Govt. flayed for denying visas
By Our Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI, FEB. 27. Seeing in the forthcoming third World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) an opportunity to expose the ``hidden apartheid'' by way of caste discrimination in the country, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights today came down heavily on the Government for the reluctance to accept its existence in international fora.
Addressing a press conference here on the eve of the `Global Conference Against Racism and Caste-Based Discrimination: Occupation and Descent-based Discrimination Against Dalits', the convenor of the meet, Mr. Martin Macwan, said this was the position taken by the Government at the Asian preparatory conference in Teheran earlier this month.
Mr. Macwan and other advocates of the rights of Scheduled Castes said the Government sent its own battery of NGOs to Teheran to drown the voices that sought to expose the ``hidden apartheid'' at the preparatory meeting. ``And, continuing with this policy, the Government has denied visas to four delegates who were to attend the conference opening on Thursday.''
While other delegates are coming on existing visas, these four had cited the conference as ``purpose of visit''. The Government has apparently taken the position that visas could not be granted to the four - one each from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Senegal and Denmark - as the conference had not been cleared by the External Affairs Ministry.
Stating that the Government had consistently refused to see caste as a form of racial discrimination, Mr. Macwan said this position had not changed even after the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination clarified in 1996 that Scheduled Castes fell within the scope of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
As to what purpose would be served by internationalising the caste issue, Prof. Sukhdeo Thorat from Jawaharlal Nehru University said: ``India is a signatory to the convention and WCAR is a forum when governments are held accountable for the condition of people covered by it. No doubt, India has enacted laws to promote the condition of the Scheduled Castes, but we have been lacking in implementation.''
``Why is the Government reluctant to internationalise the caste issue when it has allowed other problems like labour and gender status in India to be discussed in international fora. Why this discrimination towards the caste issue?''