The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is about to recognize caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. An estimated 260 million people globally are victims of such discrimination, which has been likened to the former apartheid system in South Africa.
There are 65 million ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ in India. They perform the most degrading and menial jobs. The UNHRC proposes to eliminate this “discrimination based on work and descent,” acknowledging the scale of persecution suffered by millions of people because of the caste system.
Nepal has chosen to back the proposals, but India has not. Earlier this year, the Indian government lobbied against the inclusion of the word ‘caste’ in the draft principles. In recent years, the country has undergone its own reforms, with some Dalits achieving wealth and power.
So is the caste system an abuse of human rights that must be reformed, if necessary with pressure from the UN? Or do you think the system works in India and should be left alone? Or does the country need to reform, but at its own pace, without external interference?
Ajay Meena in Jaipur writes on the Times of India website :
“It would be naive to assume that a UN resolution or UNHRC can change social realities in India. This will end up as a tool to harass India.”
And Raj in Bangalore comments: “The caste based discrimination has been in existence in India for thousands of years and it cannot be abolished in a single day.”
This blogger believes that factors other than the caste system are to blame for Dalits doing the worst jobs in society. Do you agree?