A charter of Dalit human rights

Linked with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights NCDHR, and with Nishikant Waghmare – India.

But first: Art. 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (available in all 6 UN languages):

Article 1:

  • 1. In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
  • 2. This Convention shall not apply to distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences made by a State Party to this Convention between citizens and non-citizens.
  • 3. Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as affecting in any way the legal provisions of States Parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, provided that such provisions do not discriminate against any particular nationality.
  • 4. Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.

(full text of Art. 1 to 25 inkl. Introduction).

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A charter of Dalit human rights

Published on NCDHR, not dated.

Preamble:


Whereas, Dalits in India are the people of Mother Earth, people from a labouring community, people who believe and live a sustainable life and people who belong to and are rooted to the community. Whereas, the power of Dalit resilience, the power of Dalit culture simply can not be wiped out, the spirit of this Charter expresses our dreams and aspirations for the future emanating from a strong spirituality of hope and strength.

Whereas, Dalits in India have the capacity to transform our pains and struggles into power, our efforts are:

  • To establish Dalits’ lost humanity, dignity and security;
  • To liberate Dalits from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination;
  • To assert Dalits as people, claiming that it is our Earth, an earth that is Dalit in character;
  • To assert our aspirations for self-governance with Dalit leadership, to change power equations in economic, cultural and political positions.

Whereas, India has a liberation history of over 50 years from colonial powers and that this has not brought the Dalits, women, tribals and many other such people into the mainstream operations of the Nation Sate.

Whereas, Dalits are distinct from others, because of their specific historical context, violations, exploitation and atrocities, the basic rights to life, liberty and security, particularly of women and children are denied every day. Life is filled with violations rooted in caste, ruled by Varna, Karma and sanctioned by Dharma. We assert that the Dalits are in need of liberation from the hegemony of the dominant caste forces in India.

We are ashamed:

by the fact that much more than the violence that is committed on the Dalits, one of the worst and barbaric forms of the Varnashrama Dharma is ‘untouchability’, which no sensible human being can think of. That this is called a religion is an insult to the whole of humanity. That this is being practised at a time in history, which claims to have arrived at ‘enlightenment’, is an assertion of the existence of pitch darkness. It is a declaration of the underlying paradigm that some people are considered irrelevant and a nuisance to the dominant forces of the world.

We demand:

A global effort to be made to abolish untouchability in all its manifestations and its practice to be considered a heinous crime against humanity and be punished in the severest form possible.

We consider:

that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well as other Human Rights treaties have developed a human rights discourse based on individual liberty. For those of us whose life is an eternal struggle for survival it is the security of communities that is paramount.

We demand:

That the United Nations (UN) and other international Human Rights bodies in the world overtake seriously the question of the security as a community in their discursive practices as well as in the praxis for of human rights.

We are shocked:

by the fact that serious discussions on human rights have been clouded by an excessive focus on individual liberty, because of the predominant focus on the individual contemporary Western thinking. An individualism of the type and intensity that is being promoted by the West, which is in sharp contrast to the culture of community living of the indigenous people in general and Dalits and tribal people in particular.

We demand:

The discourse of individual security to be taken to its next logical step in the context of the Dalits i.e. the security of the community of people.

We are enraged:

by the fact that Dalits are deprived of their basic need by the law enforcement of the dominant caste forces in India and South Asia. This embodies the dominant caste aspirations. The needs of the Dalits are in the material realm and not in the metaphysical. When basic human needs are denied, there is a violation of human rights. To the extent human rights are violated, national and global security are impaired.

We demand:

The denial of the material needs of the Dalits to be treated as denial of Dalit Human Rights. Therefore the translation of the discourse of individual and community security will have to necessarily manifest itself in the praxis of addressing the basic needs of the communities of Dalit people.

We are appalled:

that Human Rights violation against Dalits takes place largely in the context of governance, which is the power for allocating resources in India. This allocation of resources causes the most important violation of human rights. The violations manifest themselves in the denial of the right to livelihood of communities and in the unbalanced allocation of resources to individuals belonging to particular dominant castes.

We demand:

Dalits to be guaranteed their right to livelihood, which will ensure a dignified living enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protest against any such biased allocation of resources, by the caste biased forces of governance.

We are angered: that Dalits are denied the right not only to the means of livelihood, but also access to the process of allocation. Virtually denying Dalits not only the means to live, but also the right to create their own space for living. That the access that given is marginal and made to look as if they are a payoff by the dominant caste forces.

We demand:

an equal access to all state institutions and the subsequent processes of allocation.

We are enraged:

that the conventional village Panchayat (village council) system has been a political and cultural form of oppression of the Dalits, where they have no right to present their cases. Leave alone the fact that they are even denied the right to sit as equals with other dominant caste forces. Whenever they sought an alternative by actively participating in the state institution of the Panchayat Dalits have been attacked and even killed.

We demand:

full protection to the Dalits to participate in the Panchayat Raj institutions and other democratic institutions of the country’s polity.

We are anguished:

that Dalits have been denied access to resources like land, water and other means of production. Whatever resources they possessed from mother earth, have been forcefully taken away. By taking away land from people who have worshipped the land, Dalits have been deprived of a long cherished relationship with the earth. Both culturally and economically they have suffered deprivation.

We demand:

the lands to be restored to the Dalits by distributing all land available with the government.

We consider:

that the only means of securing a livelihood left with the Dalits as of now is their labour. The State, in agreement with the dominant caste civil society, has done a grossly underestimation of the costs involved in Dalit labour.

We demand:

from the present manner of fixing minimum wages for labour, that the State effectively fixes a living wage for Dalits. Taking seriously into consideration, the changing economic situation with its escalating prices, reduction of subsidies, withdrawal of the welfare state and a shifting of development responsibility to the Dalits themselves.

We justify:

the withdrawal of the welfare state, in as much as it is a withdrawal, from development responsibility with regard to the rich, neo-rich and dominant caste forces. A greater and more responsible provision of equal opportunities to the Dalits must accompany such a withdrawal. In the mechanism of governance as well as in State institutions like education, health, communication, technology, markets.

We demand:

the State, instead of withdrawing itself from its welfare responsibility to the Dalits through privatisation of the service sector, to assume more and more responsibility for provisioning, safeguarding and protecting the rights of equal opportunity to Dalits.

We recall:

that the history of denial of opportunities to the Dalits and intended exclusion of the Dalits from all social, political and economic institutions is much more ancient than the establishment of the National State in its present form. That it is the civil society that is actively guilty of the caste system and untouchability, through religion and has forces in human forms of existence on the Dalits. Now the responsibility for reversing such a situation lies with them.

We demand:

the State not to, only effectively, ensure the prevention of atrocities on Dalits by civil society, but also guarantee the right of reservation to Dalits and all other most backward castes in all private enterprises and companies, which enjoy one or more forms of subsidy from the Government.

We are outraged:

that the dominant caste, civil society has established its control over the labour of Dalits through the offensive system called ‘bonded labour’. When in reality the labour of Dalits constitutes one of the major national resources as well as guarantees the livelihood, this is another form of slavery. The State connives with the dominant caste civil society by denying the existence and prevalence of such a system and by partially claiming that this system has been abolished.

We demand:

te State to take more stringent measures to bring to book all those that indulge in this form of slavery and abolish this institution of the dominant caste civil society in India.

We recognise:

that the denial of education to Dalits throughout the history of oppression has resulted in the dominant caste society establishing its authority over the minds of the Dalits in multiple forms. This has ultimately resulted in the denial of the right to freethinking and freedom of expression. The right to the freedom of expression will necessarily entail the right to dissent and produce countervailing discourses by the Dalits. Such countervailing discourses have invariably resulted in further increase in atrocity on the Dalits.

We demand:

The right of freedom of thought and expression be protected for the Dalits in spirit in letter.

We equate:

the culture of Dalits with that of the dominant caste culture can not be accepted. As Babasaheb Ambedkar asserts: ‘We are different people and all attacks on the cultural heritage must be stopped forthwith. India is a multi-cultural society, and there must be room for the cultural expression of all people living in it. While attacking the homogenisation of cultures at the global level, the Indian State as well as the dominant caste civil society seeks to impose its cultural forms on the Dalits in the name of nation culture. At the same time the cultural forms of the Dalits and other indigenous people are commercialised through the media for greater economic benefits of the dominant caste society’.

We demand:

the rights of the Dalits to identify themselves as culturally different from other groups are guaranteed that the commercialisation of their cultural forms is stopped and state allocations are made for the promotion and preservation of the cultural forms of the Dalit people.

We recognise:

strongly that Dalit women have three fold discrimination. They are discriminated because, they are women (gender), Dalits (caste) and Dalit women by their own men-folk (gender and caste). The situation of Dalit women is alarming in India, to say at least. Caste and gender discrimination is perpetrated in its worst forms on Dalits women.

We demand:

that special measure is to be taken for the protection of the rights of Dalit women in all the above said areas.

We consider:

that Human Rights organisations all over the world have till now focused on violations by the State and its institutions as human rights violations. That all other forms of atrocities have been relegated to the realm of civil strife by these bodies. Such a position is untenable. In India the state and civil society are hand in glove in the denial of rights to the Dalits and other indigenous people of the country. While state abets violations by the civil society it is forced to take sides with the dominant caste society in its favour.

We demand:

all International Human Rights organisations to bring under the purview of Human Rights, all forms of discrimination and violations both by the state and by the civil society. Such a stand needs to be brought into the institutional framework of these Human Rights bodies.

We are anguished:

that not only the International Human Rights organisations, but also all mechanisms of the UN, have left out the issues of untouchability and atrocities on Dalits. From their perspective we assert that these are problems of Human Rights prevailing not only in India, but also in many countries of Asia. Nobody, who is concerned about establishing Human Rights objectively can afford to ignore these.

We demand:

that, in the 50th year of the Declaration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all International Human Rights organisations give an assurance to all Dalits of Asia. The violations of Dalit Rights will be considered as violations of Human Rights. Also that, the UN in particular, will respond seriously to such violations through the appointment of a Thematic Special Rapporteur on the practice of untouchability anywhere in the world. And to include ‘caste discrimination’ in Article 1. of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (See text on this charter-page of dalits.org).

Link: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 329 languages.

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