Dalit Leader’s visit to London cancelled after arrest
Sun, 2006-05-21 01:52
London, 21 May, (Asiantribune.com): One of India’s important Dalit leader Dr. Udit Raj visit to London was cancelled as he was arrested on 17 May on his way to protest in New Delhi, reveals Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in its latest press release.
Dr. Udit Ra founded in 1997, the All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes Organisations (AICO). In 2005 the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, nominated him to the Government’s National Integration Council.
According to CSW Dr. Raj, who speaks for the most under-represented people in India, the Dalits, (formerly “untouchables”), was due to visit the UK next week, but has had to cancel his visit.
It is revealed that he was detained overnight after he led a group of Dalit and “Backward Caste” doctors and other activists in a demonstration in support of the government’s plan to grant affirmative action benefits to backward caste students in higher education, an action opposed by upper caste students.
A national rally has been called by former Primer Minister of India, Mr. V.P. Singh, in support of the backward castes. Dr Raj, President of the Indian Justice Party, which is committed to a caste-free society founded on equality and religious freedom, will address the rally, on May 30 in Lucknow.
According to a statement issued by the Dalit Freedom Network, Dr Raj said: “We have to struggle against the power monopoly of the upper castes who have garnered most of the privileges in Indian life, including in the field of education. It is impossible to understand why the upper castes, with all their access to money, education and power, are not willing to share and include the majority backward castes and Dalits in the fruits of development and prosperity, and the building of a successful India.”
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “We are concerned that a national Dalit leader such as Udit Raj should be arrested, although we are pleased he has now been released. We regret that he is unable to come to London as planned, but we will continue to stand with and speak out for the oppressed Dalit people of India until they can enjoy basic equal rights and religious freedom.”
CSW in its press release further revealed as follows:
About 17 percent of India’s population (around 180 million people) are Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables”), and around 60 percent of India’s estimated 25 million Christians are Dalits.
Dalits have faced centuries of oppression at the hands of the upper castes. They perform the most menial and hazardous jobs in India, and many Dalit women are sold into prostitution. Many restaurants keep separate drinking vessels for Dalit use, and Dalits often live downstream of the higher castes, as they are considered a polluting influence. This segregation even extended to the relief camps set up in south-east India following the 2004 tsunami.
In 1950, in an effort to address some of the injustices faced by the Dalit community, the Government introduced an order which bestowed “Scheduled Caste” status on Dalits.
As a result, Dalits have been given some benefits such as quotas of reserved places in government, in employment, education, housing and the distribution of agricultural land. This system is known as “reservation”.
However, the 1950 order contained the proviso that if Dalits converted from Hinduism to another religion, they would lose their Scheduled Caste status.
The law has been altered once in 1956 to include Sikhs, and again in 1990 to include Buddhists, but Christian and Muslim Dalits are still denied equal rights even with other Dalits.
In 1997, Dr. Udit Raj founded the All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes Organisations (AICO). In 2005 the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, nominated him to the Government’s National Integration Council.
– Asian Tribune –