US Congressmen sponsor “Dalit” conference in US: A report

Here is a news report. It is about Dalits holding their International Conference in US. Dalit is a Hindi word which means “crushed”. It may include and should include, ethnic groups like Blacks in the US, who are facing equally, nay more, discriminatory practices by the society and the State. (It is more, because in India no Dalit is killed by State police because he or she is Dalit, it is happening live in US). This conference is being sponsored and supported by several prominent members of the US Congress. Though this conference pretends to include Dalits from many South-Asian countries, besides India, its sole focus is on India. India is the generator and the epicenter of Dalit discrimination.

Holding a Dalit Conference in US is like Blacks of US holding their conference in India. And, also being supported by the Indian State authorities, like Members of Parliament.

Dalits are facing discrimination in India. Yes, they are facing discrimination. This discrimination must be removed, and removed as early as possible. But will they, who themselves practice discrimination in their own country and do not raise their voice against it in the US Congress, help Dalits in India in eradicating such discrimination? Should India, Indians and more particularly Indian Dalits not try to judge the intentions of those who are sponcering such conference?

For this, all these Indians need to go to the old fable book called “Hitopdesh” and read the story of “Two cats and One monkey”. Here is the report:

Report by: (Name withheld to protect his/or privacy)

Advocates for Dalit rights are expanding their movement to establish justice, dignity, and equality with an historic global conference occurring in Washington, D.C., March 19-21.

Several notable activists and thought leaders in the realm of human rights, including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Dr. Cornel West, are declaring solidarity with Dalits, and helping bring greater attention to their plight by participating with the conference and call-to-action event planned for Saturday, March 21 at 12noon in front of the White House.

This organization seem to have some heavy hitters in the African American community as “members who show solidarity”.
“Hidden Apartheid” is the jargon used to get noticed by the African American community.

The icing on the cake, this congresswomen proposed/cosponsored the following India specific resolutions:

H.Res.566 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)

Condemning Dalit untouchability, the practice of birth-descent discrimination against Dalit people, which is widely practiced in India, Nepal, the Asian diaspora, and other South Asian nations, and…

Committees: House – Foreign Affairs

This bill has the status Introduced

Here are the steps for Status of Legislation:

H.Res.417 — 113th Congress (2013-2014)

Praising India’s rich religious diversity and commitment to tolerance and equality, and reaffirming the need to protect the rights and freedoms of religious minorities.

Committees: House – Foreign Affairs, Judiciary
Latest Action: 01/09/2014 Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

This bill has the status Introduced

Here are the steps for Status of Legislation:

H.Con.Res.139 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)

Expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.

Committees: House – Foreign Affairs | Senate – Foreign Relations
Latest Action: 07/24/2007 Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

This bill has the status Passed House

Here are the steps for Status of Legislation:


Here are my notes (and attached) from the second session I attended. I have tried to reproduce the session factually. While I may have paraphrased a bit I have tried to capture the intent of the speaker, I have avoided providing my own analysis, commentary and opinion.
Session: Gender Equality and The Power of Dalit Women
Friday March 20, 2015  3:00 – 5:00 PM
In her opening remarks, the convener stated that the 2nd and 3rd generation Dalit Women (DW) were drafting their own narrative, since their story is never heard due to which they fall through the cracks of the system. There are two frameworks that need to be explained clearly: Caste and Patriarchy. It is a fact that the caste problem is not a domestic issue. It Is a problem that spans the region. It is not a cultural issue, but is downright criminal. Patriarchy, on the other hand, is about power and decision making. While a lot of work is going on in organizing DW to give us our rights, DW are facing multiple forms of discrimination at the dangerous intersection of these two frameworks. There is violence due to the DW fight. Caste wars and patriarchal wars are being fought, and the battlefield is the body of a Dalit woman.
We need to use the UN, Human Rights Council etc to help our cause. There is a terrible silencing of this voice by India. We need to take the help of International Fora in our fight. We also need to develop a multi-pronged strategy to strengthen our voices and state accountability.
Co-facilitators:   Vinaya
                                Dowati Desir, Co-Chairperson UN Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism
                Ms Durga, Co-Chair, Asian Dalits Rights Forum and Founding President (FEDO)
                Ms Asha Kotwal, General Secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch
                Rev. Jaqulin Jothi, Church of Southern India, Tamil Nadu
                Ms Asha Masih, Vice President at the International Christian Front, UK
                Ms Manisha Devi, Youth Dalit Leader, Haryana
                Ms Pachi Patankar, South Asian Social Initiative, NY
                Rosa Lizarde, Global Director at Feminist Task Force, UN
                Dr Jolanda Brunnekreef, Journalist/Writer, Netherlands
Ms Manisha Devi, Youth Dalit Leader, Haryana
Crimes against DW are not considered caste violence. In November 2012, there were 41 rapes in Haryana against DW. We did some fact finding on these cases. We went to police stations to investigate cases. What we found was:
·         In some cases there were no FIRs registered
·         In some cases with FIRs, the facts were wrong: dates were wrong
·         Wrong sections of the IPC were quoted in registering the case
After this research, we planned and organized a Self Respect Yatra (Asha Kothwal) to raise awareness. We visited victims and survivors to get their stories and encourage. We took our findings to lawmakers. We were provided no security. We were provided accommodation by other volunteers. We found the authorities not to be supportive – they ignored us. The Government is not our, and is not made for us. If activists are ignored, what would be the plight of the victim?
We then organized a Swabhiman Yatra. Our rally included about 200 people, and we went to meet the District Magistrate in Bihar. We were kept waiting for 3 hours. It is a shame to born in country such as India where DW are used and treated like shoes. We have come to Washington to fight against this. Activists are insecure as they are being threatened by the perpetrators of these crimes. Educational institutions also commit these crimes to suppress us. The police do not help – they oppress us too. This is a big problem and we need help. We need to form an international network, collectively, and to go back there and fight this. DW need their rights and space – this includes the Government, media, etc.
Raksha, Activist, Nepal
DW are at the intersection of gender inequality and the caste system in Asia. This region has patriarchal social structures. DW are 10% of the population, but there are disparities in state schemes. DW are affected by caste and gender. We enjoy no special privileges. About 49% of DW are victims of violence, but only 4% of these are reported. Other problems faced by DW are the lack of food sufficiency, illiteracy, malnutrition. DW live on less than USD $2 per day.
The state response is that there are laws in place to deal with these. The government provides Rs 1 Lakh for every inter-caste marriage – but this is abused since the upper caste men will marry a DW for money, but neglect or abuse her after they receive the money. There are several movements due to this. There is a need to reform and strengthen institutions. The Government must enforce existing laws.
The challenges are:
·         There is a lot of theory, but no practice
·         Caste/Gender problems create fear
·         Lack of mainstreaming these issues
·         Political instability
·         DW in rural areas – unaware of their rights and laws
We need global solidarity to fight this.
[Missed the name], Research Scholar, JNU
I am a research scholar working on my PhD at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, the best university in the country. I just received a message that the PhD thesis I submitted was sent back. I know it was sent back because I am a Dalit, and this is Caste Discrimination (CD). Universities practice CD to suppress DW and to deny them opportunities. These often result in DW committing suicide. There are problems in secondary schools too. This is due another problem – that of child marriage. Parents marry off their daughters at the age of 12, sometimes even before she is mature enough to understand what is going on. The in-laws do not encourage their going to school. The combined result is that very few DW are allowed to graduate.  There are very few facilities for DW. Even in Delhi Unversity, there is only one hostel for SC/ST women. There is no infrastructure. Nobody wants to live in Delhi because it is the rape capital. There are only 2-3 DW doing PhD. As Dr Ambedkar said, we need to “Educate, Agitate and Organize”.  Today, you can find Caste Discrimination in:
·         Admissions
·         Viva marks – deliberately lowered zero or 5 for DW. So, we have to rely only on our performance in the written exam to succeed.
·         In PhD programs, we are not allowed to choose our own topics
Among other problems we face is Dalit Patriarchy in our own community. Even in Dalit organizations, there are no women office bearers.
Rev. Jaqulin Jothi, Church of Southern India, Tamil Nadu
I am a Dalit Christian priest in the Madras Diocese. We preside over 146 churches and have a membership of 150,000 people spread across many villages. About 8% of our membership is Dalit Christian. Since 1985 we have been indicated the importance of women’s rights. We have tried to get support from the church. The problems women face are due to Intersectional Issues, dowry, government benefits, etc.
I was recently asked to assist in Kanchipuram. We sent out 100 food packets and were getting ready to do more. There is a rich upper caste man in our church who tried to undermine me by using his wealth. This is an example of how a rich upper caste man tries to take control over a DW, even though I am his priest. There are class and caste dynamics at work in the church. The church has a well-defined power structure which is patriarchal and based on caste. The church does not support secular activities. Dalit Christian men subjugate DW through the exhibition of power and wealth. In my controversy, the church supported the rich upper class man, and I was punished. I was removed from my position and assigned to a hospital.
DW have no protection. The church can not protect the rights of the DW because they support patriarchal values. The problem is internal. Indian society is patriarchal. It is a man’s world, a Dalit man’s world. A DW victory is considered only a Dalit victory, never the woman’s. The few women officers there are, are hand-picked and expected to follow the church’s ideal. Caste is enforced through religion.
Ms Asha Masih, Vice President at the International Christian Front, UK
In the UK, I was working as a supervisor. My subordinate told me that I was an untouchable, a woman, a slave. He would not take orders from me. I was demoted and demoralized. I took the help of CasteWatchUK. There is caste in Christianity too. Recently there have been attacks on churches in India, and the GharWapsi program. The PM has been silent for four months.
(Ambedkar International Mission?)
From pre-vedic age, women have been subjugated. Women are blamed for all problems. We want the perpetrators to be brought to justice. We want to break the stereotypes like women being the weaker sex. We want to liberate women. We provide education and support to victims. We advise them of government options available to them. We help out on sex-based violence issues. We teach them karate and give them tips. We try to reach out to DW in schools, colleges and viharas.
Dr Jolanda Brunnekreef, Journalist/Writer, Netherlands
I have worked for two years in Netherlands for an India group. I am married to a Sri Lankan and have lived there. I am aware of the Caste Discrimination. It is hidden and is institutionalized. I need to do something to fight it. So I am spreading awareness in the Netherlands.
How is Caste Discrimination hidden? The Indian Government must have a huge lobby to keep it hidden. I have traveled through South East Asia. I am writing a book. There is caste discrimination is all of South Asia. It is now spreading to the UK and USA. CD is not confined to Hinduism. My husband is a Buddhist. There is more taboo and untouchability in Sri Lanka. People do not want to talk about it. Also in Nepal.
[Missed the speaker’s name]
Look at the display of caste strength at the Madison Square Garden on September 27, 2014 when Modi was visiting. These are scary times in India judging by the speed and strength of Hindu fundamentalists. There have been two deaths in two years of longtime activists on caste issues. We need a Jati Mukti Andolan.
Modi’s silence is tantamount to sanctioning violence. It is a clarion call for all marginalized groups to come together. We need nationalism and an identity. We need to build a shared vision of the world using story and film. We need to travel to where Dalits are.
Shocking Facts:
·         Caste problems exist where South Asians exist, independent of religion
·         Caste problems are independent of religion
·         The story is strangled
·         Activists facing problems
·         The government stonewalls and suppresses stories
·         Journalists are blacklisted
·         There is intimidation and surveillance
Massive surveillance state? It is very hard to fight for this cause since a DW does not count. What a Dalit woman faces, a Dalit man does not face. Christianity also has caste discrimination. Dalits were converting from Hinduism due to CD. But there life has not improved any. They are facing CD in Christianity too. The Declaration has to be used as an advocacy tool. Listen to the narratives of DW.
The final session on Friday was  the finalization of the Dalit Rights Global Declaration.
This session was chaired by:
– Raju Kamle – Ambedkar International Mission, USA
                        Prominent Activist, India
– Dr Arun Kumar – Academic, Canada
                              President Ambedkar intl Mission, Canada
Based on interactive feedback from the assembly, a draft was edited and finalized. The original draft is included below, and is attached:
Delegates to the First Global Conference on Defending Dalit Rights:
Bearing in mind the commitment to establish Dalit Rights in the contemporary world by 2020, the Dalit Rights Movement must be connected at the local and global level through networking, collaborating, and mobilizing. This Movement shall strive to achieve respect for the equal freedom and dignity of all human beings, particularly people that are most vulnerable, such as Dalits. Their entitlement to equal rights and freedoms without distinction of caste, work or descent, race, gender, social origin, birth or other status, including analogous systems of inherited status, must be respected globally. The Dalits’ plight is a contemporary humanitarian crisis, often referred to as a ‘hidden apartheid or modern-day slavery’, with victims forced into slave and bonded labor, denied access to communal water sources, and refused service at public establishments solely on the basis of their caste or work and descent. Such discrimination is especially harsh for women, girls and children based on their gender, caste, social origin and birth, resulting in rape, murder, and forced sex trafficking.
We, the delegates of the First Global Conference on Defending Dalit Rights in Washington DC recognize Caste or All Forms of discrimination and inequality as a key challenge of inclusive democracy, human rights, justice, good governance, rule of law, Sustainable Development Goals (Vision 2030), and opportunities for strengthening caste freedom and empowerment of the Dalits in the Post-2015 development agenda. The meaningful implementation of existing international human rights agreements by Member States of the united Nations, which are foundations of universality, equality and non-discriminatory measure, collective well-being and civic engagement, must take place in order for Dalits and other vulnerable groups to achieve equality and equal access to justice.
Bearing this in mind, we hereby:
1.       Call member states of the United Nations (UN) and national governments to create affirmative policies and actions to fulfill the rights of all vulnerable groups, such as Dalits, who face intersecting inequalities and caste discrimination. The national governments and member states of the UN must reinforce the duty of states to equally mobilize the means of implementation in collaboration with the Dalit Civil Society and all stakeholders, including private sectors and international development agencies to create an equitable and just societies;
2.       Recall UN General Assembly and member states, particularly the United States, to endorse the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent introduced by the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/11/CRP.3);
3.       Affrirm the General Recommendation 29 of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which confirms that the term ‘descent’ in Article 1, para 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination applies not only to race but to other forms of inherited status and strongly condemns discrimination based on work and descent as a violation of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
4.       Support the civil rights movement against racial discrimination and violation against African-American and minority communities in the United States and other parts of the world;
5.       Condemn the recent police brutality based on race, social status, socioeconomic status, and citizenship status that has taken place in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, New York, and other parts of the United States;
6.       Welcome the European Parliament Resolution of October 10, 2013 on Caste-Based Discrimination (P7-TA-PROV (2013) 0420); the 2010 Equality Act on Caste Discrimination introduced by the United Kingdom House of Commons (SN06862); the United States (US) House of Representatives’ historic 2007 Resolution Expressing Sense of Congress regarding Untouchability in India (153 CONG. REC. H8211) and the proposed Binding Resolution against Caste Discrimination (HR 566) in the US Congress by Congresswoman Elanor Holmes Norton (D-DC);
7.       Reaffirm the Kathmandu Declaration made by the South Asian Parliamentarian Forum on Dalit Concerns (December 08, 2013); national, regional and international declarations, Ambedkar principles and comprehensive review activities done or made in various times by local or national Dalit and pro-Dalit organizations, regional forums, Dalit Solidarity and Diaspora groups;
8.       Reaffirm the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration 2004 made by International Consultation on Caste-based Discrimination, the condemnation of discrimination in the Durban Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance;
9.       Recognize International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, and its accompanying General Recommendation; the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, and on Discrimination in Education; and recognize that discrimination based on gender, caste, race or work and descent exacerbates poverty and constrains progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals;
10.   Restate determination to eradicate caste-based poverty, socio-political and cultural exclusion through the socio-economic and political empowerment of Dalits;
11.   Restate to counter media propaganda that encourages caste and gender-based discrimination and violence, increase the representation of Dalits, women and vulnerable issues, and promote the inclusion of Dalits, women and vulnerable issues, and promote the inclusion of Dalits, women and vulnerable groups’ journalists;
12.   Advocate and recommend nation states to establish educational institutions following the model of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the USA;
13.   Encourage to establish special legal and judicial measures and courts that recognize gross violations of human rights against Dalits and vulnerable groups, and rectify the disproportionate acquittals of those propagating violence and other atrocities against Dalits and other vulnerable groups;
14.   Urge to increase the preventive measures and resources by the UN agencies, national governments and international civil society to end caste and gender-related sexual violence, human trafficking, bonded labor, torture and inhumane acts;
15.   Support the UN Special Rapporteur on Discrimination based on Work and Descent; Special Rapporteur on Torture, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and their annual Human Rights Council Reports;
16.   Welcome the progress made towards achieving caste freedom, the empowerment of Dalits, and human rights of Dalits and vulnerable groups by Governments, the United nations, World Bank, civil society and other actors at local, national, regional and global levels;
17.   Commend the efforts of the national governments to eliminate Discrimination based on caste, occupation, and descent through national constitutional, legislation, judicial and other international measures; we urge the Constitution assembly of Nepal to ensure Dalit rights in the new constitution.
18.   Condemn discrimination and violence against Dalits and vulnerable groups based on their caste, occupation, descent, social origin, gender, and sexual orientation, as a violation of human rights and international law;
19.   Reaffirm our political will and firmly commit to tackle remaining gaps and challenges and pledge to take concrete further actions to transform discriminatory social norms and caste stereotypes;
20.   Restate our determination to transform the socio-political and economic status quo to achieve caste freedom, equality and sustainable development in-collaboration with Dalit Civil Society, the UN, national governments and international development agencies, including private sectors;
21.   Call for full and equal participation and leadership of Dalits and vulnerable groups in decision-making at all levels and strengthen accountability for Dalits Rights to ensure full, effective and accelerated implementation of the constitutional and international human rights laws through collaboration with Dalit civil society, strategies and program activities for vulnerable groups and Dalit men, women and children at all levels;
22.   Express our firm belief that Caste freedom and equality, the empowerment of Dalits and vulnerable groups, and human rights of Dalit men, women and children is achievable with requisite political will, targeted action, resources, civic engagement and mobilization;
23.   Commit to achieve measurable result by 2020 and fully realize Dalit Rights as the human rights, and the empowerment of Dalits and vulnerable groups, women and children by 2030;
24.   Adopt the Caste Freedom Index (CFI) as a unique and universal measurement and advocacy framework addressing Caste Discrimination and inequality, untouchability, and socio-political exclusion – introduced by ICDR as a benchmark;
25.   Welcome the major contributions made by the UN, World Bank, international community and civil society, including Dalit and pro-Dalit organizations, human rights institutes, community-based organizations, solidarity groups, Ambedkarite and Diaspora organizations to advocate on Dalit Rights Movement;
26.   Ensure Dalit rights to freedom of thought, opinion, expression, conscience, and religion, including freedom of choice or religious faith and practice and the protection of religious spaces for all;
27.   Recall all religious groups or faith-based organizations to take common responsibilities to promote humanity, human dignity and justice for all, especially Dalits and vulnerable groups; like slavery and apartheid, caste-discrimination is not God created, it is man-made and must be overcome and eliminated by the collective actions of all human beings;
28.   Protect the employment opportunities of Dalits in the private sector and extending provisions of affirmative policies (reservations) for vulnerable groups such as Dalits, minority, women and socially excluded groups to the private sector employment;
29.   Commit to advance global civil society network and collaborate for establishing Dalit Rights in the contemporary world by working together and calling global community for collective actions;
30.   Grateful to the Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for her courageous leadership in the US Congress for legislations opening pathways to end this 21st century hidden apartheid – Untouchability.

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