Appeal To Include Casteism As A Form Of Related Intolerance In The Agenda Of The World Conference Against Racism

We the undersigned appeal on behalf of all those concerned by the non-inclusion of Casteism in the Agenda of the United Nations Conference "Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance". Casteism is as antithetic as racism to human rights and democracy remained as an unmitigated scourge of Indian society for several centuries without attracting the attention of the global community. The subtle form of human discrimination leading to human intolerance has now assumed global proportions.

Though the Constitution of India prohibited discrimination on the basis of caste and a few legislations have been enacted to prohibit different forms of intolerance such as untouchability, bonded labour etc., they have not improved the situation of discrimination to millions of people.

The Caste system is an artifact through which the Indian society is hierarchically divided into different layers ranging from high caste to low caste with graded discrimination based on birth. The high caste oppressed the low caste by perpetuating different forms of discrimination, intolerance and on some occasion even atrocities, all in the name and form of prescribed social order set to be unique to India. Due to oppression one fifth of the total population who are the victims of human discrimination has no social, economic and human rights.

Therefore, Casteism deserves to be included in the Agenda of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR).

1. The UN definition of Racism being "Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life".

Articles 15,16,17,29,331,332,341 of the Indian Constitution, The Removal of Untouchability Act of 1955 and the 22 categories of Violence Listed in The Scheduled Castes Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 all bring Casteism under the purview of the above UN definition of the term 'Related Intolerance'.

As per the report of the National Commission of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe as well as the Human Rights Commission, out of the 35,000 cases of recorded violence against Scheduled Caste (SC) per year in India under the SC Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, a very low percentage of conviction rates duly highlights the gross inadequacy of legal remedies made available to SC.

Therefore the ensuing World Conference Against Racism must include Casteism since the theme of the Conference includes not only Racism but also the Related Intolerance. In as much as Casteism is a form of Intolerance, the proposed United Nations Conference should include Casteism as one of the items in the Agenda under 'Related Intolerance'.

2. The millions of low caste Indians (Dalits) around the globe constitute a large unfortunate segment of the world population due to caste-based discrimination similar to that of racial discrimination. Thus, Caste is a global concern that deserves inclusion in the Agenda of the global fora especially in WCAR.

3. India having championed the cause of human rights in South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and many other nations, and having voiced its concern over all forms of discrimination during the last 50 years, it is only but natural for India to take up the issue of Caste-based discrimination as a theme of related intolerance for discussion in the WCAR.

4. The Indian Government is requested to review the stance that we have our own constitutional remedies for the ills of Casteism, and seek global solidarity, expertise and help to address this multinational problem as we do in the case of other global issues like Child Labour, Women, AIDS, Human Rights etc.

Though Racism was considered by many nations as their internal problems of discrimination, they allowed Racism to be discussed in the UN system. Hence, India is requested to emulate their example and allow the world community to discuss Casteism as a form of related intolerance.

5. The tens of thousands of atrocities and human rights violations on women, children, bonded labourers and the downtrodden people of India has proved that the human rights violation cannot be adequately addressed as per the UN Declaration of Human Rights unless Casteism is recognised by the UN as a fundamental cause of these violations.

6. Casteism has been fortified by three millennia of strictest hypergamy and untouchability, which was canonized by divine interdiction to preserve the so-called purity of blood and ascribed status of birth. Therefore, the International forum must of necessity deal with social, economic, educational and all other emancipatory issues, connected with Casteism, which are of global concerns.

We appeal to the Government of India to respond to the universal demand from around the globe to review its present stance and allow the crucial issue of Casteism to be included in the Agenda of WCAR in Durban.

We appeal to the United Nations and all the Member States to lend support to address this most crucial issue of Casteism as a form of Related Intolerance in WCAR and help all concerned nations in their effort to restore human rights to the exploited millions who undergo the agony of discrimination in the Member States of the UN system.


Dr. A. Padmanabhan Former Governor, Mizoram

Dr. Mrs. Nagabooshanam Former Vice-ChancellorLaw University

Dr. K. RajaratnamFounder - Director, CReNIEO

Dr. K.P.Krishna Shetty Senior Advocate Madras High Court

Dr. Simon Sukumar Ex. Chief Technical Advisor,United Nations (TCMD/DESD)

Dr. Ebe Sundar Raj Joint Convener United Christian forum for Human Rights

Mr. Henry ThiagarajFounder - Director Human Rights Education Movement of India

Dr. D.Sundaram Senior Professor of SociologyUniversity of Madras

Dr.V.Nagarajan Professor and Head Department of Adult and Continuing Education University of Madras

Dr. Victor Premasagar Professor Gurukul

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Source: Dalit E-Forum
Referred by: Sashi KanthM
Published on: June 30, 2001
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