March 19, 2013 By

EU backs to end apartheid condition in India

MDG--Casts-system-in-Indi-008The European Union passed a resolution against caste-based discrimination in India, amid widespread reports that Dalits were denied their basic human rights. The resolution came after strenuous efforts by South Asian Campaigners against atrocities towards Dalits.

The International Labour Organization estimates that the lower castes are subjected to labour victimization, with forced and bonded labor particularly rampant in the agriculture, mining and garment production sectors.

Campaigner Manjula Pradeep told the Media that she was relieved after working hard to raise awareness of discrimination against Dalits. “When we started the process of lobbying the European parliament in 2007, we had to explain what caste discrimination was. Now we don’t have to say what it means to be Dalit, so it’s a reward, but we still have to do a lot of work”, she said.

Though India has taken affirmative action programs to support Dalits, in-built prejudices are preventing long-term change, Pradeep says. “When we were listening to the statements of the European Parliament, I thought about my own members of parliament and I wonder if they are ready to speak on the issue. Very few are ready. They don’t want to address it at a larger level, most often these issues related to caste have never been addressed at a national level in our country.”

Caste systems are prevalent in much of south-east Asia. There are 260 million people around the world who are affected by them. They are forced to do unpleasant and dangerous work. It can be said that the conditions people are forced to work in, can amount to slavery. Pradeeb says, “You are born as a sub-caste within the Dalits, given a caste identity and an occupation linked to that caste. If I belong to this caste, the first work that is forced upon me is cleaning human excrement with my hands. People are not able to get out of this slavery. India is seen as a large democracy, but it won’t address the issue; even politicians still believe these people should do this work; it’s a mindset”

Speakers criticized the current EU commitments for tackling caste discrimination. Although the EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told parliament that the issue was being tackled, MEPs disagreed.

“It is always a battle to get human rights in, especially something as specific as this, but certainly in some programs in the affected countries we will already be looking at the impact on the most deprived, and that would include Dalits.” Jean Lambert, an MEP for the green party in the UK, said.


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