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United Nations and ‘untouchability’

Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognise caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentia.

There is a difference between caste-system as a social system and politically motivated form of caste leading to casteism. In the modern political understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less.

Even today, many intellectuals, sociologists and reformers regard Varna-system its purest form, followed by caste-system, as one of the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. Famous American sociologist, Don Martindale says, “ Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, What no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole India.”

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. “Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conferernce.

In order to understand the problem, it is necessary to know something about the caste system and empowerment of Dalits or other weaker sections in India. The complete localization of the caste system in India and its unfamiliarity with rest of the world makes the task difficult for the Western World to understand and appreciate its role in totality. They are mystified by the amazing pluralities and unique social structure, because of its being an indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.

Many Indians find it difficult to appreciate Dalit activists attempt to seek US or foreign intervention in internal matters of Indian society. India is continuously making efforts to improve the position of all its submerged people including untouchables. Two experts on poverty, Gaurav Datt and Martin Ravallion, (in their paper on “Has India’s Economic growth become more pro-poor in the wake of economic reforms?”) on the basis of consumption-based poverty measures from 1950 t0 2006 and 47 rounds of National Sample Surveys conclude that the post-reform process of urban economic growth has brought significant gains to both rural and urban poor. Even though agricultural growth has been relatively weak since 1991, overall high growth has positively affected the lives of rural masses. India’s high economic growth since 1991 is indeed pro-poor and has decisively helped the poor. They believe that the reforms would create a more efficient and productive economy, which would raise the overall growth rate and transform both urban and rural society. Such a transformation occurred in the West during nineteenth century and in East Asia in the second half of the twentieth  century. Now is the turn of India.

Being a free developing nation, India does not need foreign intervention on its internal problems. India is a sovereign democratic country offering enough freedom to air grievances at home. It is quite capable to see that nobody is left behind by its increasing prosperity, to take care of all and to give social, economic and political justice to its citizens.

It will not be proper to form any opinion about a system or institution on the basis of the views of one side only, as it tells only half the truth. The fact is that it is not the caste system, which is responsible for the underdevelopment of people. Submerged section of people or victims of deprivation and discrimination can be found within almost all the communities irrespective of caste creed, region or gender. And the solution for their up-liftment lies in spreading education, awareness and consciousness about their rights as well as of their duties.

 

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November 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

  1. It will be stupid to deny in defence that caste doesn’t exist in India. However this brouhaha about it in the international arena is more to disintegrate India by one or the other means.

    US itself publishes report, “India is the most terrorised country”. They want to weaken India religiously, communally, economically and then convert it as Christian caliphate. This is a competition between Christians and Muslims as to who succeed faster in their proselytisation attempt.

    I have a feeling that none of them will. Both will perish in their tug of war.

    Comment by osudrania | August 31, 2012 | Reply


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