Dalit activists lobby in unison at Durban meet
Sunday, September 2, 2001 (Durban):
The United Nations World Conference on Racism, currently on in South Africa, has seen Dalits from all over the world unite and raise their voice against their oppression. Dressed in Ambedkar T-shirts Dalit activists from America narrate horrifying stories of caste violence in India.
At Durban, anyone can wear the Dalit label and join one of the most high profile campaigns. Even global struggles for oppression have their own hierarchies. In the jostling space, complex questions of caste discrimination have often to be reduced to a message that can be printed on a poster or on a badge.
"Part of the problem is that when you are alone nobody cares about you. No one has ever cared about Palestinians," said a Palestinian participant at the meet.
Can these faraway connections translate into protection for those who face caste violence in remote Indian villages? Regardless of the debate, what Durban has demonstrated is the formidable organising and lobbying skills of Dalit NGOs from around the world. "The preparatory committee has eliminated Para 9 which discusses caste and work-based descent. We networked hard for a meeting with the National Human Rights Commission. I was also helped by my Afro-Asian support here," said Dr Laxmi N Berwa, a Dalit activist from America.
Itís this solidarity between Dalit activists in India and around the world that has been the most crucial achievement of the Durban Conference.