Racism conference drops reference to caste

After nine days of contentious debate, the World Conference against Racism adopted late on Saturday a declaration recognising the injustice of slavery and colonialism and the plight of Palestinians, but the issue of caste found no mention.

Indian official sources said the controversial paragraph on 'work and descent' as the basis for discrimination was not included in the final document because there was no consensus on it.

Several dalit non-governmental organisations had been pressing hard to get caste included in the final declaration to highlight the discrimination against them.

But the Indian government opposed paragraph 73 of the draft declaration, which sought to mention discrimination on the basis of work and descent.

It suggested instead a fresh formulation by dropping the word 'work' and replacing it with race, colour, national and ethnic origin, besides descent.

The conference in Durban, South Africa, which was supposed to end at noon on Friday, went into overtime on the contentious issues of how to deal with slavery and colonialism and how to address the conflict in the Middle East.

Over a week of heated debate earlier saw the United States and Israel abandon the conference after a compromise formula on the Middle East, advocated by Norway, failed.

Even as compromises on slavery and colonialism and the Palestinian issue were reached, Arab countries fumed at not being able to get the conference to endorse their condemnation of Israel.

In the closing session, delegates adopted a 'Programme of Action and Declaration', which will serve as a blueprint to fight racism.

Under the slavery deal, the declaration described slavery and the slave trade as a crime against humanity.

The compromise recognised the Holocaust and condemned anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and also expressed concern 'about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation'.

But it did not specifically criticise Israel or Zionism.

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Referred by:Benjamin P Kaila
Published on:9 Sep, 2001
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