Dalit issue in the Sub-Commission

Dear members/friends the Campaign,

Greetings from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights!

It has been a very intense and eventful week from Aug 3 till Aug 11, 2000.

1. The Sub-Commission finally passed a resolution (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/L.14) moved by Prof. Francoise Hampson Expert Member of the Sub-Commisssion, to entrust Mr. Rajendra Kalidas Goonesekere (Sri Lanka), expert member of the Sub-Commission with the task of preparing without financial implications a Working Paper on the topic of "discrimination based on occupation and descent, in order to:

Identify communities in which discrimination based on occupation and descent continues to be experienced in practice; Examine existing constitutional, legislative and administrative measures for the abolition of such discrimination; and Make any further concrete recommendations and proposals for the effective elimination of such discrimination as may be apppropriate in the light of such examination.

There was a lot of pressure from various sources including state sponsored NGOs to prevent the issue of Caste coming under the agenda of WCR or the Sub-Commission. Thanks to the efforts of many international NGOs and a highly focussed advocacy team from the NCDHR, India that this issue has finally light at the UN circles officially in the form of a Working Paper by an Expert Member of the Sub-Commission.

2. Another resolution (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/L.13) moved by Prof. David Weissbrodt, Expert Member, was passed by the Sub-Commission suggesting an agenda for the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. In the resolution Items 17, 17 (a) and 17 (m) focus on discrimination based on descent. This gives ample scope for the issues of Dalits to be brought in and made visible in the World conference on Racism. Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

3. CERD and Sub-Commission members: Almost all the members of CERD and the Sub-Commission who are currently having their sessions in Geneva were contacted and had informally shared with them the importance of the issue of Dalits to be made visible as an important part of the current forms of discrimination and violence against certain communities based on descent. Vincent Manoharan, Paul Divakar, Martin Macwan and Henri Tiphagne used all their contacts to link up with the memebrs.

4. On 5 Aug, MRG (Minority Rights Group International) had organised a Round-Table Conference in the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, on the various ways to strengthen implementation of CERD. About 12 Experts of the CERD and Sub-Commission participated in it along with a few invitees from international NGOs and grass roots NGOs. Paul Divakar was invited to share the Dalit expereince and the availability of the various instruments and their implementation in India. For many members of CERD and Sub-Commission the plight of Dalits in South Asia was a challenge to the Human Rights Community.

5. On 7 Aug, five NGOs from various parts of the Globe have made a written submission to the Sub-Commission on the various aspects of the Dalit struggle and experience under the agenda item No. 3. Anti Slavery International and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights; Pax Romana/Icmica; Lutheren World Federation, Minority Rights Group and the World Muslim Congress. While the first four bodies are memebrs of IDSN, the World Muslim Congress has not linked with the IDSN and seem tp be operating rather independently. The UN Press release says that the Sub-Commission was flooded with the statements on the Dalit issues.

6. A Briefing for the members of CERD and Sub-Commision and some international NGOs of the issue of Buraku and that of the Dalits from Nepal and India. This has taken place in Room XXIV, UN Building and was jointly organised by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights; Buraku Liberation League, Japan; and the Naplese Dalit organisations, Nepal and the International Dalit Solidarity Network. This briefing was chaired by an Indian Member of the Parliament, Mr. Prakash Ambedkar and co-ordinated by Martin Macwan. It was well attended by over 80 persons including 8 members of CERD/Sub-Commission. Martin Macwan made an excellant audi-visual presentation through multi-media projection with well researched material and with translations in Gerrman, French and Spanish. Mr. Takahashi Masato of the Buraku Liberation League who came in exclusively for this presentaion also made a written presentaiton. Joshua Robertson who authored an alternative report to the CERD on the discrimination in Nepal also shared in the Briefing Session. Mr. Sagar Biswakarma representing a Nepal Dalit organisaton was also present and shared his experience of the Dalilt discrimination. A special mention of thanks to Ms. Atsuko Tanaka of IMADR (International Moveement against Discrimination and Racism) who has made the link possible and facilitaed the solidarity between Buraku and the Dalits.

7. A meeting of the IDSN ((International Dalit Solidarity Network), took place in the Room 3 of the Ecumenical Centre on the 10 Aug and the WCC has hosted the event. IDSN decided to go ahead with an international campaign for the realisation of Dalit rights and has reinforced the decisions taken at the previous meeting regarding the various interventions in the Multi-lateral bodies as well as the UN monitoring bodies. Marilia Schuller and other colleagues at the WCC were very facilitative through out the time at Geneva. Bob Scott worked out a press statement and circulated 300 copies of them to various organisatons and press bureau. I would like to mention the effort taken by Rikke Norhlind (DCA), Denmark and Bernard Causemann, Germany who have come exclusively to support the efforts from their Solidarity bodies in Denmark and Germany.

8. Team that worked on the Dalit issues was - Mr. Prakash Ambedkar, MP; Prof. Gopal Guru; Mr. Martin Macwan, Convenor NCDHR; Mr. Vincent Manoharan, TN convenor NCDHR; Mr. Henri Tiphagne, Secretary Public Hearing, NCDHR; and Mr. Paul Divakar, Secretary Advocacy NCDHR. Ms. Ruth Manorama could not not participate and had to drop out ofthe team at the last minute.

9. Preparaotry Work: This team did a lot of preparatory work. Vincent Manoharan and Paul Divakar facilitated the building up of contacts with the CERD and Sub-Commission members and Internatinal Human Rights NGOs preparation of written statement to the Sub-Commission and sending out flyers for information. Martin Macwan brought out an excellant preparation of audio-visual presentation and well researched materials and translated materials in German, Spanish and French. Henri Tiphagne facilitated the preparation of press statements and in documentation. Along with the other members of the team Prakash Ambedkar and Gopal Guru were instumental in convincing the UN Ambassodorand the members of the Indian permanent Mission (Ms. Savitri Kunadi, Mr. Sharat Sabharwal and Mr. RN Prasad) and the and the Indian Sub-Commission Expert member Mr. Soli Sorabji on the need to make the Dalit issue visible. As a people's official representative, Prakash Ambedkar was very vocal in presenting the case for strengthening the implementaion of the various mechanisms to ensure justice and to prevent the discrimination as well as the violence on the Dalits. It was shock to realise that Ruth Manorama had dropped out in the last minute due to an emergency. It was a great loss to the team as the contribution from the Dalit Womens perspective could not be appropriately articulated and her rich experience in international advocacy could not be accessed due to her absence.

10. On behalf of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights I thank all the individuals and organisations who have strongly supported this issue at the Sub-Commission and CERD, the many friends who have contributed to tthe casue through their relentless advocacy work and for all those who strengthened the International Dalit Solidarity Network thorugh their participation. I would like to mention Peter Prove, LWF who had pulled all stops to strongly advocate for the Dalit cause and has broought all his contacts and skills in advocacy work to convince NGOs and Experts and had guided the preparatory team right through the inricate process. Friends ( Aruna, Bandhu, Bob, Janet, Marilia, Marriot, Poma and Susie) at WCC had gone all out to provide physical space for the preparatory work and had made available the facilities of WCC. The preparatory work for the team at Geneva would have been extremely difficult without those facilites. Miloon Kothari of Habitat International has guided the crucial process of discussions with the Indian Mission and in linking up with the Indian Sub-Commission Expert, Mr. Soli Sorabji to explain the position of NCDHR in the advocacy of the Dalit issue.

11. A detailed report is being prepared by Mr. Henri Tiphagne which will be published soon.

Jai Bhim

N. Paul Divakar
Secretary - Advocacy
National Campaign On Dalit Human Rights

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