Racism, caste system not same

New Delhi, July 19: After successfully stalling the figuring of the issue of 'caste system' in the main agenda for the next month's World Conference on Racism in Durban, the government has claimed that the issue was dragged to the world body to gain 'publicity'.

"The NGOs, which tried to put caste system in the same basket as racial discrimination at the 'Second Preparatory Committee (second PrepCom) on the World Conference' held recently in Geneva, were not doing any constructive work but were rather trying to get international attention," officials told PTI here.

"We have heard references being made to the caste system and members of the traditionally disadvantaged classes in India. We are, however, not persuaded that such issues fall within the ambit of the World Conference," Indian delegation had said at the second PrepCom. However, the government was also preparing for the third National Committee meeting to deliberate on the issue, the officials said, adding the meeting would be attended by committee members besides various social activists and NGOs.

The committee members include former Ambassador to US Abid Hussain and National Commission for Women (NCW) chief Vibha Parthasarathi. The committee is chaired by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.

The earlier two meetings, in the run up to the World Conference on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Durban from August 31 to September 7, were held in Delhi and Hyderabad.

While NGOs and other social organisations were trying to put caste system within the ambit of the World Conference to get international attention on the issue, the officials have been maintaining that both were different as racism was based more on biological basis whereas caste system was more on social set up.

"Besides, social set up being responsible for the caste discrimination, if at all it was there, the government has several policies for their uplift like reservation in educational and job sector for weaker and backward sections of the society," the officials said. However, well-known social activist Swami Agnivesh said "the government was creating embarrassment for itself by avoiding the discussion at the international platform as everyone knows caste discrimination is prevalent in the country."

The best way to face it was to let discussion take place, Agnivesh said and alleged, "in spite of legislations caste discrimination is present in the country."

With a few weeks to go for the World Conference and fewer to go for the third National Committee meet, it is to be seen whether the issue of caste will find the same place as racial discrimination. (PTI)

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Referred by:Mukundan CM
Published on: July 19, 2001
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