Durban Diary: Para to discuss discrimination on the basis of work and descent on agenda of WCAR
By Dr. Satinath Choudhary
With the support of Switzerland, the following paragraph was in the agenda of WCAR. However, as the agenda had not been finalized by August 10, 2001, more discussions have been going on to finalize it. And last night it was almost dropped.
New 109: To assure that all necessary constitutional, legislative and administrative measures, including appropriate form of affirmative action, are in place to prohibit and redress discrimination on the basis of work and descent and that such measures are respected and implemented by all states' authorities at all levels; (Switzerland: 1.06.01)
Indian government could stomach this paragraph even though this paragraph does not directly mention caste discrimination in India. They have been vigorously lobbying to remove any reference to disccrimination based on anything other than "race". They indeed came pretty close to accomplishing their objective. They got Switzerland to withdraw its support for the above paragraph! But Guatemalla came out to give us a helping hand and saved the day for us. On account of their support the above paragraph continues to be on the agenda of WCAR, only the para number has changed. It is now para 73. Hurray for Guatemalla!
Last night at about 9 pm when we got the bad news of Swiss buckling down to the Indian Government lobby, for a moment we felt a let down. But we started talking about indefinite fast. Personally I thought the Swiss buckling had given us a blessing in disguise. Two hundred Dalits lying in front of ICC (International Convention Center) would have created a bigger bang compared to any discussion on descent based discrimination that may be held inside the building. In fact I did not come to know of the re-insertion of the paragraph at the behest of Guatemalla until morning. I had already started my fast and was not going to have my breakfast even though the group leaders had not reached a decision on the matter of fast. It was only after I mentioned to a couple friends that I was on "indefinite fast", that they mentioned to me about re-insertion of the paragraph. That's how my indefinite fast ended!
And guess who came to address the ending ceremony of the NGOs? Octegenarian comrade Fidel Castro. He kept talking and talking (for about ann hour and a half), giving statistics about how the industrial countries are exploiting 3rd world countries and berating IMF etc.
Yesterday (Friday, August 31) was more fun. There was a big rally and march of about 35,000 people protesting landlessness, Israeli occupation, racism and casteism. The rally began at 10:00 in the morning and continued for over three hours, making its way through the central parts of Durban and ending at the International Convention Centre, the venue of the World Conference Against Racism.
Landless South Africans of the Landless People’s Movement formed the single largest group taking part in the rally. Leading the march, however, were huge numbers of Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause from Africa and all over the globe, calling for an end to ‘Israeli Apartheid’. Between these two groups were the Dalits of India, protesting caste discrimination in South Asia, Japan and elsewhere.
The Dalit group featured drummers from several states in India. Various African and Palestinian groups, anti-globalisation and migrant labourers’ rights activists rallied with the Dalits, raising slogans expressing solidarity between the various struggles. Large numbers of participants from Africa, Asia and the rest of the world formed circles and danced to the Dalit drum. Viva Africa,Viva Palestine and Dalit rights are human rights were common slogans.