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Point of View - 2004-02-06

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    If caste is not a form of racial discrimination,
    Jupiter is not one of the planets of the solar system

    There are many issues of serious, endemic discrimination in the Asia-Pacific region that have been ignored for too long.  The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance should be the occasion to raise these issues and restore equal human rights where they have been denied.  These issues include rights for Aboriginal Australians and other indigenous peoples, rights of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, rights of migrant workers around the world, rights of religious minorities in Pakistan (Electoral system, Blasphemy laws), rights of ethnic minorities in Indonesia and the rights of ¡¥low caste¡¦ people of South Asia (Dalits) and Japan (Burakumin).

    Of these, the issue of caste-based discrimination (external link: National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (India))has proved most contentious, joining other issues such as the occupation of Palestine by Israel (external links: LAW: Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment  / Arab Organisation for Human Rights ) and the call for reparations for the slave trade by people of African descent (external link: Africa Reparations Movement (UK) ).

    To not include caste as a form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance is the same as not including Jupiter as one of the planets of the solar system.  It is the biggest, most obvious and significant form of racial discrimination in the world, affecting one in every 25 people on the planet, and enslaving them to a life of social exclusion, poverty, violence, illiteracy, human degradation and exploitation.  It is in fact the mother of racism and is exactly the same social construct: that your quality of life should be determined by the family you are born into.

    Yet the Indian government ¡V home to some 190 million Dalits (formerly called ¡¥Untouchables¡¦ and other degrading names) ¡V believes that the issue should be ignored, and has done everything possible to prevent the issue from being addressed at the WCAR.  They have gone so far as to fund ¡§GONGO¡¦s¡¨ (Government NGO¡¦s) to derail the NGO process and prevent Dalits from gaining the international solidarity they need  to achieve their dream of equality.

    But the Indian government is failing, because through this conference, thousands of people are learning about the problem of caste discrimination.  The following preparatory meetings for the WCAR have all asserted that caste must be addressed through this conference:

    In addition, many ordinary people around the world have loudly proclaimed that the issue cannot be ignored any more.  They have done this through the International Day of Dalit Solidarity, the Global Day of Action for Inclusion of Caste in WCAR, the solidarity actions at PrepComm 2 in Geneva, the letter of appeal toDr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General, United Nations and many other means.


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