PUCL Bulletin, July 2001

A debate on caste and race

A World Conference against Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is going to take place from August 31-Septemer 7 2001 in Durban, South Africa under the auspices of the UN. In the Indian context the issue has assumed great importance. One section of opinion is of the view that the caste discrimination in India is as bad as racial discrimination and it must be discussed in the above conference. The other section, and also the official position of the Indian government, maintains that caste cannot be equated with race and therefore, such discrimination cannot be a subject in the above conference. We are excerpting below some portions from Human Rights Solidarity, a publication of the Asian Human Rights Commission, issue of April 2001. -- Chief Editor


Racism, Name-Changing and Toilets
Soli J Sorabji, Attorney General of India, Times of India, March 4, 2001

The regional preparatory meeting in Teheran for the forthcoming World Conference against Racism in Durban in September witnessed interesting developments. It was acknowledged that no country is immune from the virus of racism whose roots lie in the hearts and minds of people. What is required is mental cleansing to remove prejudices against certain communities and races; and in this, education has a vital role to play.

In addition to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which India has ratified, there is an urgent need for an international convention for punishment of the practice of racism and for compensation to its victims. There were misconceived attempts by some NGOs to equate racism with caste based discrimination that is based on birth and occupation and has nothing to do with the race of a person.

Our Constitution recognises the distinction between race and caste, which are separately mentioned as prohibited grounds of discrimination. Speeches disseminating hate through the Internet can spread racism and must be effectively suppressed. However in our anxiety to do so, we must be careful not to prescribe rational criticism merely because it is hurtful to someone's feelings. Otherwise, free and frank debate will become impossible, and freedom of expression will be the prime casualty.

In Iran, ladies are required to cover their heads with a scarf in public. Some women delegates inadvertently omitted to observe this injunction during the conference. The result was an angry public demonstration and a demand for the resignation of the Minister who organised the conference! Politicking apparently is universal. My first visit to Iran was not without a tinge of nostalgia for the past buried in antiquity, especially when the ruins of Persepolis reminded me of the Zoroastrian emperors Cynus and Darius and the glorious Zoroastrian civilization. Incidentally, a return air ticket from Tehran to Shiraz, a distance of 900 kilometers, costs just US $ 30.

People attach great importance to their names and their correct spelling and pronunciation. The right to given name is recognised as a human right by Article 18 of the American Convention on Human Rights of 1969 (ACHR).
The directive to Indian Call Centre workers to change over to English names on the grounds that names like Ravindran or Subramaniam causes difficulties for British customers has raised a furor. A spokesman for UNIFI, one of Britain's largest white collar unions, termed this name changing "an insult to the intelligence of the work force and the callers and totally ridiculous".

The Commission for racial equality is examining the matter following concerns that the name game has racial implications. However, there can be no objection to a person voluntarily changing a name to avoid embarrassment. This happened when a Parsi person whose surname was Screwalla promptly altered to it Spencer because he could not face the daily barrage of quips and questions from his colleagues: "Had a good screw? Good luck, screw" and the various pungent variations on the theme.

High-sounding, like adherence to the rule of law, a free press, an independent judiciary, etc., have been formulated for determining the level of civilization of a country. A pragmatic test would be the state of toilets in public buildings, which generally have an unbearable stench in our country. It is heartening that the Archaeological Survey of India has signed an agreement with a non- governmental organisation, Sulabh International, at Safdarjung's Tomb in Delhi to provide sanitation facilities at 34 World Heritage sites in India. Shabana Azmi, a Rajya Sabha MP who inaugurated the first of these toilets at the Safdarjung Tomb, was so impressed by the toilet there that she requested that all of those present see it before leaving.

Toilets have fascination for some people. A Hong Kong Chinese man Lam Sai-wing, who runs a jewellery store, has a unique toilet in his shop. It has two 24 carat gold commodes and toilet bowls, paper holders, mirror frames, wall mounted chandlers, wall titles, and doors that are all made of solid gold. People have to spend at least HK$1, 000 (US$ 128) on jewellery for the privilege of using the toilet.

The irony is that Lam's inspiration for the toilet sparing from his interpretation of Lenin's purported statement that he wanted to make gold toilets for the public after the triumph of socialist ideology. None of these capitalist obscene toilet opulence for socialist India though. We will rest content, which clean functioning toilets. Is this utopian fancy?


Caste Away
Smita Narula
Times of India, Letters to the Editor
March 9, 2001

In "Racism, Name Changing and Toilets" (March 4), Attorney General Soli Sorabji joined the ranks of Indian government officials to argue that caste is not race, that the inclusion of caste based discrimination in the UN sponsored World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) would "dilute" the conference theme and that caste based abuses are an internal, not international, concern. The conference is to take place in South Africa in September.

Mr. Sorabji's arguments effectively undermine India's commitment to the universality of human rights as expressed through its ratification of numerous international Conventions. They are more reminiscent of the "not in my backyard" defensiveness of governments around the world. The arguments also ignore the pronouncements of numerous UN treaty bodies that caste based discrimination is discrimination on the basis of descent under Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Caste based abuse is rampant in numerous Asian countries, including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Japan. Its inclusion in the WCAR is therefore, is not a dilution, but an affirmation, of the voices of hundreds of millions of victims who continue to suffer from segregation, modern day slavery, and extreme forms of exploitation and violence.

At preparatory meetings for the WCAR, the issue of caste has been undermined, sidelined and ignored by Indian delegates and Sate sponsored NHOS purporting to represent the world's largest democracy. The government has consulted neither parliament nor the National Human Rights Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes while promulgating and promoting its position. Mr. Sorabji is an expert member of the UN Sub Commission on Human Rights, which recently, passed a resolution on work, and on descent based discrimination. As India's Attorney General, he should encourage the government to support efforts to implement a resolution he helped create while countries may ignore the pronouncement of UN treaty bodies, they cannot ignore their own constitutions or the voices of their citizens. The spirit of this conference and of India's own constitutional commitment to freedom of expression, equality and the abolishment of untouchability demands no less.


The Dirtiest Engagement of Indian Diplomacy: Operation Toilet
Basil Fernando, AHRC
A letter in reply to Soli J Sorabji, Attorney General of India.

The regional preparatory meeting in Tehran, Iran for the forthcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, in August and September witnessed a repetition of the Indian government's position against the inclusion of caste on the agenda of this conference. India's attorney general, Soli Sorabji, in a Times of India article entitled "Racism, Name- Changing Toilets" has revealed the reason for this stance, which may have turned Mahatma Gandhi in his grave. In his article, the attorney general says, "None of this capitalist obscene toilet opulence for socialist India though. We will rest content with clean- functioning toilets. Is this utopian fancy"?

A video production entitled Less than Human has depicted the way Brahmanism has condemned vast sections of Untouchables to just collecting shit pit. The attorney general is basically saying, "That is how it's going to be in the future also." To prevent the Untouchables from walking out of their toilets is what the Brahmins and their spokespeople are struggling for at this conference and in other forums. A world where caste will ne annihilated is seen by them as a Utopia for these discriminated masses and as a smelly place for themselves.

The Indian caste system has been the means by which vast sections of the Indian population have been submerged into a condition of servitude to satisfy the interests of a small minority who have claimed their privileges on the basis of the special birthright through the mouth of their god. However, the real issue has not been from where they were born but who could possess land in India. So long as the Untouchable was confined to the toilets, they were also confined to the Indian Ghetto. Thus, land, sand everything that goes with it, were in the easy possession of a minority.

A few days after the publication of the attorney general's letter on toilets the Washington Post revealed that a four day meeting intended to bring some coherence to the agenda of the upcoming international conference on racism in August ended on March 9 in Geneva without success. One of the few vocififerous countries at the meeting was India whose sole interest was to prevent caste from being discussed at the world conference. Battalions of Indian diplomats are now being put to this task. The reason for such a massive operation is not difficult to understand. Many of India's claims are under threat of being exposed: that is the world's largest democracy, that it has a great civilization, that it even has a right to a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Thus, the face that has practiced one of the crudest forms of discrimination for millennia can make these entire claims sound hollow.
Like the Attorney General, everyone has only one argument: caste and race are different. These good men are only opposed to name changing. What they seem to forget is that, whatever the name, the game is the same: a type of discrimination that is similar to, or worse, than apartheid. The Attorney General even tries to cite the Indian Constitution in his favour. In this endeavour, he gets into serious difficulties though with anyone who knows this Constitution and its history, for the drafts of the Indian Constitution exhibited some degree of idealism. The Constitution idealized castes as a curse of India and deliberately tried to address the issue. Running through the constitution is the theme of equality and ways to address the problem. The fact that these founders who represented divergent opinions agreed to have B.R. Ambedkar, an Untouchable and the undisputed leader of this marginalized sector of society, be the chief draftsman of the constitution showed a remarkable degree of appreciation of the caste issue in the Indian nation.

Such leaders as Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, two great influences in the Indian independence movement, reflected this idealism. Swami Vivekananda wrote, " Unless they (Untouchables) are raised, this motherland of ours will never awake." His remarks on caste discrimination remain a bitter critique of the Indian hypocrisy on this issue. Mahatma Gandhi, who liked to be seen as the champion of the untouchables, condemned caste discrimination as a form of leprosy. Though their vision for the eradication of caste may have been limited, their acknowledgement of caste as the great Indian contradiction cannot be denied.

This Indian idealism is now dead. The fundamentalist Hindutva movement represents the contemporary equivalent of the ideology of Godse, Mahatma Gandhi's assassin. This ideology is no different to the ideologies of white supremacy movements. It is an ideology of complete racism. What this ideology represents is not India's pride but its shame. Damn the nation and save caste is in short, the ambition of those who represent this ideology. It is the ideology of India's current ruling party- the Bhartiya Janata Party or BJP
The Attorney General and Indian diplomats derive their mandates from this vicious ideology. They are wholeheartedly committed to preventing a global debate on the most wretchedly committed to preventing a global debate on the most wretchedly exploited sections of Indian society, who constitute atleast 160 million people. The efforts and expenditure that are put into this operation are enormous.

However, in their great enthusiasm to make Untouchables invisible, they have already lost the battle. The world now knows about the deep divisions that exist in India on this issue and how sensitively the present BJP government perceives the issue. If someone thought that caste is something of the past or an exaggeration of oppression, they will now know that their perceptions are wrong. The realisation that this most primitive type of exploitation still exists, affecting a large section of people as they read their newspapers or see TV screens reporting on the World Conference against Racism. Indian diplomacy has been counterproductive for the BJP government. However, it has unwittingly contributed to the expansion of the campaign against the caste system.

The Attorney General's article ends with a pathetic question: "Is this a utopian fancy?" Keeping caste in place and enjoying the privilege of other people cleaning his toilet has the quality of a utopian dream to him and those like them. Will this be lost? It simply is inevitable. It is time for him to find another way to keep his toilet clean.

Caste vs. Race
Soli Sorabji, Attorney General of India, New Delhi
Times of India, Letters to the Editor

Ms. Smita Narula's letter "Caste Away" (March 9) overlooks the fact that discrimination can be on several grounds, such as religion, gender, race or caste. The forthcoming conference in Durban is focused Racism. It is not a conference on discrimination in general.

It is undeniable that, despite constitutional and legal provisions, caste based discrimination in our country persists and is pervasive and that strong effective measures are needed to stamp out this evil. However, caste-based discrimination cannot be equated with racial discrimination. Our Constitution makes a clear distinction between race and caste as causes of discrimination (Articles 15. 1 and 2 of the Constitution). The observation of the Supreme Court in the celebrated Mandal case also makes this distinction.

At the meeting of the UN Sub commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held last August (2000) in Geneva, I expressed a firm view during the deliberations that caste based discrimination on the basis of race. Unfortunately, during the final stage when the resolution was passed, I was absent owing to compelling professional engagements in the Supreme Court.
I am afraid I cannot accept Ms. Narula'a gratuitous advice that, as the Attorney General of India, I should encourage the government to implement the resolution which I did not help create. Moreover, I genuinely believe, along with others, including the eminent social scientist Andre Beteillle, that racial and caste-based discrimination are not synonymous.

Human Rights Watch, a US NGO for whom Ms. Narula, living in New York, works, may entertain a different view depending on their perceptions and agenda.

Letter to India's Attorney General
Basil Fernando, AHRC

India's Attorney General, Soli S Sorabji, who earlier wrote about his interest in keeping his toilet clean, has unveiled more surprises. In a subsequent piece, he says that a UN Sub commission's resolution is not valid or binding since he could not attend the meeting when it was passed, "I was absent owing to compelling, professional engagements in the Supreme Court. I am afraid I cannot accept Ms. Narula's gratuitous advice that, as the Attorney General of India, I should encourage the government to implement the resolution which I did not help create."

This is a strange approach to resolutions, agreements, and law making in general: "I did not help create it, and thus, I am not bound by it" is the position being taken. If every one takes this approach, there will be no binding resolutions. Take, e.g., Iraq. This country can say that it did not vote for most of the resolutions against it and, in fact, opposed them. According to the Attorney General's own admission, he opposed the resolution. The Attorney General says, "At the meeting of the UN Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights held last August in Geneva, I expressed my firm view during the deliberations that caste based discrimination is different from discrimination on the basis of race". Having heard his opinion, the sub commission decided otherwise. In short, the sub commission was quite aware of the Attorney General's point of view, considered it to be wrong and decided to the contrary.

Thus, the Attorney General has reason to advise himself that world opinion is different from his position and that he must now play the game according to rules decided by others. There must be many Indian cases, for instance, where the courts have overruled the Attorney General. Would it not be contempt of court to disobey the ruling once the matter is settled? (It is beside the point to say that, if the Attorney General could not be present, or was it difficult for him to identify anyone one else who agrees with him?)

As for the argument on caste and race, caste is a much older form of discrimination than race and, as it exists in India, much more comprehensive and cruel. Caste discrimination is the mother; racism is only the child. The source of discrimination in both forms does not arise from colour or blood but from the conceptions on which it is based, which are social and political constructs. Caste discrimination in India is a social construct in which people belonging to various castes are segregated even more so than in some instances of severe racial discrimination. Whatever the biological foundations, caste discrimination in India contains all of the aspects of racial discrimination in a much more complete form. To discuss racism and related intolerance and exclude caste is like discussing physical pain and excluding murder. There are multiple forms of racial discrimination, and caste is one. The two can be separated only artificially. If the attorney general is honest in saying of caste discrimination that "it is undeniable that, despite constitutional and legal provisions, caste based discrimination in our country persists and is pervasive and that strong effective measures are needed to stamp out this evil", what is his objection to a discussion of it?. Are his preoccupations about the toilet more important than the inhumane treatment of at least 160 million of his compatriots? Or does he really consider them to be his compatriots at all?

Caste and Race: The Legal Concepts
Basil Fernando

The issue of racism is related to a legal concept of quality and the concept of equality and the concept of eliminating discrimination are the same. If the existence of discrimination is accepted, then this is acceptance of inequality.
Once unequal treatment is accepted, the source of that treatment is a secondary matter. If one were to say, "Yes, we treat people unequal but for a different reason," it would be an explanation that is hardly worth considering. Yet such is the logic relied on by those who argue against the inclusion of caste in any discussion at the World Conference against Racism that will be held in South Africa in August and September.

What then are the yardsticks for measuring racism.? Is not birth into a classified group the heart of the matter? If the alleged peculiarity of birth is used as the reason for differentiation, is that not an important measurement for the source of discrimination? A Brahmin is differentiated from a scavenger on the basis of their birth. A Brahmin, if he or she works as a scavenger does not belong to that caste. No, the differentiation is made on the basis of his or her birth. It is not possible to distinguish differentiation purely on birth from racism.
The subject of race can be debated through the lens of various sociological theories, and the caste can be discussed theologically in regard to its relationship to Hinduism. Whether caste is a form of status, as Andre Beteille maintains, or has its roots in Hindu doctrine, as Ambedkar has asserted, are irrelevant, however, when the issue is whether caste should be included on the agenda of the World Conference against Racism where the criteria for inclusion are based on legal concepts of international law. Thus, the legal issue here is whether there is any other basis except birth into a specific social classification. Can one change one's caste? Can an Untouchable become a Brahmin? As caste is based on birth, this is not possible. If one accepts that caste is assigned and attributed to a person on the basis of their birth, it is not possible to argue that such differentiation falls outside the legal concept of race.

To seek a rational basis for racism is impossible, for racism is irrational. So long as human groups are separated on the basis of their birth, it is an irrational separation.


Racial Discrimination as a Grave Violation of Human Rights
(Justice PN Bhagwati, Vice Chairman. UN Human Rights Committee and former Chief Justice of India)

I am deeply grateful to the UN Information Centre for inviting me to speak at this meeting, which has been organised in the context of the World Conference against Racism. Racial Discrimination. Xenophobia and Related intolerance. It is a Conference in which I am deeply interested. Both in my capacity as Regional Advisor for the Asia-Pacific region of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and also as a Human rights activist which has contributed in some measure to the development of human rights jurisprudence in India and who is engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world.

The Third World Conference is going to be held in Durban, South Africa from 31st August to 7th September of this year. The convening of the world Conference has been preceded by 50 years of activity by the United Nations in its efforts to eradicate all racism and racial discrimination. It would be worthwhile to refer briefly to the efforts made by the United Narions in this connection during the last over 50 years.

When the International community adopted the United Nations Charter in 1945, it accepted the obligation to pursue the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. In December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which declares in Article 1 that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".

On 20 November 1963, the General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It was that might be called a "soft" international human rights instrument.. In its preamble, the declaration recognised that, in spite of progress, discrimination based on race, colour or ethnic origin continued to give cause for serious concern.
Article 1 reaffirmed the principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and their fundamental importance to good international relations: " Discrimination between human beings on the ground of race, colour or ethnic origin is an offence to human dignity and shall be condemned as a denial of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the universal declaration of Human Rights, as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and as a fact capable of disturbing peace and security among nations. "The Declaration, however, was not legally binding.

On 21 December 1965, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Convention, which is a legally binding instrument, entered into force on 4 January 1969 and now has 155 State parties. It defines racial discrimination as 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 for exercise… of human rights and fundamental freedoms…." States parties agree to condemn racism and to undertake measures to eliminate it in all its forms. The Convention also established the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the first such human rights treaty monitoring body. It overseas implementation of the Convention by reviewing reports of the States parties to the Convention.
Thereafter, on 11 December 1969, The General Assembly designated 1971 as the International Year for Action to Combat Racial Discrimination. It asked that the Year "be observed in the name of the ever-growing struggle against racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations and in the name of the international solidarity with those struggling against racism." It appealed urgently to States to intensify their efforts to eradicate racial discrimination in all its contemporary forms, including Nazism and apartheid.

On 2 November 1972, the General Assembly designated the ten-year period beginning on 10 December 1973 as the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. The programme decade was structured around a worldwide education campaign and measures to be taken to implement United Nations instruments promoting the elimination of racial discrimination. Its goals were to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind on grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, by eradicating racial prejudice, racism and racial discrimination; to prevent the continuation of expansion of racist policies, to discourage the strengthening of racist regimes, to "isolate and dispel the fallacious and mythical beliefs, policies and practices that contribute to racism and racial discrimination: and to put an end to racist regimes."

The First World War Conference to Combat Racism and Racial discrimination was held in Geneva in 1978 at the midpoint of the First Decade. It adopted a declaration and a programme of Action reaffirming the inherent falsity to racism and the threat it posed to friendly relations among people. It specifically condemned apartheid, branding it as the extreme form of institutionalised racism and a crime against humanity.

This was followed by the Second World conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination held in Geneva in August 1983. It reviewed and assessed the activities undertaken during the Decade and formulated specific measures to ensure implementation of UN instruments to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, and apartheid. It took various decisions for combating racism and racial discrimination but it was found that despite the Declarations made at the first and Second World Conferences and the efforts of the International community, the principal objectives had not been attained and that millions of human beings continued to be the victims of varied forms of racism and racial discrimination. The General Assembly, therefore, proclaimed the Second Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination. But, as the subsequent events showed, the efforts of the international community to eliminate racism and racial discrimination did not succeed in achieving a racism free society.

As I shall presently show, racism, racial discrimination and Xenophobia and related intolerance still continue to bedevil humanity throughout the world. There is indeed no country, which is free from racism or racist tendencies. The scourge of racial discrimination is not confined or concentrated in any one part of the world but it is to be found in all parts of the world. Aided by the process of globalization, the contemporary international system is now characterised by economic centers of power within nations, in countries around the world. These industrialised centers attract trafficking of women, cheap labour, and illegal migrants. Individuals within these groups suffer not only exploitation but also become the victims of racist and Xenophobic resentment by nationals, long-term residents and those who have benefited from past privileges in the economy. These conditions exist in several parts of the world, including some of the developed countries. The office of the high Commissioner had organised a meeting of experts in Bangkok during 5 to 7 September 2000 to consider the situation in regarding the trafficking in women and children and migrant workers and the discussions by the experts showed that racism and Xenophobia was rampant in regard to these victims of violations of human rights. In addition to these economic realities, complex cultural and political situations gave rise to the worst forms of racial discrimination such as the racist coup in Fiji, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, increasing violence against Jews in Russia, mass rapes of Chinese women in Indonesia during the 1998 riots, systematic and severe discrimination against the Roma in Europe and police abuses against African-American males in the US on a continuing basis. Efforts to address these and similar others should form the agenda of the Third World Conference.

This was emphasized by Mrs. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the following statement made by her on 24 March 1999: "As we see all around us, racism and racial discrimination continue unabated. Although we refer to our world as a global village, it is a world sadly lacking in the sense of closeness towards neighbour and community, which the word village implies. In each region, and within all countries, there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Our world is witness to serious ethnic conflicts; to discrimination against minorities, indigenous peoples and migrant workers; the accusation of institutionalized racism in police forces; harsh immigration and asylum policies; hate sites on the internet and youth groups promoting intolerance and Xenophobia".

The Third World Conference is intended to awaken in human throughout the world sensitivity against racism, racial discrimination, and Xenophobia and spur humanity to action. We have long given lectures, speeches, and sermons condemning racism and racial discrimination but precious little has been done despite all our protestations. Today, we find still continuing discrimination and exploitation of large numbers of people throughout North America, South America, Western Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are manifestations of neo-racism in Western Europe arising from the perception entertained by the countries of Western Europe that they are being invaded by hoards of immigrants from Asia and non-Christian countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There is also resurgence of anti-Semitism in some parts of Western Europe. "In the majority of European countries" according to a UN Report, "racist or xenophobic sentiments are share by an increasingly large percentage of the population". The mass media also sometimes adopts a racist approach in the guise of protecting national identity by describing immigrants as criminals or destabilizing influences. The immigrants are often described by the media as perpetrators of violence, although in fact they are most often its victims and they are banded as incapable of adapting to traditional national values. Even more chilling are the racist video games, which are being distributed in Austria, Germany and Sweden. These games, inter-alia, portray Turks as dangerous non-Aryans who destroy society. The Internet also plays a highly dangerous role in promoting racism and racial prejudices.
We find that racism; racial discrimination and Xenophobia are widely prevalent in Latin America where total discrimination against the indigenous groups and total exploitation of the indigenous communities. The human rights committee had occasion to observe, while considering the report of Brazil, that the Committee was concerned over the existence of racial and other discrimination against black and indigenous persons. The same situation prevails in other countries of Latin America. While considering the report of Chile, the human rights committee had occasion to point out that the Committee was concerned by hydro-electric and other development projects that might affect the way of life and the rights of persons belonging to the Mapuche and other indigenous communities.

The publication of the Asia Pacific Human Rights Network sets the situation prevailing in several countries of Asia and Africa where the societies are afflicted by racism, race prejudices, and xenophobia. I will refer only to a few of them for lack of time. About 3 million Burakus who are considered outcastes by ethnic Japanese because of their traditional professions like butchering, continue to face similar societal discrimination. There are a large number of Koreans in Japan who have no right to hold public positions whether it be a job in the government service or an elected post in a local municipality, solely because of their Korean ethnic origin. Until 1993, approximately 700,000 Koreans who were born, brought up and educated in Japan were required to give finger prints like criminals to the Japanese law enforcing authorities until this was abolished as a result of the criticism made by the Human Rights Committee. Similarly, the Chinese in Indonesia face is discrimination in public life. There still continue curbs on the teaching of Chinese in schools or its usage in the Public domain.

The situation of indigenous people across Asia is also alarming. The hill tribes of Thailand such as Akahs, Lahus, Lisus and Karens are barred from participation in the political process although their ancestors have been residing in the territory of Thailand for more than 200 years. Only half of the estimated 500,000 to 600,000members of the hill tribes in Northern Thailand possess official documentation that enlists them as citizens and gives them other basic rights. They cannot even own land and they are not entitled to the benefit of labour laws and consequently, they are vulnerable to exploitation.
So also in India, despite affirmative action provided in the Constitution and taken by the government, there remains a yawning gap between rhetoric and reality. The Dalits still continue to face discrimination and prejudice including ill treatment, neglect, and exploitation particularly in the rural areas. The enactment of the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act does not appear to have made the anticipated impact on the situation of the Dalits. The Adivasis or indigenous communities in India are still in the eastern sector subjected to the harsh provisions of the Criminal Tribes Act and though the National Human Rights Commission recommended its abolition, no action seems to have taken so far by the government. Indigenous peoples in Indonesia and Bangladesh such as Chakmas have also been the victims of government sponsored trans-migrants policies and serious human rights abuses.

I have given only a few instances where racism, racial prejudices, and xenophobia still prevail in their most devastating forms in all parts of the world. The Third World Conference is intended to be action oriented and positive measures have to be adopted by all states, law enforcement agencies, NGOs, Civil Society organisations, and other associations in order to eradicate racism racial prejudice and Xenophobia from the minds of the people. What is necessary is to change in the attitudes of men and women. They must be made to realize that we are all part of one common humanity, whatever be the race to which we belong, whatever be the colour of the our skin and whatever be the religion we practice. A new culture what I call the humanist culture, must be cultivated, and instilled in the minds of our youth. This can be done only through education, not only education in the schools and colleges but also education at home. Our school and college curricula must be oriented against racism, Xenophobia, and five human values, which are essential humanity and the imperative necessity of one world community. The Great Master whom I follow has always said that there are five human values which are essential if humanity is to live in peace and harmony, free from all negative tendencies on race, colour descent or national or ethnic origin and they are truth, righteousness, love, peace and non violence.

Let us hope that the Third World Conference will be able to inspire and motivate human beings around the world to practice these five virtues and bring about a new world order.

The Third World Conference must lay down firm and strong foundation for respect for equality and human dignity in the society. The Third World Conference has the potential to be among the most significant gatherings at the start of this century, as it can shape and embody the spirit of a new century based on the shared conviction of the human race. It is bound to be landmark in the new century, as it will provide an ideal opportunity to craft a new vision for the fight against the racism for the future generations. It must focus action oriented and practical steps to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection and the provision for effective remedies.

The evil of racism is a shame on humanity. Mere mechanisms of control and regulation cannot eliminate a complex phenomenon. It just cannot be wished away. It demands evolving a culture, which is responsive, sensitive, and reflective of human dignity and human justice. In other words, it must be a culture which demands elimination of all kinds of exploitation not only by the state but also by members of civil society. The members of civil society should use their social status to eradicate practices which are derogatory to human dignity. The goal of evolving human rights culture aimed at waging of war against racism has to be fought at many levels. Education is the most powerful means of influencing and bringing attitudinal change in people. Being a tool to spread awareness, information and knowledge amongst its recipients, education can play a crucial role in making us shed some of our prejudices and reform some of our attitudes and thereby eradicate the scourge of racism. -- Excerpted from: Proceedings of the Seminar organised by the UN Information Centre and Forum for Indian NGOs, Delhi

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