'Caste, race same in India'

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, JUNE 4. The Government of India's stand on caste came in for criticism by a large number of Dalit and voluntary organisations in the context of the U.N.-sponsored Durban world conference against racial discrimination. They expressed their views at the public hearing held here on Monday by the National Preparatory Committee of the conference headed by Mr. Justice Jagannatha Mishra.

In their petitions, the SC, ST and BC organisations insisted that caste and race were ``one and the same'' in India, citing bonded labour and practice of untouchability as the manifestations of caste discrimination.

The venue, Jubilee Hall, had banners and placards filled with anti-Government slogans. The Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr U. V. Krishnam Raju, had the inaugural function advanced by two hours and left the place soon after making a speech which, according to leaders of these organisations, was to avoid any possible gherao.

However, the day-long hearing by the panel, which consisted of 10 others, including Mr. Dileep Singh Bhuria, Mr. Justice B. L. Yadav and Mr. Justice Mohd Shamin, chairmen of National Commissions on SCs and STs, BCs and Minorities respectively, went on peacefully with each of the 75 petitioners given time to speak.

Prominent among them were Swamy Agnivesh who pleaded that he be sent to the Durban meeting as an official Indian delegate in place of the Minister who ``never knew what the problem of discrimination was'', Mr. John Dayal, Secretary- General of All- India Christian Council, who argued that ``caste is worse than racism'', Prof K. Ilaiah of Osmania University, the author of the book Why I am Not a Hindu and Mr. Paturu Ramaiah of CPI-(M), who heads the Committee for Struggle Against Caste Discrimination.

Leaders of non-Governmental and SC/ST/BC organisations who were invited to the hearing, from Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Bihar submitted to the Commission that the Durban meeting was the ``best chance'' to ventilate their grievances. They said the Government of India should ask for the inclusion of caste in the draft agenda of the meeting.

Mr. John Dayal and Prof. Ilaiah who spoke to the press later, described the present dispensation at the Centre as ``right reactionary''. The Minister of State for External Affairs Minister, in his speech earlier, said caste was not within the ambit of race as was being understood.

http://www.deccan.com/city/template.shtml#Dalits are ignored, says NGO

Dalits are ignored, says NGO

Hyderabad, June. 4: Several NGO’s and backward castes organisations have alleged the Indian government for being hostile towards the Dalits by opposing the inclusion of caste on the agenda to be discussed at the UN world conference on racism to be held at Durban in August 2001.

General secretary of the All India Christian Council John Dayal said the government was trying to delete caste from the agenda as it feels that the discussion will expose the social scenario in India.

He said the government has not consulted any NGO or Parliament while sending a delegation to the Geneva conference. In the same way, the government is trying to discourage the NGO’s who are demanding the inclusion of caste in the agenda for discussion at Durban conference, he added.

Professor Kancha Ilaiah said the government stand that caste is an internal problem, comes out of the fear that a discussion on caste will expose the hollowness of democracy. This shows the gravity of caste problem in India, he added.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: June 6, 2001
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