Noticed it’s Caste !

24Nov07

Dag Erik Berg, an academic at the University of Bergen, points out the consequence of the award: “Norwegians have now learnt the word ‘Dalit’ properly. It hasn’t to date existed in dictionaries, and the press have used old-fashioned names in its place.” Divakar, NCDHR’s national convenor, is jubilant: “At last, the issue of Dalit rights has a firm place on the international agenda. We are on track to visibilising an issue which has been effectively hidden by our country and society.”

Despite the Constitution — which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or caste — caste discrimination is persistent. Vimal Thorat, Co-Convenor of NCDHR, says: “according to official statistics, which themselves grossly underestimate the extent of the violence, 13 Dalits are murdered and five Dalit homes are destroyed every week, and three Dalit women are raped and 11 Dalits are assaulted every day. A crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes.”

Yet the government persists in hiding behind the Constitution and a scattering of legislation. The official line is that since caste discrimination is unconstitutional, it could not possibly exist. “We face apathy in government, impunity of the police and judiciary, and a high-caste-dominated political elite,” says Manoharan. “We have all these safeguards against discrimination, but they are not implemented.” After years of attempting to convince the government to enforce the Constitution, Dalit activists realised they had to take their cause outside India.

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