanasi, belong to the Musahar or
‘rat catcher’ community of eastern Uttar Pradesh, India.
Khalispur has a government primary school. Despite an entitlement to
receive a stipend, midday meals and uniforms, few Musahar girls attend.
For these girls, school is a place where they experience social exclusion.
Various forms of discrimination reinforce caste hierarchies in the classroom.
‘We are forced to sit on the floor’, one girl said. ‘The desks and benches in
the classroom are meant for the children from the higher castes’. According
to Musahar elders, government policies have improved but social attitudes
have not: ‘They do admit our children to school and we now have legal
rights, but the behaviour of children from other castes and the teachers
is a problem. Our children do not dare attend the school.’
The experience of the Musahar is a microcosm of a much wider problem.
Most governments have outlawed formal discrimination, but altering
social attitudes has received less political attention, limiting the benefits
of wider social reforms.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent piece by Arundhati Roy about India's war against Maoists:

"The government has announced Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the "Maoist" rebels headquartered in the jungles of central India. Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country that people are engaged in–the landless, the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers. They're pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people's land and resources. However, it is the Maoists that the government has singled out as being the biggest threat.

Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the prime minister described the Maoists as the "single largest internal security threat" to the country. This will probably go down as the most popular and often repeated thing he ever said. For some reason, the comment he made on 6 January, 2009, at a meeting of state chief ministers, when he described the Maoists as having only "modest capabilities", doesn't seem to have had the same raw appeal. He revealed his government's real concern on 18 June, 2009, when he told parliament: "If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected."

Right now in central India, the Maoists' guerrilla army is made up almost entirely of desperately poor tribal people living in conditions of such chronic hunger that it verges on famine of the kind we only associate with sub-Saharan Africa. They are people who, even after 60 years of India's so-called independence, have not had access to education, healthcare or legal redress. They are people who have been mercilessly exploited for decades, consistently cheated by small businessmen and moneylenders, the women raped as a matter of right by police and forest department personnel. Their journey back to a semblance of dignity is due in large part to the Maoist cadre who have lived and worked and fought by their side for decades.

If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have – their land. Clearly, they do not believe the government when it says it only wants to "develop" their region. Clearly, they do not believe that the roads as wide and flat as aircraft runways that are being built through their forests in Dantewada by the National Mineral Development Corporation are being built for them to walk their children to school on. They believe that if they do not fight for their land, they will be annihilated. That is why they have taken up arms."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report about Indian police brutality against a Dalit woman in UP:

A policeman in India has been suspended after television channels broadcast images of him beating a woman.

In the footage, the officer is seen slapping the woman and pushing her to the ground as he continues to punch and kick her in a police station.

The woman is a suspect in her husband's murder.

The incident took place in Amethi town in the northern Uttar Pradesh state. The area is represented in Parliament by Congress Party's Rahul Gandhi.

Correspondents say that the beating highlights the widespread problem of police brutality in India.

'Brutal attack'

The footage appears to show an inspector assaulting the 26-year-old woman in full public view.

The woman, a member of the low-caste Dalit community, is accused of murdering her husband, whose body was found in their house on Tuesday.

Reports said the inspector was trying to "force a confession out of her".

A woman constable stood nearby as the suspect was beaten up.

Human rights activists are "appalled by this brutal attack on a woman".

According to Indian law, there are strict guidelines on the arrest of a woman.

A woman suspect can only be handled by a woman police officer and male policemen are not allowed to touch her.

A policewoman has to be present at all times, including during interrogations.

But most of these guidelines are regularly flouted by policemen in India.

There have been thousands of incidents of police brutality recorded in India in recent years, and in many cases, the victims are low caste and poor.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent piece describing India's "Sham Democracy":

“Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.” Arundhati Roy? Wrong. It’s Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the Dalit leader who wrote India’s republican constitution 60 years ago.

Going by Ambedkar’s expressed fears, the Indian republic is like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Slave’s Dream. It was created by a people that were subjugated by colonialism and its republican ideals were shaped by a human rights pioneer who rose from the lowest layers of the country’s caste heap, a form of slavery in some ways more degrading than apartheid.

India celebrates its Republic Day each year with an hour-long display
of military hardware, which of late has included dummies of nuclear- tipped missiles. The accompanying convoy of floats showcasing the country’s cultural variety (and humour) with everything ranging from ayurvedic massages to tribal dances, to harvest festivals is a more
realistic sample of the country’s anarchy and depth than imported
military arsenal, which guzzles depleted resources, annoys neighbours and contributes to keeping millions of Indians in penury and poor health.

Ambedkar’s fear of an inhospitable soil that deters rather than
nurtures democracy if left to itself has been vindicated by the
country’s sharp tilt to the right since 1990. His most entrenched
detractors belong to the Hindu right, but the exigencies of the
country’s caste arithmetic, which shores up the parliamentary system,
compels them to woo his followers, if not his legacy.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report about honor killings in India:

Hindu caste leaders in the northern Indian state of Haryana have given their backing to six people convicted last month in an "honour killing" case.

The heads of 20 caste councils also demanded legislation to ban marriages between members of the same sub-caste.

Five men were sentenced to death and one jailed for life over the 2007 murder of a young couple who married against the wishes of village elders.

Elders said they violated local customs by marrying within the same sub-caste.

'Ultimatum'

Caste leaders and protesters held a meeting in the town of Kurukshetra in Haryana state.

"We will appeal to the government to amend the Hindu Marriage Act," the Times of India website quoted Bhalle Ram, head of Bainiwal village caste council in the state, as saying.

"We are giving the Indian government an ultimatum to effect these changes," he said.

Protesters are threatening to block the road between the Indian capital, Delhi, and major cities like Chandigarh and Ambala.

They say they will appeal against the sentence handed to the six men.

Caste leaders say that by local tradition people within the same sub-caste are considered to be siblings.

The young couple - Manoj and Babli - apparently fell into this category.

They were kidnapped and killed a month after they eloped while they were travelling on a bus in Haryana in 2007. Their bodies were discovered later.

Those sentenced to death by the Haryana court last month were all relatives of the girl, Babli, and included her brother, two uncles and two cousins.

The head of the village council in Haryana's Kaithal district, which ruled against the couple's marriage, was given life imprisonment.

The case was brought to the attention of the village council by the family of Manoj, Babli's husband.

Campaigners hailed the court verdict as a blow against "honour killings", which are quite common in parts of northern India.

Correspondents say such killings have often not been reported or widely discussed in the past because families usually accept the verdicts.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report of Haryana protests against inter-caste marriages in India:

“Social life and moral dignity are not legal matters, they are domestic issues which are best resolved by elders,” Mahinder Singh Tikait, former Bhartiya Kisan Union president and prominent Jat leader told the gathering.

In a clear warning to political parties, he said, “We are giving the government one month's time to make the necessary changes [to the Hindu Marriage Act]. Also if any political party or leader, local or national, condemns our resolution or creates any hurdle, we will boycott him forever.”

Denying that khap panchayats have ever issued diktats against couples who marry against gotra norms, Dr. Santosh Dahiya said, “The parents kill their children due to the shame they were bringing on the home by incest. What can a khap do?”

Questioning the authority of courts, she said: “The law is meant to protect society. How can it be superior to social norms and traditions? From Manu smriti to the latest medical findings, it is said children born of inter-gotra marriages are deformed or mentally weak. We will make sure that the scientific tradition is alive.”

The mahapanchayat decided to set up a committee here to protect marriage traditions.

In between the meeting of over 36 khaps from Haryana, parts of U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi, a few leaders blocked a road here in protest saying that the Haryana government would have to assure them that it would write to the Centre seeking an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It sought a ban on marriages within a three-gotra distance (one cannot marry within one's own gotra, one's mother's gotra and one's father's mother's gotra), in the same village or in any of the adjoining villages.

Conspiracy angle

Some leaders who stated that caste honour was bigger than law, saw the recent court rulings as a conspiracy to curb panchayat rule. “There is a conspiracy to crush them [panchayats] because their fast and fair justice is superior. The media don't even know the meaning of terms like khap or gotra, they just hype a case, completely ignoring the larger concept,” a 28-year-old lecturer of political science in Kurukshetra University said. “Even if the alleged decision to kill them was wrong, it was not for the court to step in, panchayats could have solved it amongst themselves,” he added.

The authority of the Constitution was challenged by virtually every speaker. “We don't want a Constitution or a law that goes against our age-old tradition,” Dada Baljeet Singh Gadhwala, one prominent leader said. “Khaps have been called unconstitutional, but the preamble starts by saying — we the people — and we are the people who firmly believe that a colonial rule cannot be given social sanction. The law should abide by the traditional norms and hence be amended immediately,” he added.

Khaps or traditional caste councils have come under the public scanner over their Taliban-style functioning amid an outcry over their diktats against marriages in the same sub-castes.

Meanwhile, the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Students Federation of India (SFI) gave a joint statement which condemned the “unnecessary hue and cry being raised about a potential threat to the culture of Haryana in the wake of the court verdict in the Manoj-Babli murder case.”

These organisations claimed that most of the marital disputes were not over marriages within a gotra or within the village. Yet the couples were thrown out of their villages and their parents were publicly humiliated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed in the Hindu on Dr. Ambedkar's death anniversary on April 14, 2010:

If major civilisations make contributions to world history, then the Indian civilisation's contributions include caste, caste discrimination, caste segregation, and caste-motivated brutality; the anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's birth, April 14, provides an occasion to look at some of the ways governments respond to caste discrimination.

It appears too, that wherever substantial numbers of people of Indian descent settle, caste discrimination appears. Even the British House of Lords was sufficiently exercised about caste discrimination in the United Kingdom to debate it for specific proscription when the new Equality Bill, now the Equality Act 2010, recently came before them. Although this time the House of Lords did not include caste specifically, the government's earlier statement that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been asked to research the issue drew the peers' rebuke that the Commission in fact said they had not been asked to do the relevant research; the government were also accused of consulting only with upper-caste groups of British Hindus.

My former tutor, a distinguished British professor of philosophy, would not have been surprised by the government's reluctance to include caste in its anti-discrimination laws. I recall his saying, “The British and the Indian ruling classes understood one another perfectly.” His father had been in the Indian Army between the wars, and he himself only rarely revealed how much he knew about India.

Another British friend told me once of an involvement he had had with a girl at his college. Well into the relationship she suddenly told him she would never marry him, as he was of a low caste. They had parents from the same region of India, they spoke the same South Asian language, and they were both young Britons. But she drew the shadow line.

Many apartheids

I recall too, listening to an acquaintance in the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg as he savaged the now-extinct apartheid régime, raising his voice for the benefit of a couple of stone-faced Afrikaner huisvrouwen who were browsing along the shelves. The young man's aunt, the shop manager, said quietly, “We have our own apartheid, with caste and religion and family.” That reminded me of an earlier conversation with a relative, in which I remarked that in some industrialised countries it could be difficult to tell people's class or occupation from their dress, manner, or speech, especially outside working hours. My relative froze, terrified that his children, destined for U.S. doctorates and gadget-filled mortgages in acceptably white-majority American suburbs, would get involved with ‘unsuitable' people during their studies abroad. That particular relative might have problems if asked whether President Obama's daughters were ‘unsuitable'.

The Government of India, for its part, tries to prevent international discussion of caste. At the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001, Indian representatives insisted that caste is not race, that India has legislated against caste discrimination, and that caste as an internal matter must not be discussed at such conferences. The conference adopted the phrase “discrimination based on work and descent.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Hindu Op Ed on Dr. Ambedkar's death anniversary on April 14, 2010, contd:

India's intransigence, however, continues. In response to the Strategic Management Plan prepared for 2010-11 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the Government of India notes the Plan's references to caste and adds that as the document was not negotiated the Indian mission in Geneva has been instructed to take the matter up with the UNHCHR. The 160-page document contains only three references to caste. One is a general comment that caste is one form of discrimination in the Asia-Pacific region, another is the inclusion of caste among UNHCHR's thematic priorities for the year, and the third is the observation that caste discrimination is endemic in Nepal.

Furthermore, at the 2009 Durban Review Conference, India rejected a comment on descent, saying it “lacked intellectual rigour” and ignored the drafting history of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Convention's history, however, shows that when it was first drafted in 1965 India's representative both suggested the term “descent” and said the Convention would apply to scheduled castes. In 2009, India succeeded in getting the term “discrimination based on work and descent” removed from the conference outcome document, though an earlier U.N. statement that caste is covered by CERD presumably still stands.

India's position is at best incoherent. The government's periodic report to CERD for 2006 reconfirms its opposition to any equation of caste and race by saying the Indian Constitution distinguishes between the two, and that race had been included in the Constitution because of the “moral outrage of the world community against racism” after the Second World War. This outrage, however, was not shared at the highest levels of government. A former civil servant has publicly described the way the then External Affairs Minister Y. B. Chavan and an aide violated India's own sanctions against South Africa by allowing Indian trade with the apartheid state through the Bank of Bermuda in the mid-1970s.

Domestically, Indian government statements, including replies to MPs, often list the legislation prohibiting caste discrimination as though that eo ipso proves effective action. A single example serves to undermine that. The National Crime Records Bureau's records for the period 1995-2007 show that under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the police registered 441, 424 crimes, but field-survey estimates suggest that the recorded figure is about one third of the actual figure; for Scheduled Tribes it is about one fifth.

Widespread

The proposition that caste is solely an internal matter for India is untenable. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, has said publicly that globally, caste discrimination affects 260 million people; about 170 million of them are in India. In contrast to India, Nepal, until 2007 a Hindu state by constitution, regards caste discrimination as indistinguishable from racial discrimination, and has confirmed that it will work through the U.N. to counter caste discrimination; the European Union has made a similar commitment. The pity is therefore all the greater that India is so dismissive of international cooperation and so unwilling to take the lead over what the Prime Minister himself has called a blot on humanity.

Riaz Haq said...

India(49) has more than twice as many billionaires as Japan (22) which is a far richer country.

Indian and UNICEF officials concur that Indians are much worse off than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in basic nutrition and sanitation.

Meanwhile, India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.Lizette Burgers, chief water and environment sanitation of the UNICEF, said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia.

Most of the 8-9% growth has fattened the bottom line of a small percentage of India's population, with the rest getting poorer. India's Gini Index has increased from about 32 to 36 from 2000 to 2007.

India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released on Sunday. The poverty rate has risen to 37.2 percent of the population from 27.5 percent in 2004, according to a Reuters report.

The rising gap between abject poverty and obscene wealth in India is fueling anger, and insurgencies such as the Maoists'.

Anonymous said...

the sad part is the casteism, that is rampant in this region. i heard a story, about a woman maoist sniper, who had played havoc with the security forces. they could not find her for three months, and toll was mounting....one day by sheer luck, they caught her and killed her. she had fallen and the security forces just watched her die, gasping for breath, for they were afraid, that she might detonate a hand grenade. the officer of the troops however took a chance to approach her and give her water. she just spat that water on his face. he says there was a look on her face that he will take with him until his death. she was high up in the maoist hierarchy so the officer went ahead to check her background. he found that she was from a village in srikakulam, in andhra pradesh. she was married at 16. On her first night, it was not her husband who came to her, but the landlord of the place. a 60 year old man abusing a 16 year
old. it is a custom it seemed in that region, that the first night should be with landlord. she lost her mind after that night, recovered , left her husband and wandered ,eventually joining the maoists.

there are many indians here who blame pakistanis. we say Pakistan is going wrong because of its establishment. namely the mullah, military and rich anglican pakistani elite. dont we have that oligarchy here in india! do we not have the upper caste hindus, the landlord, the rich businessmen and the politicians forming an oligarchy? An oligarchy that is simply growing rich by exploiting the vast riches of our soil?
whatever we might say about Pakistan, please understand that atleast some of them, have opened their eyes to this oligarchy. have we in india done that? the answer is no.

there is a company called vedanta resources. it is headquatered in london, and they are billionaires. they want minig rights to a mountain hill in jharkhand, that a real rare find. it has amongst the best Bauxite content. but the gond tribes who are in that area say, our god lives on this hill! we have a temple there, so we will not allow you to mine!
you know what the company management said? We will rebuild a better temple for you in the plains? (take it from our corporate social responsibility account) WOW! great minds these MBA`s are from our management institutes?
we have a temple atop palani hill in tamilnadu. we have been praying over it for few thousand years, if vedanta or anyone tells us, hey there is gold in that mountain you guys better shift, then do you think we will allow that? we will skin those MBA`s right there and hang it to dry.
but then the poor gond tribals and their tribal god? thats fate isnt it?
the officer who told me this story, weeps at the guilt of having killed a poor girl. i left him saying if you carry fighting with guilt, you will get killed.
how many more lives will we corrode?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NDTV report abut alleged honor killing of an Indian woman journalist:

At 23, Nirupama Pathak seemed to have seamlessly made the transition from her small home-town in Jharkhand to big city life. Read: Delhi journalist murdered: Honour killing?)

Supported by her parents, she arrived in Delhi to study journalism at one of the capital's premier institutes. There, she fell in love with a classmate, Priyabhanshu Ranjan. A job at one of India's best-known newspapers, the Business Standard, followed. On Facebook, she commented on political and personal issues. She was easy-going, unpretentious and helpful.

The roots that seemed to ground her rose quickly to strangle her. Nirupama was a Brahmin, her boyfriend a Kayastha. Where she came from, that was enough to stop everything.

Last week, Nirupama's family summoned her home, insisting that her mother, Sudha, was not keeping well. On Thursday night, Nirupama was found dead in her bedroom at her Jharkhand home. Her family said she had committed suicide by hanging herself. The post-mortem clearly spelled murder by asphyxiation. "There are no external injury marks on her, which means that she was probably pinned down by a few people and then smothered," said P Mohan, a surgeon in Nirupama's hometown of Koderma.

Her mother, Sudha, was arrested for her murder and sent to 14-day jail on Monday. Nirupama's father, Dharmendra, says though the family wasn't pleased with her relationship with Priyanshu, because he was from a different caste, he would never hurt his daughter. "You have to first look at your own caste, then you should look elsewhere... but we only advised her," he told NDTV, reiterating that his daughter's death was a suicide.

Riaz Haq said...

Talking about human rights and equality, here's a report from India that all modern professions in India are dominated by Hindu Brahmins. Below is an excerpt from an interview of Dr P Radhakrishnan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies as published by rediff news:

Q: Why do you say that in a hierarchical society, the gene theory won't work?

A: It can only happen randomly. In a hierarchical society, the cultural capital is concentrated at the top. Brahmins are at the summit of the social hierarchy. So, they had all the advantages of society traditionally, though they may not be having the same advantages now.

Cultural capital gets transmitted from generation to generation and over generations, this transmission makes its recipients well-entrenched.

As early as the 1880s, the British administration had reported that a poor Brahmin cannot be compared to a poor untouchable for the simple reason that the poverty of a Brahmin is only economic, but the poverty of an untouchable is both economic and cultural.

Brahmins have cultural capital. That is also the reason that where talent has to be used persistently and assiduously, Brahmins have been shining. It is not that others are dullards. Universally, intelligence is distributed across the entire society. But opportunities are not.


http://news.rediff.com/slide-show/2009/oct/12/slide-show-1-brahmins-dominate-all-modern-professions.htm

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report about a dog declared Dalit and abandoned by an upper caste family:

BHOPAL: A dog's life couldn't get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an "untouchable". Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village's dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.

The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.

A week ago Sunita Jatav, a dalit woman, was serving lunch to her farm labourer husband. "There was a 'roti' left over from lunch. I saw the dog roaming and fed it the last bread," Sunita said. "But when Rampal Singh saw me feeding the dog and he grew furious. He yelled: 'Cobbler woman, how dare you feed my dog with your roti?' He rebuked me publicly. I kept quiet thinking the matter would end there. But it got worse," she said.

On Monday, Rampal ex-communicated the dog. A village panchayat was called, whi- ch decided that Sheru would now have to live with Sunita and her family because it had become an untouchable. Sunita Jatav was fined Rs 15,000.

An outraged Sunita and her brother Nahar Singh Jatav rushed to Sumawali police station. They were directed to take the matter to the SC/ST Atrocities police station in Kalyan. "When we went there, the officer asked us why we fed the dog," recalls Nahar. "So we went to the DSP in the SC/ST Atrocities department and submitted a memorandum to him, as also to the district collector. But no one has registered our FIR so far.

DSP SC/ST Atrocities (Morena), Baldev Singh, recalls, "We got a complaint in which it has been alleged that a dog was declared untouchable and a dalit family fined for feeding it. We are investigating the allegation," said the officer.


Read more: Dog cast(e) away after dalit touch - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dog-caste-away-after-dalit-touch/articleshow/6617039.cms#ixzz10QQz6CQl

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by Jacqueline Novogratz saying Pakistan needs more servant leadership:

I'm in the office of Dr. Sono, one of Pakistan's most extraordinary social entrepreneurs. Born a Hindu Dalit or "untouchable," he has worked for his country since his youth and emerged as one of the most important grassroots leaders in Sindh. He runs the Sindh Rural Support Organization, a nonprofit company that has emerged as the leading coordinator of local relief during the floods, providing food, sanitation, water and healthcare to six provinces, and serves 60,000 individuals two hot meals a day. With him are Sabiha Bhutto and Asma Soomro who Dr. Sono introduces as his "commandants." Both women carry serious expressions that give them gravitas and weight. Asma wears a black shalwar and an olive-and-rust-colored tropical print shawl over her head. Saibiha wears red-and-white narrow striped cotton. These two women led others to mobilize 80,000 people during the flood emergency.

I ask what they learned from the experience. Asma responds, "We learned to really go to their level, speak their language, feel what they would feel, and build trust." This is classic social-organizing language. "During these three weeks, I met a 90-year-old woman. She wanted to see how other people were coping in the disaster because she herself had gone through crises and was herself prepared for what might come. This inspired me a lot."

Sabiha speaks as much with her eyes as her hands. She remembers the sense of panic among people in Shikarpur who were understandably terrified by the threat of floods. "I spread calm to the people, and promised that Shikarpur would make it through the floods. I urged them to help those who were really in need." When local residents wanted to cross the river, she stopped them. She could see what others could not -- buffalos flying through the churning rapids, most of them drowning. Her neighbors trusted her, and lives were saved. I ask what she had learned. "I realize what it means to be brave," she answers.

Neither Sabiha nor Asma consider being a woman a hindrance, even in conservative parts of Pakistan. "People know that we are here for them," says Sabiha. "We've earned their trust." Between them, they've delivered sixteen women to the hospital to enable them to give birth during the crisis period.

Dr. Sono jumps in and says, "Last week, I received a phone call from a nearby village. The caller said people were drowning. And you know, I love that village." His eyes twinkle so that you can feel that love. I adore Dr. Sono for being so exquisitely alive and caring. He continues:

I called Sabiha and Asma and told them to go to the village and help people escape before the flood waters came. It was 10:30 at night, and still they went. This is a dangerous area, and women especially can be killed going out at night. But they went. And by midnight, the village was empty and there was not a single drowning.

The conversation turns to Pakistan's future, and what can be done about corruption.

Corruption is a big problem here. But we are seeing changes. We have minimized corruption at the district level, and now we have to translate that to the top level. We also have to focus on educating people at the grassroots, too, so that they begin to question government. This way, we can start to end corruption.

This way, the world can change.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's what Roy told the Guardian after the reports of her planned arrest today:

"I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/26/arundhati-roy-kashmir-india

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian story of women's abuse in the name of Hindu religion in India:

Parvatamma is a devadasi, or servant of god, as shown by the red-and-white beaded necklace around her neck. Dedicated to the goddess Yellamma when she was 10 at the temple in Saundatti, southern India, she cannot marry a mortal. When she reached puberty, the devadasi tradition dictated that her virginity was sold to the highest bidder and when she had a daughter at 14 she was sent to work in the red light district in Mumbai.

Parvatamma regularly sent money home, but saw her child only a few times in the following decade. Now 26 and diagnosed with Aids, she has returned to her village, Mudhol in southern India, weak and unable to work. "We are a cursed community. Men use us and throw us away," she says. Applying talcum powder to her daughter's face and tying ribbons to her hair, she says: "I am going to die soon and then who will look after her?" The daughter of a devadasi, Parvatamma plans to dedicate her own daughter to Yellamma, a practice that is now outlawed in India.

Each January, nearly half a million people visit the small town of Saundatti for a jatre or festival, to be blessed by Yellamma, the Hindu goddess of fertility. The streets leading to the temple are lined with shops selling sacred paraphernalia – glass bangles, garlands, coconuts and heaped red and yellow kunkuma, a dye that devotees smear on their foreheads. The older women are called jogathis and are said to be intermediaries between the goddess and the people. They all start their working lives as devadasis and most of them would have been initiated at this temple.

Girls from poor families of the "untouchable", or lower, caste are "married" to Yellamma as young as four. No longer allowed to marry a mortal, they are expected to bestow their entire lives to the service of the goddess.

The devadasi system has been part of southern Indian life for many centuries. A veneer of religion covers the supply of concubines to wealthy men. Trained in classical music and dance, the devadasis lived in comfortable houses provided by a patron, usually a prominent man in the village. Their situation changed as the tradition was made illegal across India in 1988, and the temple itself has publicly distanced itself from their plight.
---------
Chennawa, now 65 and blind, is forced to live on morsels of food given by devotees. "I was first forced to sleep with a man when I was 12," she says. "I was happy that I was with Yellamma. I supported my mother, sisters and brother. But look at my fate now." She touches her begging bowl to check if people have thrown her anything. "My mother, a devadasi herself, dedicated me to Yellamma and left me on the streets to be kicked, beaten and raped. I don't want this goddess any more, just let me die."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a NY Times review of "GREAT SOUL: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India" by Joseph Lelyveld:

Some years ago, the British writer Patrick French visited the Sabarmati ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat, the site from which Mahatma Gandhi led his salt march to the sea in 1930. French was so appalled by the noisome state of the latrines that he asked the ashram secretary whose job it was to clean them.

A sweeper woman stopped by for an hour a day, the functionary explained, but afterward things inevitably became filthy again.

But wasn’t it a central tenet of the Mahatma’s teachings that his followers clean up after themselves?

“We all clean the toilets together, on Gandhiji’s birthday,” the secretary answered, “as a symbol to show that we understand his message.”

Gandhi had many messages, some ignored, some misunderstood, some as relevant today as when first enunciated. Most Americans — many middle-class Indians, for that matter — know what they know about the Mahatma from Ben Kingsley’s Academy Award-winning screen portrayal. His was a mesmerizing performance, but the script barely hinted at the bewildering complexity of the real man, who was at the same time an earnest pilgrim and a wily politician, an advocate of celibacy and the architect of satyagraha (truth force), a revivalist, a revolutionary and a social reformer.
--------
As Lelyveld shows, the outcomes of Gandhi’s campaigns in South Africa were neither clear-cut nor long-lasting: after one, his own supporters beat him bloody because they thought he’d settled too quickly for a compromise with the government. But they taught him how to move the masses — not only middle-class Hindu and Muslim immigrants but the poorest of the poor as well. He had, as he himself said, found his “vocation in life.”

Soon after returning to India in 1915, Gandhi set forth what he called the “four pillars on which the structure of swaraj” — self-rule — “would ever rest”: an unshakable alliance between Hindus and Muslims; universal acceptance of the doctrine of nonviolence, as tenet, not tactic; the transformation of India’s approximately 650,000 villages by spinning and other self-sustaining handicrafts; and an end to the evil concept of untouchability. Lelyveld shrewdly examines Gandhi’s noble but doomed battles to achieve them all.

He made a host of enemies along the way — orthodox Hindus who believed him overly sympathetic to Muslims, Muslims who saw his calls for religious unity as part of a Hindu plot, Britons who thought him a charlatan, radical revolutionaries who believed him a reactionary. But no antagonist was more implacable than Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the brilliant, quick-tempered untouchable leader — still largely unknown in the West — who saw the Mahatma’s nonviolent efforts to eradicate untouchability as a sideshow at best. He even objected to the word ­Gandhi coined for his people — “Harijans” or “children of God” — as patronizing; he preferred “Dalits,” from the Sanskrit for “crushed,” “broken.”
---------
Gandhi is still routinely called “the father of the nation” in India, but it is hard to see what remains of him beyond what Lelyveld calls his “nimbus.” His notions about sex and spinning and simple living have long since been abandoned. Hindu-Muslim tension still smolders just beneath the uneasy surface. Untouchability survives, too, and standard-issue polychrome statues of Ambedkar in red tie and double-breasted electric-blue suit now outnumber those of the sparsely clothed Mahatma wherever Dalits are still crowded together.....

Riaz Haq said...

Sharia in India? BBC says young Indian couple stoned to death for having an affair:

Police in India say they have arrested eight people for stoning to death a young couple who had a love affair which met with their disapproval.

The accused include the parents of the murdered woman, who died alongside her lover. He came from a lower social group in Uttar Pradesh state.

There have been many cases in India where people have been killed for defying tradition and family honour.

Often these crimes are endorsed, or even encouraged, by village elders.

In the latest instance, police believe that Rajiv Verma and his girlfriend Renu Pal were stoned to death by a mob of about 200 people, including many of the girl's relatives.

The officer in charge of the investigation told the BBC that Renu's mother was suspected of playing a leading role in the killings.

The couple were murdered apparently because of the mob's "shame" that Renu, a student, should fall in love with her teacher, who came from a lower social group or caste.

The police said that community leaders had warned the couple to break off their relationship, but three days before their deaths, they ran off together.

Last month India's Supreme Court warned senior officials that they could be prosecuted if they failed to prevent such killings from taking place.

It said that in some cases village councils had encouraged or even ordered the deaths.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece "In Dalit student suicides, the death of merit" by
Vidya Subrahmaniam, published in The Hindu:

New Delhi: He killed himself in his college library, unable to bear the insults and taunts. The suicide note recovered from his coat pocket charged his Head of the Department (HOD) with deliberately failing him and threatening to fail him over and over. Seven months later, a three-member group of senior professors re-evaluated his answer sheet and found that he had in fact passed the test.
Medical student Jaspreet Singh, a Dalit by birth, wanted nothing more than to become a doctor.
Tragically, he fulfilled his ambition posthumously. A year later, his young sister, a student of Bachelor of Computer Application, also committed suicide, heartbroken at the injustice done to her brother.
Shocking details about the January 2008 suicide of the Chandigarh-based student have emerged following recent investigations by Insight Foundation, a Dalit-Adivasi student group that has compiled a list of 18 suicides by Dalit students studying in reputed institutions of higher education across India in the past four years.
The Foundation has also uploaded two documentaries onto YouTube, titled “The death of merit” — one on Jaspreet and the other on Bal Mukund, a Dalit student from Uttar Pradesh, who studied at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and committed suicide in March 2010.
Jaspreet was in the final year at the Government Medical College in Chandigarh. He was an excellent student throughout, and had never failed in any subject until he reached the fifth and final year.
This is when his ordeal began. His HOD told him that he might have entered medical college using his Scheduled Caste certificate but he would not go out with a degree.
The professor failed him in Community Medicine, a crucial subject, and told him, according to the suicide note, that he will not let him pass.
Jaspreet had set his heart on a MD degree from the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh. The threat cut short that dream.
Jaspreet's father, Charan Singh, told The Hindu: “I have no reason to live anymore. What more evidence do they want?”
Indeed, the evidence is clinching in this case. Jaspreet's suicide note; a certificate affirming Jaspreet's handwriting from the Directorate of Forensic Science, Ministry of Home Affairs, Shimla; testimonies from Jaspreet's friends; and finally, the re-evaluation of the answer sheet by a three member body of doctors from PGI, Chandigarh. All three doctors, Rajesh Kumar, Amarjeet Singh and Arun Kumar Aggrawal, specialised in Community Medicine – the subject in which Jaspreet was failed. Yet till date, no action has been taken against the guilty HOD or the college.
In Bal Mukund's case, the AIIMS authorities seized on the fact that there was no suicide note. Their version was that Bal Mukund, who had attempted suicide once earlier, killed himself in depression.
But Bal Mukund's parents plaintively ask: “Who and what drove him to depression? He had repeatedly told us that he was harassed because of his caste. He was about to change his name. He also wanted to settle abroad to escape the humiliation of being born a Dalit.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Indian blogger Namit Arora:

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, continues to thrive after calling the Dalits ‘mentally retarded children’ who gain ‘spiritual experience’ from manual scavenging. The media has little interest or insight into Dalit lives, nor hires low-caste journalists.[11] Major atrocities against Dalits still go unreported. Law enforcement is often indifferent or worse. There is no effective prosecution for discrimination in employment and housing. A Dalit politician can’t get a majority of upper-caste votes even in South Mumbai. Even among those few elites who read books, how many have read a single novel or memoir by a Dalit? In what is perhaps the most diverse country in the world, there is no commitment to diversity in the elite institutions that decide what is worthy art, music, and literature, or what is the content of history textbooks. In book after book of stories for children, both the protagonist and the implicit audience are elite and upper-caste.[12] Much the same is true of sitcoms, soap operas, and commercials on TV. Dalits are invisible from all popular culture that gets any airtime. The Indian army still has many upper-caste-only regiments. There is nothing like an Indian ACLU. Or a Dalit history month on public TV, or exhibits in museums, that seek to educate the upper-castes about a long and dark chapter of their past (and present). Unless a sizable proportion of elites, benumbed by privilege, open their eyes and learn to see both within and without, can there be much hope?

http://www.shunya.net/Text/Blog/OnCastePrivilege.htm

Riaz Haq said...

Have the Chamars no right, asks Indian Supreme Court, according to India's Financial Express:

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has severely criticised “some lawyers, journalists and men in public life” for accusing it of judicial over-reach for entertaining public interest litigation filed by “genuine social groups, NGOs and social workers” espousing the cause of the poor and downtrodden.

In a startling observation, the bench said that “so far the courts have been used only for the purpose of vindicating the rights of the wealthy and the affluent.”

“It is only these privileged classes which have been able to approach the courts for protecting their vested interests. It is only the moneyed who have so far had the golden key to unlock the doors of justice,” the court said in a July 12 judgment.

The court said it is praised when it gives judgments in favour of the rich but condemned with a “theoretical debate raising the bogey of judicial activism” when it gives relief to the poor on a PIL.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, in a 45-page judgment, said the highest court will be failing in its constitutional duty if it does not accept genuine PILs and “those who are decrying public interest litigation do not seem to realise that courts are not meant only for the rich and the well-to-do, for the landlord and the gentry, for the business magnate and the industrial tycoon but they exist also for the poor and the down-trodden, the have-nots and the handicapped and the half-hungry millions of our countrymen”.

The judgment, written by Justice Singhvi, came on a PIL filed by an NGO, National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers, highlighting the frequent deaths of sewage workers trapped in manholes.

The apex court gave the government a two-month deadline to ensure that these workers are given protective gear and better working conditions.

The court said the judgment is meant to “erase the impression and misgivings of some people” that by entertaining PILs of social action groups/activists/workers and NGOs fighting for those who silently suffer due to actions and/or omissions of the state apparatus and/or agencies/instrumentalities of the state or even private individuals, the superior courts exceed the unwritten boundaries of their jurisdictions.

“There is a misconception in the minds of some lawyers, journalists and men in public life that public interest litigation is unnecessarily cluttering up the files of the court and adding to the already staggering arrears of cases which are pending for long years and it should not therefore be encouraged by the court. This is, to our mind, a totally perverse view smacking of elitist and status quoist approach,” the court said.

“If the sugar barons and the alcohol kings have the fundamental right to carry on their business and to fatten their purses by exploiting the consuming public, have the Chamars belonging to the lowest strata of society no fundamental right to earn an honest living through their sweat and toil?” the court said.

“The former can approach the courts with a formidable army of distinguished lawyers paid in four or five figures per day and if their right to exploit is upheld against the government under the label of fundamental right, the courts are praised for their boldness and courage and their independence and fearlessness are applauded and acclaimed. But if the fundamental right of the poor and helpless victims of injustice is sought to be enforced by public interest litigation, the so-called champions of human rights frown upon it as waste of time of the highest court in the land, which, according to them, should not engage itself in such small and trifling matters,” it said....


http://www.financialexpress.com/news/have-the-chamars-no-right-asks-sc/817780/0

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Hindu on India's dismal human rights record:

Six months before India's human rights gets reviewed at the United Nations, the Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR) in India released a report painting a dismal picture of its rights record.

The U.N. Human Rights Council examines the rights record of its members on a rotational basis every four years through a peer review process, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Reports by the civil society, U.N. agencies and the country under review are relied upon during the UPR. India's review is due in May next year.

“The report presents a very bleak scenario of the actual state of human rights across India. The government has shown positive signs in dealing with the U.N. human rights system in the past year. We hope that this change extends to the UPR review in 2012 and beyond. Nothing but a radical shift in economic, security and social policy is needed to meet India's national and international human rights commitments,” said the former U.N. Special Rapporteur and WGHR convener, Miloon Kothari.

“The last four years have seen a marked increase in the deployment of security forces and draconian laws to deal with socio-economic uprisings and political dissent. Conflict is no longer confined to Kashmir and the northeast but also many parts of central India. In all these areas, human rights violations are overlooked and even condoned. The legal framework and practice have entrenched the culture of impunity. People are increasingly losing faith in systems of justice and governance,” cautioned noted human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover.

She felt the military approach and the ongoing conflicts contradicted India's stated position in the U.N. that it did not face armed conflict and pointed out that militarisation was also being used to forward the state's ‘development' agenda.

“Today, our institutions are in disrepair and failing our needs. Our police need urgent reform. Our bar bench and our myriad commissions need much more vigour, commitment and accountability. Every moment reforms are neglected, thousands of tragedies occur and we cannot build a nation on that,” according to Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Executive Director Maja Daruwala.


http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2704704.ece

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on "the newest god in the Indian pantheon: money:

Chezi K. Ganesan looks every inch the high-tech entrepreneur, dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of denim shirt and khaki trousers, slick smartphone close at hand. He splits his time between San Jose and this booming coastal metropolis, running his $6 million a year computer chip-making company.

His family has come a long way. His grandfather was not allowed to enter Hindu temples, or even to stand too close to upper-caste people, and women of his Nadar caste, who stood one notch above untouchables in India’s ancient caste hierarchy, were once forced to bare their breasts before upper caste men as a reminder of their low station.

“Caste has no impact on life today,” Mr. Ganesan said in an interview at one of Chennai’s exclusive social clubs, the kind of place where a generation ago someone of his caste would not have been welcome. “It is no longer a barrier.”
-------------
A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

India’s Constitution abolished discrimination on the basis of caste, the social hierarchy that has ordered Indian life for millenniums, and instituted a system of quotas to help those at the bottom rise up. But caste divisions persist nonetheless, with upper castes dominating many spheres of life despite their relatively small numbers.
-----------
It remains to be seen if the political agitation around caste in northern India will produce prosperity for lower caste people there, experts say. In India’s liberalizing economy these communities must prepare themselves to compete, not simply demand a bigger slice of the shrinking government cake, said Rajeev Ranjan, the chief bureaucrat in charge of industrial development in Tamil Nadu.

He is originally from Bihar, a northern state thoroughly in the grip of caste politics, but he has been stationed in the south for 25 years. He said northern states must heed the southern example. “Without that kind of social change it is very hard to do economic development,” he said. “One depends on the other.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/asia/11caste.html

HopeWins Junior said...

Dr. Haq,

I was so hurt when I read this:

Voice of the oppressed

Ali Anwar is the founder of the Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (‘Marginalised Muslim Front’), a union of several Dalit Muslim and Backward Caste Muslim organisations. A well known journalist, he is the author of Masavat Ki Jang (‘The Struggle for Equality’) and Dalit Musalman (‘Dalit Muslims’) and writes regularly on issues related to Backward Caste/Dalit Muslims, who form the majority of the Muslim population in South Asia. In this interview he talks about his involvement in the struggle for the rights of Backward Caste/Dalit Muslims. Read more at.....

http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2005/nov05/dalit1.html

This is so sad. Hope it gets better.

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "Ali Anwar is the founder of the Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz"

I guess he'd be better of in India if he dropped "Muslim" from it and stuck by his "Dalit" label.

According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims are worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men are unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% are unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 can not read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims account for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they hold less than 5% of government jobs.

Mayraj said...

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main54.asp?filename=Ne011212DALIT.asp
500 Dalit Homes Burnt… And A News Blip
A love marriage. A suicide. And three ravaged villages. Imran Khan reports on a deadly reprisal against Dalits in Tamil Nadu that should have made it to national news

HopeWins Junior said...

It's Shocking. Village council order boycott of Dalits....

http://alturl.com/j39a3

HopeWins Junior said...

This vile Caste oppression continues in India...

http://alturl.com/jocuu

India is going to go nowhere until they eradicate this horrific caste-based apartheid from its very roots.

What India really needs is a Pol Pot who will physically level this evil social-hierarchy with brute force.

HopeWins Junior said...

^^Anon: "Good news that the indian deficit is continuously increasing and it is higher than that of pakistan..."

^^RH: "I don't think it's good news for Pakistan...."
-----

I would like to congratulate you on this response. You have shown clear, rational thinking here.

For some strange reason, a lot of people do not seem to understand a very simple idea: A negative for India does not AUTOMATICALLY imply a positive for our country (or the other way around).

The fact that children go hungry in India does not feed children in our country. The fact that India's schools are failing does not guarantee success for ours. The fact that India's economy is slowing does not lead to faster growth in our economy.

It is NOT a zero-sum game.

HopeWins Junior said...

Vicious, hateful apartheid of untouchables....

http://alturl.com/96uvb
http://alturl.com/qvgo2

I find it impossible to call any society "civilized" when it has evolved structures like this. It is fundamentally evil. Shame on these oppressive people.

Such societies are DOOMED to failure.

Riaz Haq said...

According to World Values Survey done by two Swedish researchers, India, Jordan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong by far the least tolerant.

In only three of 81 surveyed countries, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not want a neighbor of a different race. This included 43.5 percent of Indians, 51.4 percent of Jordanians and an astonishingly high 71.8 percent of Hong Kongers and 71.7 percent of Bangladeshis.

Unfortunately, the Swedish economists did not include all of the World Values Survey data in their final research paper. So I went back to the source, compiled the original data and mapped it out on the infographic above. In the bluer countries, fewer people said they would not want neighbors of a different race; in red countries, more people did.

Pakistan, remarkably tolerant, also an outlier. Although the country has a number of factors that coincide with racial intolerance – sectarian violence, its location in the least-tolerant region of the world, low economic and human development indices – only 6.5 percent of Pakistanis objected to a neighbor of a different race. This would appear to suggest Pakistanis are more racially tolerant than even the Germans or the Dutch.



http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's TOI report on UK's decision to recognize caste-ism as racism:

British parliament's decision to recognize the existence of caste alongside race as a form of discrimination could hurt India's long-held argument that the two sources of bias could not be equated.

Worse, it may give a strong push to portray caste as a global phenomenon like race, undercutting India's claim that caste prejudice was indigenous to Indian society and it could not be a subject of policy at international fora like the United Nations.

As the law in the UK became a reality earlier this week, experts said it would trigger lobbying for similar legal protection in the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia - countries that are more sensitive to human rights issues and have a strong presence of Indian diaspora, but have little awareness of caste.

The presence of Hindu/Indian diaspora and a good chunk of dalits is the pre-requisite for such laws to come into effect. Officials and the civil society said a reluctant House of Commons could be persuaded because of the presence of around four lakh SCs in the UK.

While the development has led to glee among civil rights groups, the government is worried. Senior government sources said the UK law would pile pressure on India aided by noises from international bodies and greater scrutiny.

A laxity by Indian states in dealing with caste issues, as are routinely reported, could find mention in reports of Western countries and institutions. In the long-term, it could render India vulnerable as child labour and gender bias did earlier.

India has till now rebuffed pressure by arguing that caste was an Indian problem that stood proscribed by law with legal mechanisms to address it, including the affirmative action to help dalits. The official Indian stance on caste was unveiled at the 2000 Durban conference on racism.

Vivek Kumar, a sociologist with the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, "The studies on diaspora will have to acknowledge that caste exists outside India. The new law in the UK has strengthened claims of academics that caste is not a local problem, but is part of diaspora."

According to Anand Kumar Bolimera, country director of Christian Aid, "India should take the leadership position to deal with caste globally. India need not be defensive about it. Indian constitution barred caste discrimination half a century ago and it has the best laws to deal with the issue."

Globalization has been sending Indians across the world, but in future, experts say, their movement would be seen as not just of biological entities but also of a cultural baggage that includes decadent practices.


http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-28/india/38877655_1_caste-uk-law-indian-diaspora

Riaz Haq said...

Recent studies have suggested that India’s traditional caste system remains surprisingly intact despite the country’s economic surge. A 2011 report, for instance, found that in “40 percent of the schools across sample districts in Uttar Pradesh—India’s most populous state, with 199 million people—teachers and students refuse to partake of government-sponsored free midday meals because they are cooked by dalits (once known as untouchables).” It's also certainly still a factor in the country's politics, as shown by the emergence of the controversial Dalit politician Mayawati.
But when did the caste system actually begin? One team of researchers believes the country’s genetic history holds the key. In a recent paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad assembled what they call the “most comprehensive sampling of Indian genetic variation to date,” using samples collected from 571 individuals belonging to 73 “well-defined ethno-linguistic groups.” The data allowed the authors to trace not just the genetic mixture between these groups but how long ago this mixture occurred.
Five thousand years ago, the ancestors of modern Indians were comprised primarily of two groups: ancestral North Indians, who related to people of Central Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Europe, and ancestral South Indians, who are not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent. The mixture between these two groups and their many subcategories happened mostly between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago, according to the study. The authors note that this period is significant as it was a "time of profound change in India, characterized by the deurbanization of the Indus civilization, increasing population density in the central and downstream portions of the Gangetic system, shifts in burial practices, and the likely first appearance of Indo-European languages and Vedic religion in the subcontinent.”
Around 1,900 years ago, the mixture largely stopped, as Indian society moved toward endogamy—the practice of avoiding intermarriage or close relationships between ethnic groups—which reached its most extreme form in the creation of the caste system. As one of the study’s authors told the Times of India, "the present-day structure of the caste system came into being only relatively recently in Indian history."
How long it will last into the future is another question.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/08/20/origins_of_india_s_caste_system_genetic_research_suggests_the_country_s.html

Riaz Haq said...

#India largest democracy or slavery? India (14 million), #China (2.9m), #Pakistan (2.1m) on slavery's list of shame. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/17/world/global-slavery-index/

Riaz Haq said...

#India's campaigners welcome #EU resolution to end caste-based #apartheid in #India

http://gu.com/p/3jf8c/tw http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/11/dalit-victims-of-apartheid-in-india.html #Dalit

Riaz Haq said...

From: Asian Age

Mandela has exited the world, but Indian apartheid engendered by caste has not vanished and we have had no Mandela after Ambedkar. We certainly need one. Mandela was a champion of human rights and once he met with success he adopted the route of reconciliation with the white colonisers. In present-day South Africa, black rulers treat the whites as citizens and not as historical enemies. The blacks and whites are friends and comrades in the process of transformation and development of South Africa. Mandela, thus, is a symbol of uncompromising fight and reconciliation.
India did not face such a challenge from its white colonial masters because they left the country following Independence. But we had a caste-apartheid that needed a fight and reconciliation. Power was transferred to the Indian Whites — the upper castes — who were the torchbearers of the freedom struggle.
Ambedkar worked out a reconciliation principle through instruments of reservation and anti-untouchability laws, but caste as an instrument of graded apartheid remained intact. The anti-untouchability reconciliation did not work because the Hindu spiritual system does not espouse reconciliatory ideology in its body of literature.
Mandela’s task became easier because of the common Christian ethic that knits the blacks and whites. Once the whites started attending Church, where the blacks were pastors, and started dining together — Mandela’s reconciliation theory took roots.
But reconciliation between dalits and upper castes remains elusive in our country. For this, Ambedkar cannot be blamed. To liberate dalits he left Hinduism, even then no reform took place. Mandela, on the other hand, had to tell the whites to become better Christians and the reformation continues.
Fortunately, for Mandela, the Church had undergone a massive transformation by the time he pronounced his reconciliation. The Church was gradually evolving into a reconciliatory institution and this legacy helped Mandela. There were a number of white leaders in South Africa who were feeling guilty of practising racism and were declaring it un-Christian. The fifth century St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), who was Pope, was said to have been a West African black. http://www.asianage.com/columnists/sowing-seeds-reform-355

Anonymous said...

Police in India's West Bengal state have arrested 13 men in connection with a gang rape of a woman, allegedly on orders of village elders who objected to her relationship with a man.

The 20-year-old woman has been admitted to a hospital in a critical condition.

Unofficial courts in India's villages often sanction killings of couples deemed to have violated local codes.

Scrutiny of sexual violence in India has grown since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus.


Village 'justice'

July 2012: Asara village in Uttar Pradesh state bans love marriages and bars women under 40 from shopping alone, using mobile phones outside, and orders them to cover their heads when outdoors
May 2011: Eight people arrested in Uttar Pradesh for stoning to death a young couple who had a love affair
September 2010: A Dalit (formerly "untouchable") woman in Madhya Pradesh is ordered to pay 15,000 rupees ($330) compensation to the high-caste owners of a dog for feeding their pet. The owners say the dog became "untouchable"
August 2010: Village elders in West Bengal order a woman to walk naked in front of large crowds for having "an illicit love affair with a man from a different community"
June 2009: A Muslim woman and her Hindu husband kill themselves after the local village council orders them to annul their marriage or face death

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-25855325