NGO concludes with resolve to weed out caste
Chandra Bhan Prasad; Vivek Kumar/Durban
The five-day World NGO Forum meet concluded here late on Sunday with a resolve to to combat Race, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, where Caste, after Racism, has emerged as the second-most focussed concern. The closing ceremony was addressed by Cuban President Fidel Castro, who in his unusually long speech, called upon the delegates to fight "all forms of oppression", but refrained from mentioning "Caste" or India. Incidentally, only a day before, he had expressed "serious concerns" over the issue in his response to Pal Divakar's testimony before twelve states of Heads.
However, at the World NGO Forum, with a membership of over 160 NGOs from all over the world, and over six thousand delegates participating, Caste is the new catch-phrase. During discussions on the Draft-Declaration, most NGOs showed keen interest, and expressed solidarity with the Dalit delegation.
Arguments, literature, and cultural events apart, the mere size of the Dalit contingent -- which was largest on any single agenda -- had made Dalits visible all over the Natal Cricket ground. Now, the NGO activism world over has a document which, along with Racism, seeks to combat Caste discrimination.
Since the NGO Forum conference is concluded, the delegates are concentrating their energies in lobbying in order to get support for their respective concerns. Sunday was the third day of the Inter-governmental conference, where chief of Indian government's delegation and also Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Omar Abdullah, was slated to speak late in the day.
The NGOs in this part of the world greatly influence public opinion, including the Press.
It is feared that the globtrotting Indian academics, artists, journalists may have a tough time in explaining India's Caste system and Dalits' exclusion from the national mainstream.
So great has been the impact of the Dalit delegation that a number of foreign journalists have been chasing Dalit activists for details on the organisation of Indian society, and Dalits' position therein.