The UN’s Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, is expected to ratify draft principles which recognises the scale of persecution suffered by 65 million ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ who carry out the most menial and degrading work.
Many of them work as lavatory and sewer cleaners and in remote villages as “night-soil carriers”.
They are considered unclean by many higher-caste ‘Brahmins’ who regard their presence, and sometimes even their shadow as ‘polluting’.
Many Dalits have been badly beaten or killed for ‘polluting’ Brahmin wells by drinking from them.
The UN draft, which has been opposed by India, pledges to work for the “effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent”.
The Indian government had lobbied heavily for the Human Rights Council to remove the word ‘caste’ from a draft earlier this year.
India’s opposition was undermined however by Nepal, the former Hindu Kingdom, which has supported the move. Its foreign minister Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam said Nepal welcomes UN and international support for its attempts to tackle caste discrimination.
The UN has now called on India to follow Nepal’s example, but New Delhi remains opposed to international interference on the issue.
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