Religion, Terrorism and Caste Oppression in South Asia
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London Institute of South Asia (LISA) held a seminar on ¯Religion, terrorism and caste oppression in South Asia‖ on 25 August 2016 at the Advanced Legal School, University of London.
Spread across South Asia is a group of forgotten people numbering in the hundreds of millions. Despised by their countrymen and viewed as subhuman, even the shadows they cast are believed to be cursed. These people are the Dalits, the lowest of the low. Mostly, nearly 300 million live in India. For centuries the Dalits - or Untouchables – are at the bottom of Indian society. They have been subjected to most degrading and dehumanising abuse. The caste system (Varna) is an integral part of Hindu religion and Dalits are beneath the Shudra and rejected right from their birth.
London Institute of South Asia (LISA) is deeply concerned about the plight of Dalits and the indigenous people of India. Apartheid came to an end through a movement of people of many nations with one voice and one message – that apartheid is wrong. We believe that the injustice of the Dalits is the biggest human rights issue in the world today. It will take a similar movement of ordinary people to tackle this extraordinary oppression that has affected millions of people for thousands of years. The injustice of the Dalits is the biggest human rights tragedy in the world today.
It is indeed dreadful how in the name of religion, people have justified apartheid, slavery, religious extremism. It is appalling how the world is not paying enough attention to religious intolerance and extremism in form of Hindutva in India. India is too big to be ignored and so is the issue of Dalits and minorities.
Seminar Report 2016.
The seminar sent a strong message to the international community by highlighting the plight of well over 300 Million people of India who are the most deprived community living on this planet earth. They are Dalits of India. The seminar was supported by think tanks, human rights organisations and groups like Amnesty International, Voice on Dalits International (VODI), Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) and Facilitate Global
The seminar was addressed by very eminent speakers, thinkers and activists from India and the United Kingdom. It was chaired by Alan Hart an iconic TV presenter of Panorama at BBC and a great supporter of Palestinian and Kashmiris. In his opening address he said CASTE SYSTEM is not only an obscenity. It's a form of evil. The question - Why, oh why, do Indians tolerate it? Put another way - Why don't they protest, rise up in great numbers, to end it? It is worst humanitarian crisis and modern day slavery.
Professor Kancha Ilaiah
Professor Kancha Ilaiah from Hyderabad University India gave a keynote address emphasising Caste-based discrimination and practice is a violation of international human rights agreements and constitutional provisions. The elimination of caste discrimination is a global agenda and global responsibility. All religions, all nations and international community must join hands together in support of Dalits.
Historically there were phases of struggle that actually took place against human untouchability. Greatest fight against it was by Gautama Buddha who was the father of Buddhism. Even then the Brahmanical forces were much more powerful than the Judean people at the time of Jesus Christ in Israel – they were the priests who controlled everything. They insisted that God created you as you are that no one has the right to change it. God did not allow education and property for those who were born to be dispossessed.
The tragedy of 21st century when the much trumpeted democracy in the ruling the government of India has instituted laws that you cannot eat beef –if you eat beef in India private Hindu army created by the right wing can enter your homes and search your refrigerators and arrest /beat up/harass you. This breach of privacy and breach of sanctity of an Indian home has become a norm but the world looks on without blinking an eyelid.
In 2001 I took a team of delegates to present the case to of Dalits to UN Conference on ¯Conference against racism, racial discrimination and
xenophobia‖ in Durban, South Africa. He said that he had requested various governments to raise this issue at the UN and after India threatened that is an internal matter and cannot go to UN the matter was shelved.
He requested London Institute of South Asia (LISA) to use their forum to find nations that would be prepared to raise this issue at the UN. The chairman LISA assured him and the audience that we shall do our best to address this problem.
Robert Gallimore an ex British decorated army officer, a teacher, a researcher and film maker(documentaries) said that Caste system in India is hugely wrong and asked why it still exists. He presented his talk in a geostrategic context and said that the UK cannot disassociate itself from inhuman persecution of Dalits.
He was dismayed as to why India has not been declared a pariah state like South Africa- why this silence and why not enough noise? The British liked the caste system as it was a readymade system for effective imperial control. He highly criticised Modi for making some noises but at the same time encouraging persecution in the margins without an order trail. Britain has to share the blame but what is happening in India now is inexcusable.
He insisted that India is sitting on a time bomb as this inequality and dispossession would inevitably lead to an uprising. He was of the view that the economic growth in India is fuelled by caste system. India is suffering from horrendous industrial conditions and a revolution is a foregone conclusion – it just cannot go on like this if it has to survive as a nation state. The world at large is deliberately quiet on these disgusting problems in India and amazingly is not even paying lip service to these human rights issues and by contrast there is a lot of noise on issues in China, Pakistan and Burma and other places that actually dwarf the issues in India.
He made some remarkable observations by saying that India has an outstanding PR machine. Do you ever hear or read of honour killing, women rights, state terrorism, and apartheid and caste discrimination. No these are associated with Pakistan. Pakistan is all BAD, India all GOOD.
He said India has so completely defeated Pakistan in PR and the world would see only through that prism / paradigm. India he said had always managed to leave Pakistan miles behind in public relations and diplomacy. He highlighted the weaknesses of India in terms of Naxal Movement, Dalit Movement, Kashmir Independence Movement and Assam Freedom highlighting the human rights violation in India. India has cleverly diverted world attention by making Pakistan the bad boy.
Mr Eugene Culas
Mr Eugene Culas founder director Voice on Dalits International (VODI) insisted that in actual fact there are 440 million Dalits leading sub-human life and that shockingly they represent 35% total Indian population is worst humanitarian disaster in the history of mankind.
He addressed the issue of Caste discrimination and Dalits from national and international development angle. Dalits, ‗meaning historically broken people due to criminal caste discrimination‘ and who number 444 million people of South Asia have been treated unjustifiably and inhumanly. UK has a long history of struggles by the caste affected people under the leadership of CasteWatchUK. Last week this organisation, together with South Asia Solidarity Group organised a demonstration outside India House, London, protesting against the continued atrocities on Dalits in India by the Indian caste criminals As a result of these struggles and the UK Parliament, keeping to its traditions towards slavery and apartheid, passed the Equality Act Section 9 (2010/2013 making caste discrimination illegal in the UK particularly in the field of education, employment and in service delivery, but still awaiting executive order to implement the law, due to the opposition by the Hindu lobby headed by their temples, Anti Caste Legislation Committee and by British Hindu All Parliamentary Party Group
He said that poverty of over 90% of the poor in India is pre-determined and imposed at gun point, and 95% of the development energy, resources and efforts are wasted on combating opposition to their development due to the general criminal caste mindset.
International Aid Agencies [INGOs] and Western Governments profess to address the root causes of poverty and educate their public. However they show ignorance or are unaware of the root cause of poverty of Dalits of all faiths, who form 1/3rd of the Global poor - to be precise 440 million people.
There are three groups of people in India: The 1st group in a caste affected society is composed of 25% of population, doing jobs such as cleaning and handling dead objects [humans and animals]. They are branded by criminal casteists as untouchables, unseeables and sub-humans, without any human and development rights. Although previously they were known by different names – such as depressed communities, Harijans, etcetera, they are called Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes [Scand STs] in the independent India. They call themselves as ‗Dalits‘. They are frequently subjected to untold and barbaric humiliations, brutality, sexual violations, destruction of dwellings, fatal crimes with impunity of the perpetrators intended to break the body and mind of the individual and community, thereby extracting free labour and physical control.
The 2nd group in a caste affected society constitute 60% of its population. They are branded as Other / Backward communities in the Independent India and are considered as ‗slaves‘ by the criminal caste mindset. Occupationally, they are masons, carpenters, weavers, farm / fish workers, and etcetera who are subjected to caste discrimination, and are victims of arbitrary and inhuman caste punishments. Their only duty in life, according to the caste mindset, is to serve meekly the remaining 3rd group.
The 3rd group in a caste affected society constitutes 15% of its population. This Group is composed of three other groups as priests, warrior and, trading occupations and their sub-groups always indentified by their caste names together with their first names [For example, Shah, Sharma, Varna, Mukherji, Banarji, Chaterji etcetera are caste names]. These three groups have jointly connived to share all earthly possessions such as land, wealth, knowledge, power, rights, privileges, and entitlements etcetera. The priests [3.5% of total population] take dominance, and are considered as gods on earth and to be masters of everything. They jointly prescribe a fictitious hierarchy of occupations, social status by birth etcetera for the remaining population. They have formed a code of caste laws which are unbreakable despite the constitution.
VT Rajshekar a writer, activist and editor of Dalit Voice who has spent a lifetime supporting Dalits was characteristically fiery and was very critical of BJP Prime Minister Modi and said he was an extremist and murderer of many Indian Muslims. He felt that caste oppression is the most burning problem and reiterated that Caste system is Hinduism and Hinduism is with caste. Without caste it shall not be Hinduism.
He said that some speakers today have questioned that why don‘t Dalits rise up regretfully how you expect them to rise and protest. No one is bothered about them; the world is quiet on the subject so how do you expect them to fight. Dalits are cursed by Hinduism and if you remove caste Hinduism is dead.
He said that Varna system is the sole cause of India backwardness, poverty, terrorism and Modi is responsible for fomenting hatred against Muslims and other communities in India. RSS killed Gandhi and now anything Muslim in India is labelled as terrorism. Modi is pushing Sikhs to go for Khalistan.
He did not mince his words and said that India is controlled by Brahmins in league with the Zionists and with the rise of Modi and his RSS brand of Hindutva India is polarised that may well lead to its undoing.
Clive Hambidge director Facilitate Global presented a scholarly support of Dalit cause with his fascinating humanistic appeal. In Sanskrit Dalit has the meaning ‗broken people‘. They are anything but. I cannot cope with their suffering; I sit here in privilege. However, I cannot cope with their suffering, and so, I am here to add commentary and to say no to any system that condemns between 18 and 20 percent of the Indian population to abuse from the sacred passage of birth into a mainly patriarchal concoction of unwise, unlawful discrimination through no fault of their own.
India is a Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights it is right therefore that NFDW calls India‘s government‘s attention to: ¯Article 24 of the Covenant [which] provides that every child shall be registered immediately after birth. In India, 46% of all children are not registered. There is also no system of registration of marriages. This is not only a barrier for the realization of civil and political rights; it also prevents the protection of Dalit girls from sexual exploitation and trafficking, child labour and forced and early marriage.‖
There are today hundreds of thousands of pending cases of abuse/violence, sexual exploitation, and worse, against perceived lower classes, and Dalits, against the backdrop of a creaking and corrupt legal system where police, lawyers, officers of the courts, corporatists and government cronies submit with alacrity -and lack of conscience- to bribery reckoned to be in the ball park figure of $500 million per year and rising.
It is a mistake of grave proportions, if one admits into a national psyche the disenfranchisement of 300 million souls! If a government invests, as the representative organisation of a sovereign people, in only part of itself when the omniscient form of The Mother invests in all of itself, including government, then these words by Sarada Devi commit to the plight of the Dalits: “Know that service to your mother is your highest duty. But it is a different if she stands in the way of your spiritual progress
If I would even to consider the abhorrence, that another sentient human being is ‗untouchable‟ I desensitize as I dehumanize, I become a willing party to prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, injustice, apartheid, violence - unwittingly or will fully- I separate my conscience from consciousness. I degrade myself as I degrade another. I will not do it or be party to it.
Former Ambassador and Chairman of London Institute of South Asia Saeed Ismat in his closing remarks said, ¯In my view it is not all gloom and doom there are some positive sign on the horizon - I visualise that a revolution is in the making, especially in the universities, against caste oppression. There are different alliances that are taking shape between Muslims and Dalits, this was highlighted at a recent seminar at SOAS organised by South Asian Solidarity Group and then we witness emerging alliance between Marxist and Dalits. For the first time, Dalit students and the communist-affiliated student unions that have been facing the brunt of the right-wing onslaught are making common cause. This alliance against the saffron upsurge has prompted the main left parties such as the CPM and CPI and the smaller Marxist-Leninist outfits also to do a rethink and make the Dalit cause a significant plank of their new strategy.”
As for Modi himself it is doubtful if the Dalits could ever trust him. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had said publicly that ¯Dalits were like mentally retarded children”. In contrast to Modi Gandhi had called them ¯Children of God”. Modi further said that for Dalit community involved in manual scavenging it was a “spiritual experience‟‟. What a great Spiritual Experience it must be – Mr Modi is advised to undergo this ¯spiritual experience‖ urgently. If you perform manual scavenging for just one week you shall be blessed with that great spiritual experience and you shall become a better leader of the biggest democracy in the world.”
The modern technology is doing wonders in waking up the people as it has woken up Kashmiris after the murder of Burhan Wani a 22year old that sparked unprecedented uprising. Today is 48th day of his death but the curfew continues and 86 Kashmiris killed, hundreds wounded and thousands in jail. India held Kashmir has a population of just 13 Million and India has deployed nearly 700,000 troops to control the Kashmiris. It is the highest concentration of troops on this planet -that is one soldier for 19 Kashmiri men, women and children. Many analysts believe that ¯The situation in Kashmir is heading towards a referendum. Well no one should be afraid of a referendum and the solution should be through the United Nations resolutions in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. The human rights violations in India-held Kashmir or human rights of Dalits are not internal matter of the Indian state these are also matters of international concern.
At London Institute of South Asia (LISA) we are deeply concerned about the plight of Dalits and the indigenous people of India. Apartheid came to an end through a movement of people of many nations with one voice and one message – that apartheid is wrong. We believe that the injustice of the Dalits is the biggest human rights issue in the world today. It will take a similar movement of ordinary people to tackle this extraordinary oppression that has affected millions of people for thousands of years. The injustice of the Dalits is the biggest human rights tragedy in the world today. We shall be delighted to work with all groups, think tank and human rights bodies to support the cause of Dalit Liberation Movement
We would also like to thank each of you who are here today; we thank our contributors, volunteer supporters. Without you it would not be possible to host this historic conference today. I sincerely appreciated and honour each of you for supporting the cause of Dalits. Each one of you is a driving force of Dalit Liberation Movement and let this be a historical human rights movement to free Dalits from the stranglehold of slavery and degradation by Brahmanical forces in the contemporary world.