Diaspora Joins The Fight
By Vivek Kumar
The Indian Express
24 May, 2003
The Dalit diaspora has all
of a sudden become visible. Yet another Dalit international conference
was successfully concluded earlier this month in Vancouver, Canada,
with the help of the Dalit diaspora in different parts of the world.
This is the fourth such conference organised since 1998. The first one
was organised in Malaysia, by the Dalit International Organisation in
October 1998. It was followed by a two-day international conference
on Dalit human rights in London in September 2000 by the Voice of Dalit
International (VODI). VODI organised another International Dalit conference
in India in February 2003. Besides, Dalits also participated in the
World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
Three factors have contributed
to the new visibility of the Dalit diaspora. One, increased communication
facilities because of the information revolution. Log on to www.ambedkar.org,
etc. and you can find out all about them. Two, the strengthening
of civil society, with NGOs, both at the international and national
level, taking keen interest in issues related to Dalits and other marginalised
sections. And lastly, the intervention of the United Nations Human Rights
Commission, World Bank, and other international and national institutions
for maintenance of human rights of Dalit and other deprived sections.
Based on the issues discussed in these Dalit international conferences,
it is possible to arrive at an objective assessment of the present nature,
scope, success and failure of the Dalit movement. We can also list the
challenges faced by the Dalit movement in the 21st century.
Faced with atrocities within
the Hindu social order, at the outset, Dalits in India face a challenge:
Should they remain within the Hindu fold or convert to Buddhisim or
to any other religion? The Dalit leadership has failed to give any clear
cut direction to its followers. Further, the Dalit movement today faces
a challenge from the communal forces, an issue on which these conferences
have only voiced their concern without coming out with a strategy. The
second challenge for the Dalits is how to face the onslaught of the
processes of globalisation, privatisation, liberalisation etc. The rolling
back of the state is making reservations for the Dalits under Article
335 of the Indian Constitution redundant. On the other hand, with the
coming of MNCs, the demand for management, engineering, computer application
degree holders is increasing, which Dalits cant cater to. One,
because they are late starters in the realm of education and secondly,
technical education is expensive which Dalits cant afford.
There are two paths suggested
by the Dalits to tackle the aforesaid problem. One, capture political
power by forming an independent party and implement your own agenda.
This is being mooted on the basis that the Constitution gives the Dalits
rights at par with other citizens, including the right to vote. The
only effort which Dalits must make is to get these rights implemented
in letter and spirit, which is possible only by forming a government.
But the irony is that Dalits on their own do not have the numbers to
form a government. So they must enter into alliances with some other
political force. And it is difficult for them to find suitable allies.
The other path is that of
diversity-supplier in recruitment. Recruitment diversity, which is now
restricted to the government and public undertakings, will arguably
extend into the private sector. Here, one can argue that if the rights
enshrined in the Constitution were not fulfilled in the last 52 years,
who can take the guarantee for the private sector?
How to bring the diverse
facets of the Dalit movement into a state of dialogue is another challenge.
Today the Dalit movement has diversified its nature and scope. There
is the Dalit political and socio-religious reform movement, movement
of Dalit bureaucracy, Dalit intellectual movement, which includes a
number of magazines, journals, internet magazines and conferences etc.
Today we also have international Dalit organisations led by the Dalit
diaspora which are trying to raise issues confronting the Dalits. They
have taken up matters concerning Dalits with the World Bank, IMF and
Another challenge for the
Dalit movement is to bring Dalit women in its fold. Generally it is
said that though the Dalit woman is triply exploited on the bases of
caste, class and gender, yet she enjoys greater gender equality in comparison
to women of other castes. Even so, Dalit women and their issues are
absent from the Dalit movement. To spread the Dalit movement in regions
like Orissa, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar,
and create consciousness among the different castes other than the Mahars
and Chamars, is another huge challenge confronting the Dalit movement.
The international conferences have been successful in creating a greater
visibility for the plight of the Dalits at the international level.
Yet, unless the Dalit leadership is prepared to face the challenges
faced by the Dalit movement back home, its development will be crippled.
Vancouver Declaration: International
ByThe International Dalit Conference Vancouver, BC, Canada,
May 16-18, 2003
WE, THE DALITS, from all
over the globe having assembled at the International Dalit Conference,
to deliberate the issues concerning the 250 million Dalits (Scheduled
Castes and Scheduled Tribes) of India and their future in the 21st century,
INSPIRED by that great thinker and philosopher of the oppressed, Babasaheb
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar,
REDEDICATE ourselves to his
mission to bring about a democratic and peaceful transformation of India
whereby all its citizens, irrespective of their gender, caste, creed,
language and region, will enjoy the fruits of equality and justice,
WHEREAS the world has entered
the third millennium and is progressing towards accomplishing the goals
of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and whereas India has failed to
eradicate untouchability and caste and descent-based discrimination
and is yet to achieve basic fundamental human rights,
CALL UPON the Dalits of the
world to unite in their activism in the true spirit of interfaith and
multiculturalism, and resolve to work tirelessly for the upliftment
of the community,
AFFIRM that every human being
has the inherent right to life and dignity and that Black is Beautiful
and Dalit is Dignified,
MINDFUL of the fact that
the Dalits and tribals, accounting for a fourth of India's one billion
population, continue to be the victims of manifold discriminations and
MINDFUL also that women belonging
to these sections are the victims of gender-caste discrimination,
SINCERELY BELIEVE that the
caste problem is not the problem of Dalits alone but also of the entire
nation and without the Annihilation of Caste and the elimination of
other primordial identities, India will not be able to realize its full
socio-economic potential and claim its rightful place among the community
UPHOLD our unwavering belief
in the Indian Constitution as well as the unity and integrity of India,
TAKE cognizance of the universal
ideals enshrined in several international and national covenants and
treaties - from the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights to the
Bhopal Declaration and
ENDORSE wholeheartedly the
Bhopal Declaration in letter and spirit,
AFFIRM our mission to support
the struggles of oppressed people worldwide and muster all possible
support from anywhere for the advancement of the Dalit cause,
RESOLVE to propagate knowledge
of Babasaheb as a philosopher of emancipation to all the oppressed anywhere
in the world, and to fulfil the pledge,
RESOLVE also to build our
own educational, cultural and other institutions for the advancement
of the community, we
REDEDICATE ourselves to institutionalize
the process started in the Conference through constant coordination
and by setting up a formal institutional structure for better networking
among the Resident and Non-Resident Indian Dalit community as well as
to make use of international institutions and processes to sensitize
the world about the plight of the Dalits and Tribals in India,
WE therefore Demand,
1. The rightful and proportionate
share of Dalits and tribals in India's national institutions, wealth
and capital must be recognized. Economic exclusion hitherto practised
in the name of caste must be done away with. The community should have
equitable access to means of production and economic empowerment.
2. Since no development is
possible without gender justice, women of these groups must be given
priority in all developmental activities. They must have formal, legally
sanctioned rights on par with men.
3. Private Corporations and
Multi-National Corporations operating in India must recognize and accept
their social responsibilities.
4. The United Nations and
its affiliates, and non-governmental agencies concerned with human rights,
social and economic development, must recognise that the Dalits are
a special group and create separate Dalit divisions managed by the Dalits
themselves. Their programmes and projects should have special Dalit
components as well as special focus in their reports.
5. Dalit Studies must be
included in Indian and international educational and research institutions,
especially in North America and Europe, and universities should recognise
the need to admit Dalit students on priority.
6. The World Bank and other
International Financial Institutions should attach conditional special
component clause and must ensure the rightful share of the Dalits in
the funds they lend to India for socio-economic and sustainable development.
7. The international governmental
and non-governmental development aid agencies should focus on Dalit
development and empowerment with initiatives to be inbuilt in their
system and adopted in the funding programmes.
8. Sustained efforts must
be made at the United Nations to expedite the process of formally equating
caste-based discrimination with Racial discrimination.
9. Untouchability is practised
in many countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
No effort must be spared to address the problem by the world community.
10. Reorganize the National
and State Commissions for SCs and STs as the SC and ST Vigilance Commissions
and the decisions of these Commissions should be binding.
11. All laws, rules and regulations
meant for protecting the rights of the Dalits must be included in the
Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India, to prevent unjust and lengthy
litigation process which always goes against the community.