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US Congress to discuss "caste bias" in India

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US Congress to discuss ‘caste bias’ in India

Resolution wants Bush to monitor RSS, VHP

Satish Misra

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 11

A concurrent resolution asking the US Government to monitor the activities and funds of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), and address the problems of “caste discrimination and untouchability†in India will be introduced in the two Houses of US Congress next month.

The resolution, being tabled by US Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, is the result of a US House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights hearing last week in Washington, National Chairman of the All-India Confederation of SC and ST Organisations Udit Raj told newspersons here today.

Mr Franks is a member of the India Caucus and the Human Rights Caucus.

Mr Raj, who returned from Washington after participating in the Congress hearing, said the coming resolution would not only take note of the VHP and the RSS, which had directly and indirectly financially supported the campaign of violence against religious minorities and had distributed weapons for use against religious minorities, but would also ask the American Government to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system.

The US Congress hearing, that was titled “India’s Unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste Systemâ€, will also ask the Bush administration to encourage World Bank to consider “caste discrimination†when funding development projects in India, Mr Raj said. “This is a very important development. Nothing like this has happened before,†Mr Raj said.

The five-page resolution states that the “untouchablesâ€, now known as Dalits, and the forest tribes of India, called tribal, are outside the caste system and, therefore, considered to be less than human.

The resolution wants the US to raise the issue of “caste discrimination and untouchability†through diplomatic channels, both directly with the Indian Government and within the context international parliament bodies.

The resolution points out that “discrimination†against Dalits and tribesmen by the Indian Government has existed for more than 2,000 years and has included educational discrimination, economic disenfranchisement, physical abuse and discrimination in medical care.

Though the Indian Constitution outlaws “untouchability†and the Indian Government consistently denies its existence, Dalits and tribesmen are still considered outcasts in the Indian society, it adds.

Dalits and tribesmen are denied equal treatment under the law and Dalit women are often raped with impunity, Mr Franks’s resolution stresses.

The resolution calls for inviting Dalit organisations to review rural development projects from the USAID and other US development funds, and oversee their implementation while prioritising funding for projects that directly impact Dalit and tribal communities.

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