Indian subcontinent infested with caste-virus; Dalits suffer everywhere

11May07

Dalits in Pakistan have written a letter to Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf urging him to take “swift action” to ensure an end to “many forms of untouchability, caste discrimination, human inequality and humiliation” at the hands of caste Hindus and those who have converted to Islam. The letter was written by the founder president of the Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan, Mr Surendar Valasai, but is yet to receive any response from the general.

Speaking to this correspondent over the telephone from Pakistan, Mr Valasai, who takes pride in being the “first” dalit journalist in Pakistan, said the two million dalits in that country did not want to be clubbed together with caste Hindus. They are currently classified as part of a single community.

He said most dalits live in Lower Sindh and Lower Punjab and have been deprived of their due share in government schemes, with all the benefits going to caste Hindus. He said 70 per cent of Hindus in Pakistan are dalits, and pointed out that in many areas they were not allowed to share the same utensils in schools and government offices. Mr Valasai said the situation was bad, but even then “it is better than that of dalits in India, as at least our lives are secure.” Pointing out that the discrimination faced by dalits was similar in all South Asian countries, he said the discrimination against the entire community should be recognised and addressed by Saarc as an issue on its agenda. He said the dalits in Pakistan were in the process of conducting a study to determine the social indicators of development. Admission to schools was not a major problem, but discrimination faced by students after they were admitted certainly was.

The letter to Gen. Musharraf was written on the eve of his visit to Naunkot, the centre of Mirpurkhas division, where dalits form almost 35 per cent of the population. It has drawn the general’s attention to the “Law (Code) of Manu” being followed in the region despite Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s statement in 1944 when he is quoted as having said: “I can tell my friends of the scheduled castes that at no time have I overlooked their interests and position, and I may claim that in the past I have done all I could to help them and I shall always stand for their protection and safeguard … for I think the wrongs and injustices inflicted on them for centuries should not be allowed to continue under any civilised form of government.”

The dalits have started a signature campaign to be considered as a distinct group, separate from the “Hindus and scheduled castes” category. The petition points out that dalits are poorly represented in Pakistan’s Parliament compared to caste Hindus. It also demands separate reserved seats for dalits in Parliament and the four provincial assemblies in accordance with their population, as well as special concessions in the economic, educational, social and political fields to remove “the wrongs and injustices done to them in the past.” Other demands include the constitution of a National Commission on Scheduled Castes; allotment of land to landless dalit peasants and state protection against harassment and discrimination.

Mr Valasai said they had not received any positive response from the government but were optimistic that their demands would be listened to. He is in touch with Indian dalit groups but rules out any “pro-active cooperation. ” He has made common cause, however, with resistance movements within Pakistan and participated last year at the Karachi World Social Forum.

Source: Asian Age



One Response to “Indian subcontinent infested with caste-virus; Dalits suffer everywhere”

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