Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination [CNACD].
Cardinal Turkson addresses caste discrimination within the Church
and poverty issues faced by Christian Dalits.
The Vatican is well aware of the caste discrimination that the Dalits face, especially the Christian Dalits; and the Vatican will take up the issue in a more proactive manner, supporting the struggle of Dalit Christians for equal rights and possibly even allotting a special fund for this as it has in the case of sub-Saharan Africa.
This was the hope expressed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development in the Vatican. Cardinal Turkson was delivering the keynote address to a 2 Day Conference, ‘Christian Responsibility to Dalits & Caste Discrimination’, on 9th and 10thMay 2017 at Amigo Hall, St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark. The Cardinal condemned the continuing discrimination practiced by some Catholics on the basis of caste. He went on to promise that this would be addressed by the Vatican and those in authority in the Church.
Lord Bishop Richard Harries of Pentregarth, addressing the Conference, exhorted the UK Church communities and others, to root out caste discrimination. The sheer number of people who are subjected to discrimination and dehumanisation has made the issue vital and requires the immediate attention and support of UK Church communities, as they have done for the Anti-Slavery and Anti-Apartheid movements. Lord Harries discussed his experience in bringing an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 making caste discrimination illegal. He appealed for all political parties and people from all walks of UK life, to support the efforts to implement the Equality Act.
The Policy of Dalit Empowerment adopted by the CBCI was introduced to the Conference by a video message from Moran Mor Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, the President of CBCI. A message of good wishes and blessings of Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales was read in the Conference.
Delegates from church groups, NGOs and INGOs from the UK and Europe, together with guests from India attended. Addressing the conference, Prof. Dr. M. Mary John, the president of the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) India explained the struggles of Dalit Christians for equal rights in the Catholic Church while Mr. Satpal Muman pointed out the need for institutional support for implementing caste legislation for the UK – namely section 9(5) of the Equality Act. Dr. George Kunnathu of the Oxford University presented the plight of caste practices in the church in South Asian countries and Prof. David Mosse of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) explained that caste discrimination is a part of Indian Church history and it is the responsibility of Church internationally to address it.
Ms. Marie Marcel Thekkekara introduced the shame of India in the plight of manual scavengers and Mr. Aiden McQuade, the Director of Anti-Slavery International, likened the caste discrimination suffered by Dalits to Modern day slavery. Ms. H.H. Deepa from India presented the Model of Community Development that is being developed in India for the victims of Kahandamal caste riots in India.
Mr. V.J. George, General Secretary, DALITAID- INDIA questioned general trend of International Aid Agencies [IAA] of addressing poverty symptoms of Dalits rather than addressing caste discrimination as its root cause. The representatives of Aid agencies like World Vision UK – Ms. Haifa Ungapen, CAFOD – Mr. Neil Thorns, and Karuna Trust – Mr. Padmaka Ciaran Maguire- explained their position and their commitment to address caste discrimination faced by Dalits.
The Conference issued a Statement underlining the commitments of the participants – including donor agencies, Bishops, Church leaders and the UK Diaspora to address caste discrimination in a more proactive manner.
Major conclusions and recommendations of the conference:
- Start a Dalit Desk / Secretariat in UK and launch a “Make Caste Discrimination History” Campaign.
- Secure the support of the Vatican to address global caste discrimination.
- The official Church and Church based organizations shall take a proactive role in addressing caste discrimination and poverty of Dalits which is due to caste discrimination.
- The struggle of Dalit Christians for equal rights in India is a just and human rights issue which needs the support from international Church communities.
- UK Church / aid agencies to address Dalit Christian and Dalit issues and support implementation of UK Equality Act 2010 Section 9(5) by widely participating in the Caste Consultation.
- Institutions and agencies involved in addressing Dalit and Global poverty issues should have a Dalit Desk, Dalit consultants and professionals. Dalit poverty must be a crosscutting thematic area in the monitoring and evaluation of development projects.
- The Aid agencies to work towards sensitizing the general public, including their staff and their departments to address global poverty of Dalits.
- To strive for a proportionate share of global international development resources as Dalits form 1/3rd of the Global poor.
- Dalit liberation Day and Ambedkar Day are to be celebrated globally and expressed the need for international exposure and skill training of Dalit leaders and future leaders.
- DALITAID-INDIA, as a Dalit led agency needs to be promoted along with implementation of a National Model Dalit Community Development Project in India.
Fr. Gerard Mitchell SJ.
[On behalf of the Conference Organising Committee]
C/o Conference Administrator:
Voice of Dalit International
ICG House, Station Approach, Greenford UB6 0AL.
Telephone: 0208 813 2380 / (M) 07919247332
PROGRAMME: 2017 Updated Conference Programme (1) .
For a number of years, St. Anselm’s parish has encouraged reflection of issues related to caste discrimination. The CNACD Network evolved from our joint celebration with ‘Southall Churches Together’ for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity [WPCU] 2013, having ‘Dalits and Caste Discrimination’ as its theme.
In February 2014, the Network conducted a 2-day international conference on ‘Christian Responsibility to Dalits and Caste Discrimination’, at St. George’s Cathedral, London. Prominent speakers included Bishops from in the UK and India, Members of the House of Lords and Development experts.
The 2014 conference covered the Global and UK context, including the awaited implementation of the Equalities Act provision outlawing caste discrimination in the UK. It also highlighted the scale of the Global perspective, as one-third of the Global poor are Dalits [Scheduled Castes / Tribes (SC/ST); Other / Backward Communities (O/BC)].
The WPCU, UN bodies such as Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the European Union, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India [CBCI] have condemned the caste system. However, much more needs to be done to abolish this old, evil and dehumanising practice, and to mainstream its victims.
A DISCUSSION ON ‘UK Caste Consultation and Christian Responsibility’.
Published and available at < https://davidalton.net/latest/ >.
Dalits – meeting Feb 1st 2017 Room 3 House of Lords, 5.30pm
Remarks by Lord Alton of Liverpool.
Dalit is a term which derives from a Sanskrit word meaning “broken” or “crushed”.
It is abhorrent in the 21st century that any human being should be seen as an untouchable or that it is acceptable to break or crush another human being.
In my study at home in Lancashire, I have a small terracotta pot given to me during a visit to India. Such pots must be broken once a Dalit has drunk out of them so as not to pollute or contaminate other castes. This is the 21st century. It is not the pots which need to be broken, not the people, but the system which ensnares them.
200 million Dalits in India make up one sixth of India’s population and one thirty fifth of the world’s population. Dalits live in 132 countries, including countries like the UK, where South Asians have migrated.
Take Dalits and Tribals together, both of whom fall outside the caste system and experience discrimination: they comprise a quarter of India’s population and one twenty fourth of the world’s population.
Two hundred years ago, on 22 June 1813, six years after he had successfully led the parliamentary campaign to end the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, William Wilberforce made a major speech in the House of Commons about India.
He said that the caste system,
“must surely appear to every heart of true British temper to be a system at war with truth and nature; a detestable expedient for keeping the lower orders of the community bowed down in an abject state of hopelessness and irremediable vassalage. It is justly, Sir, the glory of this country, that no member of our free community is naturally precluded from rising into the highest classes in society”.
Two centuries later the caste system which Wilberforce said should be abolished – and which the British during the colonial period signally failed to end – still disfigures the lives of vast swathes of humanity.
Evidence points to 80-95% of bonded labourers (the vast majority of the ‘modern slaves’ in India) being Dalits, 99% of ritual sex slaves (the 250,000 temple prostitutes known locally as Devadasi or Jogini) being Dalits, and the majority of those trafficked into brothels or into domestic servitude being Dalits or Tribals.
Dalits, including children, are turned into modern day slaves.
If you are a Dalit in India you are 27 times more likely to be trafficked or exploited in another form of modern slavery than anyone else.
It is estimated that every day three dalit women are raped; dalit women are often forced to sit at the back of their school classrooms, or even outside; on average every hour two dalit houses are burnt down; every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit; each day two Dalits are murdered; 11 Dalits are beaten; many are impoverished; some half of Dalit children are under-nourished; 12% die before their fifth birthday; 56 per cent of dalit children under the age of four are malnourished; their infant mortality rate is close to 10 %; vast numbers are uneducated or illiterate; and 45% cannot read or write; in one recent year alone, 25,455 crimes were committed against dalits, although many more went unreported, let alone investigated or prosecuted; 70 per cent are denied the right to worship in local temples; 60 million dalits are used as forced labourers, often reduced to carrying out menial and degrading forms of work;
Dalits constitute 40% of the global poor and are denied of DFID Funding, because they largely live in India, which simply doesn’t make the policy priorities. This becomes a new form of untouchability.
Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution once remarked that “Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”
Ambedkar’s life was a life of relentless struggle for human rights. Born on a dunghill and condemned to a childhood of social leprosy, ejected from hotels, barber shops, temples and offices; facing starvation while studying to secure his education; elected to high political office and leadership without dynastic patronage; and to achieve fame as a lawyer and law maker, constitutionalist, educator, professor, economist and writer, illustrates what the human spirit can overcome.
Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question.
Ambedkar understood that the great nation of India would never achieve its potential if it remained disfigured and divided by caste. Without freedom to marry, who they would; to live with, who they would; to dine with, who they would; to embrace or touch, who they would; or to work with, who they would, the nation could – and can – never be fully united or able to fulfil its extraordinary potential.
While still a young man of twenty, Ambedkar perceptively wrote: “Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you.” He said that social progress would be greatly accelerated if female and male education were pursued side by side. He later insisted that “We will attain self elevation only if we learn self-help, regain our self-respect, and gain self knowledge.”
Although Dr. Ambedkar was able to have India’s Constitution and the laws framed to end untouchability, for millions and millions of people, many of those provisions have not been worth the paper on which they are written.
Ambdekar’s own struggle may now be history; caste is not. In our generation it is surely time to make caste history.
At the end of the meeting on Caste the participants agreed the following Statement:
“Today’s meeting deliberated on the history, development and current situation of the UK Caste legislation and the hide and seek policy of the UK Government / EHRC and arrived at the following:
- Any appeasement of the adversaries of caste legislation will be only contrary to the British values of secularism, democracy, fairness, justice and social integration.
- British values demand that the Government keep religion out of politics and uphold its stand against any form of discrimination, including case discrimination.
- Caste discrimination is practiced by south Asians of all religions; and not by the followers of one religion alone, one particular religion cannot act as patrons of other UK faith groups practicing caste discrimination.
- Caste discrimination is worse than any other forms of discrimination falling within the protected characteristics. It breaks the psych and physic of its victims; denies choice and opportunity in education, job and public services for the victims. The victims are exploited, marginalised, dehumanised, impoverished and denied equality and integration.
- This gathering decide to request the UK general public, Government, media, Christian communities, its hierarchy and their Charities/ NGOs to implement Caste legislation on behalf of the 1/3rd of the global poor, who are Dalits of whom there are almost 1 million UK citizens as potential caste victims and caste spreading as cancer in the UK society.”
Many years ago, the UK victims’ communities raised their voice against caste discrimination. In 2010, the UK Parliament introduced Section 9 (5) enabling the Minister to make caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010 – in light of valid research on the subject.
In 2010 the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), commissioned by the UK government, reported that ‘Equality Act 2010 provisions on religious discrimination cannot cover caste discrimination and harassment as effectively as caste-specific provisions would’. This is supported by the NIESR report which states: “Relying on the Indian community to take action to reduce caste discrimination and harassment is problematic”.
In 2012 The UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] observed that :“The EHRC supports the enactment of Section 9 (5) of the Equality Act 2010, which provides that a Minister may by order amend the statutory definition of race to include caste and may provide for exceptions in the Act to apply or not to apply to caste. The Commission notes the findings of the government-commissioned NIESR  paper on caste discrimination. In light of this, the Commission would suggest legal protection under the Equality Act 2010 for those experiencing discrimination in Britain should be as comprehensive as possible.” “Caste discrimination and harassment in Great Britain”, Metcalf, H. and Rolfe, H. 2010.
In 2013, the Act was amended making caste discrimination illegal and passed by both Houses of Parliament. However the law falls short of its implementation.
The Government’s own timetable issued in July 2013 promised implementation of the law by Summer 2015. However the issue remains stagnant and those opposing the legislation have been able to use political pressure to effectively stall legislation that was agreed by Parliament.
For the first time, the 2015 UK election was fought by projecting the caste issue. Last year, the victims prepared for a Judicial Review. On 3 September 2016, EHRC released a statement that by the end of the year, it would announce a public consultation lasting for 12 weeks before taking a decision. But, the goalposts for the consultation appear to have changed – instead of asking ‘how the legislation should be implemented’, the Government will be asking ‘whether the legislation should be implemented’. And today 1 February 2017, that consultation has yet to be issued.