Press Statement

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

On Taking Up Caste Oppression In UN Conference

The UN Commission on Human Rights is holding a "World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" at Durban in South Africa in end August-September.

In connection with this, numerous dalit organisations and democratic rights groups in India have been demanding that the Indian government take up the question of caste oppression as part of the agenda.

The CPI(M) supports this demand. It does so with the following perspective:

(i) Caste cannot be equated with race pr casteism with racism. While there are elements of racial outlook in "varnashramadharma", the basic oppressive features of the caste system are wider than race and colour.

(ii) Caste oppression of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is unique. It consists of untouchability and exclusion of various kinds. It still prevails after 50 years of independence. It is an inhuman and degenerating system which needs to be ruthlessly weeded out.

(iii) The stand of the Government of India that caste does not fall within the framework of a conference on racism is untenable. The theme of the conference includes "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance". Already there is a proposal to include "Zionism" on the agenda and discrimination based on descent such as "caste" can certainly be included.

(iv) It would be wrong to argue that this issue falls within the "national" purview and should not be taken up in an international forum. Caste oppression is an affront to basic human dignity and its practice in India and elsewhere is a fit subject for a conference of the type called by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M), therefore calls upon the Vajpayee government to take the necessary steps to get the question of caste oppression of the dalits included in the official agenda of the conference.