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Treat caste on a par with racism: panel

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI, APRIL 19. The Governments at the Centre and the States, and social organisations should make efforts to enable Dalits, who have been victims of caste clashes in their villages and have been forced to leave their land, to go back and live in their own villages. Also, the Dalits should be supported with necessary facilities to continue with their livelihood.

These recommendations were made in the context of the Kambalapalli carnage of March 11 by an independent nine-member jury on Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day `National Public Hearing' here on several cases of violation of human rights of Dalits.

The panel, headed by the former Bombay High Court judge, Mr. H. Suresh, felt that the National Human Rights Commission and the international community should recognise that ``caste, as an institution itself, is a source of violation of human rights. Therefore, it must be treated on a par with the existence of racism and apartheid.''

Those forced out of their villages should be properly accommodated in places of their choice with full security. Moreover, the groups which committed the atrocities should be made to bear the cost of rehabilitation of the Dalits and this could be done by attaching their properties completely or allotting it to the Dalits.

Also, the Central and State Governments should organise a massive campaign against the caste system and untouchability and this should be done on a priority basis. Stating that the rights of the Dalits continued to be violated, the panel said ``the State is continuing to perpetuate violence against the Dalits; colluding with the dominant castes in several areas in all the States and it fails to implement all the relevant laws and rules. The judiciary has not responded to the violation of the rights of the Dalits with adequate sensitivity and urgency.''

Briefing mediapersons, Mr. Suresh said in two days the panel heard about 60 cases of human rights violations. Ms. Mohini Giri, former Chairperson of National Commission for Women, said that on the basis of inputs from the hearing, 10 core issues affecting the Dalits would be identified and discussed with the Prime Minister besides the Home and Law Ministers.

Ms. Rani Jethmalani, senior advocate, said several states had not adopted the legislation on elimination of manual scavenging. It was regrettable that the Backward Classes had, of late, become oppressors of the Dalits.

Responding to a question on the Kambalapalli violence, Dr. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University and a member of the jury, said the killing of one person from a dominant social group in the village could not be linked with the burning alive of six Dalits.The other members of the jury included Mr. Justice K. Punnaiah, Member of the Constitutional Review Committee and a former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge, Mr. Samir Das, former Patna High Court Judge, Ms. Sona Khan, senior advocate, and Ms. Kumud Pawde, Dalit writer.


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