"Caste, Race same in India- March to Durban-South Africa!"

* Nishikant Waghmare

" Noble is your aim and sublime and glorious is your mission. Blessed are those who are awakened to their duty to those among whom they are born. Glory to those who devote their time, talents and their all to the amelioration of slavery. Glory to those who would reap their struggle for the liberation of the enslaved in spite of heavy odds, carpine humiliation, storms and dangers till the downtrodden secure their Human Rights." -Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.

A UN proposal to convene a world congress on 'Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance' in Durban appears to have provoked a section of the intelligentsia In this country and over seas to urge that India's caste system should also be brought into the ambit of the discussion. The proponents of this view have highlighted the crippling discriminations inherent in the caste order. They are right in denouncing the violation of human rights as an essential feature of the caste system, especially in the way it has been practiced over centuries. Indeed, some characteristics of untouchability such as defilement by touch or even by the casting of a shadow, as in earlier times, are worse than racial indignities. -Hindustan Times, June 6,2001.

Racism spreads to Internet, says UN, Geveva, Times of India, June 1, 2001. Mumbai.

"Caste, Race Same in India" The Hindu, Hyderabad, June5, 2001.

Untouchability, caste-system and hierarchical discrimination have taken roots in the subconscious of the India psyche. We are the sinners who have misused God, religion, myths and scriptures to make this happen. Gandhi's saying that " Untouchability is a sin" Swami Vivekananda's describing it as " lunatic" and Dr. Ambedkar's statement" I shall not die as Hindu when Untouchability exists"- none of these seem to shock us. The biggest problem of our society is that since we have made discrimination itself a value, untouchability appears" natural" to us and therefore does not seem to be a problem of discrimination.

India got Independence 54 years ago, till today Dalit has to suffer for basic needs for their day to day living i.e. drinking water, food, shelter and right to live as human being in the Indian society. The untouchables "Dalits" were denied even human Rights, which are essential for a bare existence of human life. They were not allowed to drink water from public well; and even their shadow was supposed to pollute the so-called upper castes. The Hindu social order made the life of the Dalits miserable in every sense of the term. The Hindu Dharmashastra gave sanction to this evil Caste system and practice of Unthouchability. This continued for the Centuries. ….2.

Then arose on the horizon Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the liberator of the Millions of downtrodden in India. He made abolition of the Caste system and Untouchability a Mission of His Life. Perhaps it would take a rebirth by the Mahatma Gandhi to end the abominable evil of Caste. As He himself had said;" If I do not want to attain Moksha, I do not want to be reborn. But if I were to be reborn, I should be born an Untouchable…. not as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra But as an Atishudra, a Bhangi."

"Educate and inform the mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is in their interest to preserve peace and order and they will preserve them. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Let us, fellow-citizen, unite with one heart and one mind… Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle."-Jefferson Thomas.

As Indian President Mr. K.R.Narayanan, himself a Dalit, noted in his public address to the Nation on the eve of Republic Day, January 25,2000, " these (constitutional) provisions remain unfulfilled through bureaucratic and administrative deformation or by narrow interpretation of these special provisions." Dalit usually live in separate areas away from the caste Hindu communities, and they are often forbidden to access public restaurants or patronize street vendors, they must use a special glass for drinking tea or coffee to prevent sharing between Dalits and caste Hindus. Dalits in different parts of India cannot enter Hindu temples or Christian churches, and some religious leaders forbid inter-caste marriages.

The Indian Express, New Delhi, June 11,2001,cover page Special Report by Sukhmani Singh, Bhilwara, Rajasthan village…. Dalits don't redraw the village map here, those who do get killed. Gujjar beats 65-years-old Regar to death for praying in upper caste temple, cops says cases of atrocities on lower castes on the rise. Did they say something about caste loosening its stranglehold over rural India? That, post-Mandal, it is finally possible for lower castes to achieve previously unheard of social mobility? They were wrong. In a Rajasthan village, the archetypal evils of the caste system- separate wells, a bar on entry of Dalits into temples, segregated houses- are not just alive, they're causing deaths.

I hope that the Indian Government itself insists a discussion on caste issue at the UN world conference, so that it would enhance the Indian government's dignity. As long as untouchability remains as social practice it will seriously compromise India's dignity and the values of equality and non-discrimination.

A discussion at UN World Durban Conference will strengthen India's International reputation as a country committed to values of pluralism, tolerance, diversity and equality which stands firm to counter the forces that seek to destroy these values. If Indian Government refusal to allow a full discussion on Caste will subject India to the charge of political and social hypocrisy and will damage its reputation in the community of Nations, where it is seeking an enlarged role in world affairs. …3.

India's caste system assigns individuals a certain status according to Hindu beliefs. Traditionally, there are four principal castes (divided into many sub-castes0 and one category of people who fall outside the caste system- the Dalits. As members of the lowest rank of Indian society, Dalits face discrimination at almost every level: from access to education and medical facilities to restrictions on where they can live and what

Jobs they can have. The discrimination against the Dalits is especially significant because of the number of people affected. There are approximately 160 Million Dalits in India, constituting fifteen percent of the total Indian population.

All Dalits groups in the world must come together and make it happen in Durban that we are one. It will be the good opportunity to achieve our Human Rights and most important is the need to respect the right to be a human being.

The late former President of Tanzania Mr. Julius K. Nyerere, had said;' When the vote is a human Rights and bread is a privilege of the few, democracy is a mockery. It cannot be an instrument of peace and harmony because it is not an instrument for justice. The surest way to build and to maintain peace within and between nations is to work for justice-justice for all persons and all groups. " Peace is a product of justice. They work for peace who work for justice."

Nations have come and gone, Empires founded on might and force have flourished and perished but the Empire of the Dhamma founded by the Buddha, on love, compassion and reason, still flourishes and will continue to flourish.

The Buddha established a classless society by opening the gates of the Sangha to all deserving individuals, making no distinction between Caste and Class. The fundamental principle of Buddhism is Equality…Buddhism was called the religion of the Shudra's… there was only one man who raised his voice against separatism and Untouchability and that was Lord Buddha… Buddhism is the only religion, which does not recognize Caste and affords full scope for progress.

I being a flying Crew Member with Air- India had meeting with so many Dalits around the world and will be meeting next one month so many leaders on the caste issue at Durban. I must convey infinite gratitude and sincere thanks to Mr. R.D.Kamble, Abu Dhabi, Dr. Laxmi N. Berwa, USA, Dr. Narendra Jadhav; IMF, USA; Dr.B.L.Mungekar,Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University, Mr. Ramdas Athawale, M.P.Mr. Gautam Chakravarty, Mr. Henry Thaigaraj, Tamil Nadu, Mr. Maja Daruwala, Prof.Ravivarma Kumar, Karnataka, Mr. Devanoora Mahadeveva, Martin Macwan, Mr. John Dayal, Prof.K.IIaiah,Mr.Paturu Ramaian, CPI(M) and many Dalits around the world for doing such wonderful work for this Durban conference in advance. I wish every one grate success and possibility.

I will be meeting most of our M.P.'s in July in New Delhi. We must take 30-40 Member's of Parliament from SC/ST to Durban if our voice to be heard by the World Press/TV media the United Nations and Government Of India. …4.

Dr. B.R.Ambedkar a great scholar, Lawyer and freedom fighter along with hundreds of thousands of Mahar's a untouchable caste, converted to Buddhism and changed the face of Buddhism in India. Dr. Ambedkar's conversion was a symbolic protest to the oppressions of caste inequality. His conversion was an intellectual decision that would meet with the least opposition from the Hindu majority.

Dr. Ambedkar's speech on the Eve of the great conversion at Nagpur, on October15, 956. Dr. Ambedkar said, This religion can serve not only this country,India,But the whole world at this juncture in the world affairs: Buddhism is indispensable for world peace you must pledge today that you, the followers of Buddha, will not only work to liberate yourself, But will try to elevate your country and the world in general.

He said; I am reported to be against peace. This is not correct. I am for peace. But, the peace, which is, based on justice not the peace of a graveyard." So long as Justice is not respected in the world there cannot be any peace. Buddhism and Buddhism alone can save the World."

I pray that this occasion of UN World Conference against Racism will turn that chapter of Untouchability and discrimination into a India full of love, respect for human values and peace for the dignity of Humanity.

"Peace alone can bring happiness, prosperity and harmonious relationships with all human beings-Living in the spirit of "May Peace Prevail on Earth"

" I have a dream that one day on the red hill of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood…. That one day even the State of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice…. That my four little children will one day live in a Nation where they will not be judged by the co lour of their skin but by the content of their Character."-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.--- Speech at Civil Rights March in Washington, August 28,1963.

May peace be in South Africa!
May peace be in India!
May Peace Prevail on Earth!

With Infinite Love, Peace and Possibility!

Yours in the service of Humanity,

Director-Asia & Pacific
Airline Ambassadors, UN NGO
June12, 2001. Mumbai, India.

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Published on: June 16, 2001
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