Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible… Virtue has become caste-ridden and morality has become caste-bound.
B.R. Ambedkar, in Annihilation of Caste, 1936
The efforts to internationalise the issue of caste-based discrimination against the 260 million Dalits in South Asia and treat it on a par with racial discrimination, which had received a boost in 2001 at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban, suffered a serious setback at the Durban Review Conference held recently (April 20–24, 2009) in Geneva. While in 2001, WCAR had discussed caste euphemistically as “discrimination based on work and descent”, in line with terminology devised by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference (DRC) has evaded even an allusion to caste.
More than a month after the Geneva event, there’s almost no public debate in India on the issue. Dalits have tried raising the issue of caste with various UN forums for over three decades now. The first effort at lobbying with the UN resulted in Dr Laxmi Berwa, an expatriate Dalit from the United States, presenting a testimony before the UN Sub-Commission? on Human Rights in Geneva on 31 August 1982.
To debate and raise awareness on these issues and to broaden the scope of the global effort at fighting caste, we invite you to three sessions of debate and discussion:
THE EXPERIENCE OF INTERNATIONALISING CASTE: Ashok Bharti (National Confederation of Dalit Organisations, NACDOR), Paul Divakar, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, NCDHR, Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network, HRLN)
CASTE—THE MEDIA’S COMPLICITY AND SILENCE: Neelabh Mishra (Outlook Hindi) and Pamela Philipose (Women’s Feature Service)
CASTE AND OTHER QUESTIONS: RACISM, COMMUNALISM, IMPERIALISM: Praful Bidwai (Senior Journalist), Annie Namala (Director, Centre for Programming Inclusion and Equity), Surinder Jodhka (Director, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies)
Moderator: S. Anand, Navayana
Each panel will be for about 40 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of discussion. After the concluding panel, it will be an Open House.
Tea will be served at 3.30 p.m.
For further details contact Madhuresh at CACIM 9818905316 (www.cacim.net) or Anand at Navayana 9971433117 (www.navayana.org).
Click here for ISI location.
A READY-RECKONER OF ONLINE REFERENCES AND RESOURCES: