Monday, April 5, 2010

[ZESTCaste] India clashes with Britain over Equality Bill racism law - Daily Telegraph


India clashes with Britain over Equality Bill racism law

India is set to clash with Britain over Westminster's new Equality Bill which outlaws caste discrimination as a form of racism.

Dean Nelson, in New Delhi
Published: 6:50PM BST 31 Mar 2010

The bill, which has been passed in the House of Lords, has been welcomed by campaigners for India's "dalits" or "untouchables", a caste which suffers extreme violence and persecution, but has been rejected by their government.

There are more than 250 million dalits in India, many of whom are denied water, access to schools, and in some cases the right to pass through villages by upper caste Hindus who believe their presence, or even their shadow, pollutes them. Some dalits in India still work as "night soil carriers" – transporting human waste from latrines.

One prominent dalit campaigner had his arms and legs amputated because he refused to withdraw a police complaint against higher caste men who had raped his daughter.

Ministers in London have become increasingly concerned about discrimination and persecution against lower caste Indians in Britain following a report last year which claimed thousands had been ill-treated because of their caste.

The report, by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance, surveyed 300 British Asians and cited cases of children being bullied at school, bus inspectors refusing to work with lower caste drivers, and employees being sacked after their bosses discovered their caste status.

Until now victims of caste discrimination in Britain have had no recourse to law. India also has legislation outlawing caste discrimination but is fiercely opposed to any comparison with racism.

The Indian government has made its views known to British delegations at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva and at a European Union-India Human Rights Dialogue last month.

"India's position on this issue has been clear and consistent. Caste and race discrimination are two separate issues and there is no case to equate the two. We are opposed to attempts at international fora to equate the issues," said an official source.

Until the mid-1990s India had back moves to include all discrimination based on descent as a feature of racism in the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. But it changed its position in 1996 when it is understood to have become concerned at onerous reporting obligations under the convention.

India's leading campaigner for dalit rights, Dr Udit Raj, last night welcomed the Equality Bill and said it would increase pressure for the UN to recognise caste as a form of racism.

"The United Kingdom has done the right thing. The new law will give moral boost to the people discriminated on the basis of their caste and will force the UN to include caste as a tool of discrimination. The government of India has been adopting dual standards. At world forums they accept Indians are victims of caste but when it comes to local politics and policies they cash in on caste politics," he told The Daily Telegraph.


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