A number of groups in the UK are campaigning for the new Single Equality Bill to address caste discrimination.
Caste does not just thrive in India. Caste discrimination is based in Hinduism (though it is also practised in other religions) and today, in the UK, where many South Asians have made their home, caste discrimination – at work, in places of worship, the media and in British politics – is flourishing. Because it is practised by people who appear (to white people) the same, it goes unnoticed and unchallenged by mainstream society, and unreckoned for in our legislation.
The Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations in the UK (FABO) in association with the Dalit Solidarity Network UK has recently published a report on The Evil of Caste to protest at the Hindu Council of the UK’s report (of March 2008) which refuted the need to legislate against caste discrimination in the UK.
The Hindu Council has, apparently, produced a ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ report which, rather than condemning the caste system, has turned on those who are fighting to eradicate it. They have been accused by it of working for personal financial gain and of attempting to convert Dalits (low caste people) to other religions. According to the FABO, the report ‘totally refuses to accept the reality on the ground and ignores the sufferings being inflicted over centuries and contradicts respected work done by various human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery Movement and Minority Rights Group etc.’ If the Hindu Council were sincere about opposing caste prejudice, it would be promoting its inclusion in the bill, instead it attacks those who ‘are raising their voice against this menace’.
The Evil of Caste by Chanan Chahal, which has been edited by UK human rights activist David Haslam and has a foreword by Jeremy Corbyn, MP, concludes: ‘Caste prejudices are passionately believed in and practised amongst the people of the Indian subcontinent residing in Britain … A suitable punishment should be prescribed by law for anyone responsible for Caste-based discrimination no matter which religion they practise … a discriminatory system like the Caste system is extremely dangerous and powerful … it has to be nipped in the bud.’
Those who have suffered caste discrimination in the UK are being asked to urge their MPs to support the inclusion of the outlawing of caste discrimination in the forthcoming Single Equality Bill.
Download The Evil of Caste (pdf file, 747kb)
Read another critique of the Hindu Council report by Gail Omvedt