India to oppose clubbing of racism with caste
Pioneer News Service/New Delhi
India's National Committee on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance met on June 4, ahead of the World Conference on Racism and Xenophobia in Durban later this year.
An External Affairs Ministry spokesperson here said the Committee received a number of views, recommendations and suggestions from different NGOs. "The Committee decided to give due consideration to the views expressed," the spokesperson added.
In 1997, as part of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, the United Nations General Assembly had decided to convene a World Conference on the issue, no later than 2001. The Conference is scheduled to be held between August 31 and September 2 this year in South Africa.
While no country has been identified as an abettor or promoter of racism, the Durban Conference is expected to bring some concrete instances of racial discrimination into focus. The forum is also expected to generate recommendations on action-oriented regional and international measures to combat all forms of racism.
India is extra-sensitive about the agenda of the Conference since various NGOs, domestic and international, have time and again pointed fingers at India's track record on caste-related discrimination, attempting to bring it under the broader rubric of "racial discrimination."
That India is touchy about the inclusion of caste as a criterion for racial discrimination was indicated by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh's opening remarks at the National Committee's first meeting in February this year where he repeatedly underscored the need for countries to adhere to the primary mandate of the Conference -- that of addressing the specific issue of racism.
Denouncing the "deliberate attempt by some to dilute the focus of this World Conference by broadening its scope to bring all forms of discrimination within the ambit of the Conference," Mr Singh had regretted the fact that in this process, "attempt is also being made to ascribe racial connotations to caste."
While emphasising India's opposition to discrimination "in any form" the Minister had said "racism should not be confused with discrimination in general. Nor is it within the purview of the World Conference."
Members of the National Committee on Racism have also expressed the need to keep "extraneous issues" like caste out of the Conference. In order to broadbase consensus within the country the Committee had also proposed wider consultations in the form of seminars and workshops as a build-up to the Durban Conference. Mr Singh had in fact recommended the holding of a National Seminar on Racism sometime prior to the World Conference