Dalits draft gets thumbs down
New Delhi, Sept. 7: The Dalit non-governmental organisations gathered at Durban to pressure the UN Conference against Racism to recognise caste-based oppression as part of the official agenda have suffered a major defeat with UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson rejecting the NGO declaration as unacceptable. She refused to place the document, carrying references to caste, Israel and other issues before the Conference for even a cursory discussion.
The days of aggressive lobbying by the NGOs, including hundreds of activists from India, came to nought as Robinson threw out the entire declaration saying at a press conference, it is sad for me that for the first time I cannot recommend to delegates that they pay close attention to the NGO Declaration. Thatís what I normally do, (I say) look, for goodness sake, pay attention. I would say to them, there are good things in the Declaration, but I cannot recommend it, because I cannot accept some of the language in it, particularly the reference to genocide.
Robinson also said that she had heard from international NGOs that the due process was not followed in framing the declaration which reportedly contains harsh language and contradictions. The caste system in India has been referred to as hidden apartheid in the declaration.
Millions of dollars, including Euro 3.5 million from the European Commission alone, have been reportedly spent to draft the document that was so summarily discarded by Robinson even though she had earlier described caste as an issue that merited consideration. The NGO declaration was particularly scathing in its reference to Israel which was described as a racist, apartheid State.
The strong language used in the draft declaration on various issues had compelled Robinson to reject the document. Delegations from concerned countries also registered their objections against the procedure adopted by the NGOs to frame the declaration. It was maintained that the document was not a product of democratic consultation but put together by groups that could not be said to represent the NGO community as a whole.