Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Dalits petition Mbeki

Johannesburg - Representatives of India's 260 million Dalits - the "untouchables" who face segregation from higher castes - have petitioned President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC ahead of the world conference against racism (WCAR).

Bob Brown, the US-based director of the Kwame Ture Work-Study Institute and Library, said his organisation was asked by the Dalit Movement to forward an appeal to the ANC.

Although the caste system has been abolished in India and discrimination on the grounds of caste is illegal, it continues in many forms.

"Please do what you can to enable and empower the 260 million Dalits of the Indian sub-continent to present their plight to the 3rd United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban."

Brown, who spent some time in South Africa in 1999 as the PAC's election manager, has also forwarded the appeal to former president Nelson Mandela, ANC Women's League president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba.

Indian tactics have kept word 'caste' out of WCAR talks

The petition comes ahead of the third preparatory committee to the WCAR to be held in Geneva from July 30 to August 10.

At the last preparatory committee, the Indian government was criticised by non-governmental organisations for sabotaging efforts to include the issue of discrimination based on caste from the conference agenda.

The NGOs said Indian tactics including economic pressure on other governments had kept the word "caste" out of WCAR discussions, which will be held from August 31 to September 7 under South Africa's chairmanship.

A document forwarded to Mbeki states that there is hardly any change today in the Dalits living conditions. "For them the right to equality and freedom is still a mirage.

"In the context of the WCAR, the most shocking fact is that some nations which support the WCAR do not only deny the existence of discrimination based on work and descent but also apply various tactical measures in order to pressurise other nations ... "

Source: News24.com, July 24, 2001