India committed to end caste-based discrimination

PTI (Geneva, August 11)

INDIA IS committed to the elimination of caste-based discrimination in the country and does not need any outside solutions in overcoming the problem, the Human Rights Commission meeting was told here.

India said it was taking steps to accord top priority to the concerns of the scheduled castes and other weaker sections in the national agenda. The caste system came in for criticism during a general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights at the ongoing 52nd annual meeting of the sub-commission of the UN Human Rights Commission.

Deputy representative at the Indian mission here, Sharat Sabharwal, said the tools to bring about change in the social system were available within the Indian democratic polity itself and did not have to be sought elsewhere.

India unequivocally condemned all practices of discrimination and exclusion of scheduled castes and a special legislation has been enacted for the protection of their civil and political rights, he said.

"It is absolutely clear to the Indian Government that discrimination based on caste has no place whatsoever in a society which believes in equality and human rights", Sabharwal said.

He also rebuffed attempts to bring the caste system within the ambit of racism and racial discrimination.

Some NGOs and one of the 26 sub-commission experts El-Hadji of Senegal had argued that issues relating to caste-based discrimination should be brought before the agenda of the upcoming world conference on racism and xenophobia in South Africa.

El-Hadji said caste system was very difficult to eradicate and "the spirit of the conference against racism is to eliminate exclusion and inequality, and to end absence of respect for human rights for persons based on caste and customs," he said.

Sabharwal, however, maintained that India was not convinced that issues like caste system fell within the purview of racial discrimination. Bapurao Pakhiddey representing an Indian NGO - the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies - said "oppression" of scheduled castes and tribes continued in India even though the Constitution provided for affirmative action to better their lot.

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