Vancouver Declaration: International Dalit Conference

Adopted Unanimously
The International Dalit Conference Vancouver, BC, Canada,
May 16-18, 2003
WE, THE DALITS, from all over the globe having assembled at the International Dalit Conference, to deliberate the issues concerning the 250 million Dalits (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) of India and their future in the 21st century,

INSPIRED by that great thinker and philosopher of the oppressed, Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar,

REDEDICATE ourselves to his mission to bring about a democratic and peaceful transformation of India whereby all its citizens, irrespective of their gender, caste, creed, language and region, will enjoy the fruits of equality and justice,

WHEREAS the world has entered the third millennium and is progressing towards accomplishing the goals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and whereas India has failed to eradicate untouchability and caste and descent-based discrimination and is yet to achieve basic fundamental human rights,

CALL UPON the Dalits of the world to unite in their activism in the true spirit of interfaith and multiculturalism, and resolve to work tirelessly for the upliftment of the community,

AFFIRM that every human being has the inherent right to life and dignity and that Black is Beautiful and Dalit is Dignified,

MINDFUL of the fact that the Dalits and tribals, accounting for a fourth of India's one billion population, continue to be the victims of manifold discriminations and violence,

MINDFUL also that women belonging to these sections are the victims of gender-caste discrimination,

SINCERELY BELIEVE that the caste problem is not the problem of Dalits alone but also of the entire nation and without the Annihilation of Caste and the elimination of other primordial identities, India will not be able to realize its full socio-economic potential and claim its rightful place among the community of nations,

UPHOLD our unwavering belief in the Indian Constitution as well as the unity and integrity of India,

TAKE cognizance of the universal ideals enshrined in several international and national covenants and treaties - from the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights to the Bhopal Declaration and

ENDORSE wholeheartedly the Bhopal Declaration in letter and spirit,

AFFIRM our mission to support the struggles of oppressed people worldwide and muster all possible support from anywhere for the advancement of the Dalit cause,

RESOLVE to propagate knowledge of Babasaheb as a philosopher of emancipation to all the oppressed anywhere in the world, and to fulfil the pledge,

RESOLVE also to build our own educational, cultural and other institutions for the advancement of the community, we

REDEDICATE ourselves to institutionalize the process started in the Conference through constant coordination and by setting up a formal institutional structure for better networking among the Resident and Non-Resident Indian Dalit community as well as to make use of international institutions and processes to sensitize the world about the plight of the Dalits and Tribals in India,

WE therefore Demand,

1. The rightful and proportionate share of Dalits and tribals in India's national institutions, wealth and capital must be recognized. Economic exclusion hitherto practised in the name of caste must be done away with. The community should have equitable access to means of production and economic empowerment.

2. Since no development is possible without gender justice, women of these groups must be given priority in all developmental activities. They must have formal, legally sanctioned rights on par with men.

3. Private Corporations and Multi-National Corporations operating in India must recognize and accept their social responsibilities.

4. The United Nations and its affiliates, and non-governmental agencies concerned with human rights, social and economic development, must recognise that the Dalits are a special group and create separate Dalit divisions managed by the Dalits themselves. Their programmes and projects should have special Dalit components as well as special focus in their reports.

5. Dalit Studies must be included in Indian and international educational and research institutions, especially in North America and Europe, and universities should recognise the need to admit Dalit students on priority.

6. The World Bank and other International Financial Institutions should attach conditional special component clause and must ensure the rightful share of the Dalits in the funds they lend to India for socio-economic and sustainable development.

7. The international governmental and non-governmental development aid agencies should focus on Dalit development and empowerment with initiatives to be inbuilt in their system and adopted in the funding programmes.

8. Sustained efforts must be made at the United Nations to expedite the process of formally equating caste-based discrimination with Racial discrimination.

9. Untouchability is practised in many countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. No effort must be spared to address the problem by the world community.

10. Reorganize the National and State Commissions for SCs and STs as the SC and ST Vigilance Commissions and the decisions of these Commissions should be binding.

11. All laws, rules and regulations meant for protecting the rights of the Dalits must be included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India, to prevent unjust and lengthy litigation process which always goes against the community.

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Published on: May 22, 2003
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