Saturday, April 16, 2016
Why is there no reservation for Dalit Muslims, Christians, wonders US State Dept’s India Human Rights report
By Our Representative
Ignoring Government of India taking strong exception to a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur (SR) report on caste-based discrimination, the United States (US) State Department’s “India 2015 Human Rights Report” has gone ahead and noted “significant discrimination against Dalits in access to services, such as health care, education, temple attendance, and marriage.”
Released two days ago, even as referring to numerous cases of caste-based violence against Dalits in India, the US report has pointed towards a new discrimination: It says, though “some Christians and Muslims were identified as Dalits”, the Government of India has preferred to limit “reservations for Dalits to Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains.”
India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ajit Kumar had reportedly described the UN special rapporteur’s report “a breach of the SR’s mandate”. Rita Izsák-Ndiaye’s report came as a surprise to Government of India: It was released amidst heightened political tension over the suicide of Hyderabad University Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula.
Kumar especially said that the justification of “minority-like characteristics” in SR’s report was not convincing, as it could cover almost every group in society.
The new US report says, although the law protects Dalits, those among them “who asserted their rights were often victims of attacks, especially in rural areas”, adding, “Most bonded laborers were Dalits. Dalits reportedly often worked without monetary remuneration.”
Referring to “systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women”, the report says, “Crimes committed against Dalits often went unpunished, either because authorities failed to prosecute perpetrators or because victims did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation.”
It refers to what it calls “widespread discrimination, including prohibiting Dalits from walking on public pathways, wearing footwear, accessing water from public taps in upper-caste neighborhoods, participating in some temple festivals, bathing in public pools, or using certain cremation grounds.”
It says, “Dalit students were sometimes denied admission to certain schools because of their... There were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit in the back of the class, or forced them to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities.”
“There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper-caste families”, the US report adds.
Especially referring to manual scavenging forced upon Valmiki Dalits, the report states, “The removal of animal or human waste by Dalits continued in spite of its legal prohibition” continues. It adds “Elected village councils employed a majority of manual scavengers and belonged to Other Backward Classes and Dalit populations.”
“The law prohibits the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (nonflush) latrines, and penalties range from imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of 2,000 rupees ($30), or both. Nonetheless, Indian Railways often violated the laws without consequence”, the report points out.
“Maharashtra led the country with 63,713 households engaged in manual scavenging, based on Socio-Economic Caste Census data”, the report says, adding, despite the Supreme Court order to enforcement of the 2013 law banning manual scavenging, the authorities “rarely implemented” it, adding, there were “at least 700 deaths in manholes across the country every year.”
“National crime statistics indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, assailants most often perpetrated rape against Dalit women”, the report says, adding, “lower caste” women were “reportedly pressured to have hysterectomies or other forms of sterilization because of the payment structures for health workers and insurance payments for private facilities.”
“Discrimination based on caste remained prevalent particularly in rural areas”, referring to the Indian National Council of Applied Economic Research survey which said that “27 percent of Indian households practice caste-based untouchability, with the highest untouchability practices found in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.”
Download full report HERE