Meet throws spotlight on casteism


ANGALORE: The first national consultation on racism and racial discrimination on Saturday threw open a platform to many non-governmental organisations, human rights activists and victims of casteism to air out views and experiences in order to fight against the much prevalent caste system in Indian society.

Organised by the National Human Rights Commission and the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), the public hearing, part of the two-day seminar, facilitated the NHRC to formulate an opinion about the problem of casteism and racism.

One burning issue, which a very large section iterated, was that the caste issue should be included in the World Conference against Racism to be held in Durban from August 31 to September 7. ``The problem of casteism in India is more enduring and severe than any other country, but it is only being less expressed. The Apartheid system collapsed only when the problem was addressed internationally. The same needs to be done in this case,'' stressed a few Human Rights activists.

Participants, hailing from all corners of South India deliberated on an endless list of gruesome atrocities meted out to dalits, most of whom still have not received any justice. Incidents where dalit victims were, burnt alive, had their hands and legs chopped off, forced to flee from their home towns, physically assaulted and gang raped, were cited during the public hearing. Some participants came down heavily upon the structure of jurisdiction in India, which according to them, is unable to come to the rescue of such atrocities.

NHRC chairman Justice J.S. Verma, who presided over the function said, ``The purpose of the public hearing was to help the NHRC formulate an opinion and effectively present a view to the government. We may not agree with all the views expressed at the forum, but we will nevertheless respect it.''

Prof Kancha Ilaiah called upon the NHRC to take a stand and define the problem of casteism as a human rights issue. He also requested them to make their formulation public by August 20 so that the public can reciprocate the NHRC's opinion adequately.

The second national consultation on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is being organised by the Commission on August 11 at the Commission Room, Federation House, FICCI, Tansen Marg, New Delhi.

NHRC members Justice K. Ramaswamy and Veerendra Dayal, joint secretary NHRC Jalaja, director NLSIU G. Mohan Gopal, co-ordinator S. Japhet, many noted human rights activists and representatives of more than 30 NGOs were present on the occasion.

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Referred by: Mukundan C.M.
Published on:August 5, 2001
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