United States asked to uplift Dalits


It has become imperative to clarify and explain why All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and Dalit Freedom Network, and  their leaders Joseph D’ Souza, Indira Athawale and Kancha Ilaiah including me took up the matter in the United States of America  in furtherance of the cause for Dalits plight. The US House Committee on International Relations - Subcommittee on Global Human Rights heard on October 6, 2005 at Capitol Hills, Washington. Reservation in private sector captured the international attention for the first time during this hearing titled "India's Unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste System". This Committee was chaired by the veteran Congressman from New Jersey, Mr. Christopher Smith. Other veteran Congresspersons like Barbara Lee, an Afro-American representative from California, Sherman, Tanscredo, Forteinberry, and Boozman were part of the Committee.

The US House Committee was told that globalization was diluting job opportunities for Dalits. Privatization in Government departments and compulsory retirement methods are so much in vogue, as a result of which jobs were shrinking day by day. The Indian Embassy immediately rushed to alter what we have stated, and it reminded the same situation when the then BJP led Govt. prevailed over and did not allow caste discrimination to be included in the UN Agenda of World Conference in Durban in 2001. In this background, we thought of mobilizing global economic players to do something beneficial for the well-being of Dalits similar to what they have been doing in their native places in that country. Foreign investments essentially flowing from US have got enough establishment and industries which can pave the way for substantial job opportunities for Dalits ie, reservation in private sector. About 150 years ago, there were no Black Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in the US, there were no rights for Blacks and there was no cultural influence from Blacks. But now, 75 Black CEOs are working in major US companies. On the contrary, there are no Dalits as CEOs in any private company in India today. Funds for promoting education and health flowing from America must empower Dalits also with English knowledge and equal education. We also met representatives of the World Bank (WB) and told them that their projects sponsored for drinking water, housing, roads, and other basic amenities must provide for reservation to Dalits, to which there was a positive response. The US House Committee was also requested to plead for reservation in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and USAID aided projects. US Enterprises are controlled and managed by the same upper castes, and hence these enterprises too are not free from discrimination in hiring Dalit manpower..

Though there are instances of discrimination in US, they are combating it on a war footing. In the US Billionaire Club, few Blacks have found place. Oprah Winfrey became America’s first black female billionaire, according to Forbes magazine, who made the Oprah brand in Television, Film, and Publishing, transcending race. Alphonse Fletcher, Chairman and CEO of Fletcher Asset Management, Inc. supports and sponsors efforts to close the divide. Blacks have benefited from the successes of Civil Rights Movement. Such examples exist in contemporary US history, while there is no Dalit of that stature in India. TV programmes show increasing participation of Blacks in sports, music, films etc. Behind all this phenomenal rise lies the Whites’ support which played quite a significant role in the development of Blacks, and many Whites supported the struggle of Martin Luther King. A few years back when the American Association of Editors learnt that representation of Blacks was less than 2% in Journalism, it was decided that young Blacks are identified and trained sufficiently to make their participation in media. In less than a decade, Blacks’ participation percentage increased to about 9%. US is policing the world, it is precisely because of minimal contradictions in the American society. A few hundred invaders easily conquered India because people had allegiance to their caste than Hinduism and the country.

If the continuous gap in equitable distribution of wealth in India continues, Dalits and poor will be left with no option but to take up arms and join the company of Naxalites and Maoists. There is lurking danger of such a trend in the Indian society. Such a trend will adversely effect foreign investment, because industries and trade in ultra-left infested areas declined. On July 15, 2005, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh signed an agreement with US President George Bush entailing cooperation in economic, foreign investment and human rights fields. The Chairman of the US House Committee, Mr. Christopher Smith, also remarked that US and India, for the first time, have come closer after the Cold war. Mr. Smith was also critical that Dalits converting to Christianity are being denied reservation vis-à-vis other religions.  Churches and Christian missionaries are attacked, said C Smith.

A few so called intellectuals criticized that it was like seeking US interference in internal affairs of the country. If down the line, from Govt. to a number of Indian NGOs, everyone has been exploring all possible cooperation from US and other international agencies, what is wrong if Dalits do the same?  When problems of child labour and bonded labour were often been discussed at Capitol Hills, Dalits never questioned those NGOs. It must be remembered that our main objective was to globalize caste, because we think that during the past 58 years of independence, it has not been settled internally to the required level. May be, globalization can finish it just as other problems are being fought internationally.

Though the Govt. promised to give reservation and also included it in its Common Minimum Programme (CMP), so far no concrete action has been taken on the matter. Supposedly getting this right will take some time due to strong opposition from Indian businesses; meanwhile we are asking favor from US establishments in India. In 1930, the IBM Company in America gave reservation to Blacks, and at present almost all business houses there are accommodating Blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics. Since the intention of our Govt. is not to empower Dalits otherwise on similar lines how US had done for Blacks and others, Dalits can be given participation in govt. contracts and the supply-chain of different articles. After millennia of oppression, it was the British in 1932 which gave reservation through the historic Poona Pact; may be again the foreigners repeat history. English and public school education in India is undoubtedly out of reach for Dalits, and this is resulting in lack of English knowledge which is blocking Dalits to take up high profile jobs.

Dr. Udit Raj

Chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations,

National President, Indian Justice Party,

Member, National Integration Council, Govt. of India

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