India: Signature Campaign for Dalits’ Human Rights


Urgent Appeal Case: UA1128
ISSUES: Caste-based discrimination,

260 million Dalits are determined to cast out caste in the new millenium.

The Dalits Human Rights Charter is produced by Dalit groups in India. They have lauched a signature campaign in India – the collected signatures with Dalits Human Rights Charter will be presented to the Indian government on 1oth December 1998, International Human Rights Day.

The Dalits groups are also seeking your endorsement for their Charter; list of names and signatures from other countries will also be include the petition to submitted to the Indian government.

You may send your endorsement though email to AHRC (which will be transmitted to the Dalit groups. You are also encouraged to send a copy to the organisers.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please write your name, country, signature (if possible) and send THE PETITION to AHRC and a copy to the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.


We, the undersigned, are anguished that even after 50 years of India’s independence, 240 million Dalit women, men and children are subjected to the cruelest form of discrimination though untouchability.

We, these marginalised millions and those in solidarity with them, believe that this 50th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the time to commit ourselves to set right this centuries-old violation of human rights against 260 million Dalits in Asia.

We demand of the Indian State that it implements in letter, spirit and action Article 17 of the Constitution (which speaks of Abolition of untouchability) and the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act and Rules (1989 and 1995).

We call upon the member states of the UN to recognize untouchability as a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, to include caste discrimination within the ambit of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (1966) and to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the practice of untouchability in Asia.

Signature Name Village/town District/state Country






Send copies to:

National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, G IV – B 57, Bharani Camplex, Ministers Road, Secunderabad – 500 003, India.

Asian Human Rights Commission Email:


1. We recognize that India has a liberation history of over 50 years from Colonial powers. However, this has not brought many sections of the people of India, especially the Dalits, Women and Tribals into the mainstream operations of the Nation State. We assert that the Dalits are in need of liberation from the hegemony of the dominant caste forces in India.

2. During these fifty years of survival after independence from colonial powers the Dalit situation has not improved. It has in fact become worse which is borne out by the fact that every hour 2 Dalits are assaulted; every day 3 Dalit women are raped. every day 2 Dalits are murdered, everyday 2 Dalit houses are burnt down. Therefore, we assert that Dalit Riehts are Human rights

3. The Indian State has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, this is only in paper as far as the Dalits are concerned. The third article of UDHR says thateveryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. However, in India the Dalits are denied these basic human rights evervyday in large measure. Therefore, we assert that Dalit Rights are Human Richts.

4. It is common knowledge that the Dalits in India are discriminated against in the name of caste. The Vamashrama Dharma casts them aside as untouchable. The praxis of this Dharma has assumed extreme and barbaric forms of violence against the Dalit people who are the original inheritors of this country. Article 2 of the LJDHR says, \”Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion. Therefore we assert that Dalit Rights are Human Rights.

5. Much more than the -violence that is perpetrated on the Dalits, one of the worst and barbaric forms of the Varnashrama Dharma is Untouchability which no sensible human being can think of That this is called a religion is an insult to the whole of humanity. That this is being practiced at a time in history which claims to have arrived at ‘enlightenment’ is an assertion of the existence of a pitch darkness. It is an assertion of the underlying paradigm that some sections of the people are irrelevant and a nuisance to the dominant forces of the world. Therefore, we demand that a global effort be made to abolish untouchability in all its manifestations and those practice it be punished in the severest form possible for a human institution.

6. The UDHR as well as other Human Richts Bodies have developed a Human rights discourse based on individual liberty. However, for those sections of people whose life is an eternal struggle for survival it is their security that is paramount. Therefore, we demand that the tices as well as in the praxis of Human Rights

7. We realize that the discourses of Human Rights have been clouded by an excessive focus on individual liberty. This is because of the predominant focus on the individual in contemporary western thinking. However, individualism of the type and intensity that is being promoted by the west is in sharp contrast to the culture of community living of the indigenous people in general and Dalits and tribal people in particular. Therefore, we demand that the discourse of individual security be taken to its next logical step in the context of the Dalits i.e. security of the community of people.

8. The translation of the discourses of individual and community security will have to necessarily manifest itself in the praxis of addressing the basic needs of communities of people. The Dalits are deprived of their basic needs by the shenanigans of the dominant caste forces in South Asia and by the state that embodies the dominant caste aspirations. We assert that the needs of the Dalits are in the material realm and not in the metaphysical realm. When basic human needs are denied there is a violation of Human Rights. To the extent Human Rights are violated national and global security are impaired. Therefore, we demand that the denial of the material needs of the Dalits be treated as denial of Dalit Human Rights and protective measures be taken.

9. This campaign recognizes that Human Rights Violations take place largely in the context of governance which is the power for allocation of resources. In South Asia this allocation of resources causes the most important violation of Human Rights. Negatively it manifests itself in the denial of the Right to livelihood of the communities of people and in a lopsided allocation of resources to individuals belonging to particular dominant castes. We protest any such biased allocation of resources by the caste biased forces of governance and demand that the Dalits be guaranteed their rioht to livelihood which will ensure a dianified living’. This Right to livelihood and dignity are enshrined in the UDHR.

10. The Dalits are denied the right not only to the means of livelihood but also access to the processes of allocation. This virtually denies to the Dalits not only the means to live but also the right to create their own space for living. The access that given to Dalits is marginal and it made to look as if they are a boon to the Dalits by the dominant caste forces. We do not want any boon. We demand an equal access to all state institutions and the subsequent processes of allocation.

11. The conventional village panchayat system has been a political and cultural form of oppression of the Dalits. In these panchayats the Dalits have no right even to present their case leave alone the fact that they cannot sit as equals with other dominant caste forces. Whenever the Dalits have sought an alternative by actively participating in the state institution of the panchayat they have been attacked and killed. Therefore, we demand full protection to the Dalits to participate in the Panchayat Raj Institutions and other democratic institutions of the country.

12. Historically Dalits are a people who have been denied an access to resources like land, water and other means of production. Whatever resources they had possessed from Mother Earth have been forcefully taken away from them. By taking away land from a people who have worshipped land they have been deprived of a long cherished relationship with the Earth. Both culturally and economically the Dalits have suffered deprivatioin. Therefore, we demand that land be restored to the Dalits by distributing all land available with the government only to the Dalits in future.

13 The only means of securing a livelihood left with the Dalits as of now is their labour. The State, in collusion with the dominant caste civil society has gone about grossly underestimating, the cost of labour of the Dalits. Therefore, we demand that from the present manner of fixing minimum wages for labour the State effectively goes about fixing a living, wage for the Dalits taking into serious consideration the changing economic situation, with its escalating, prices., reduction of subsidies, withdrawal of the welfare state. shifting of development responsibility to the Dalits themselves etc.

14. The withdrawal of the welfare state will be justified in as much as it is a withdrawal from development responsibility vis-a-vis the rich, the neo-rich and the dominant caste forces. However, such a withdrawal must be equated by a greater and more responsible providing of equal opportunities to the Dalits in the mechanisms of governance as well as in State institutions like education, health, communication, technology, markets etc. Therefore, we demand that the State, instead of withdrawing itself from its welfare responsibility to the Dalits through privatisation of the service sector, assume more and more responsibility for provisioning, safeguarding and protecting the rights of equal opportunity to Dalits

15. The history of the denial of opportunities to the Dalits and intended exclusion of the Dalits from all social, political and economic institutions is much more ancient than the establishment of the Nation State in its present form. It is the civil society that has actively perpetrated the caste system and untouchability through religion and has forced inhuman forms of existence on the Dalits. Now the responsibility for reversing such a situation smackdab lies with them. Therefore we demand that the State should not only effectively ensure the prevention atrocities on Dalits by the civil society but also guarantee the right of reservation to Dalits and all other most backward castes in all private enterprises and companies which enjoy one or more forms of subsidy from the government. In the light of the fact that the State is virtually transferring most of its development responsibility to private we demand that reservations must be ensured for the Dalits in all private bodies even if they do not receive subsidy from the government,

16. The labor of Dalits constitutes one of the major national resource as well as guarantees their livelihood. H,,)wever, the dominant caste civil society has established its control over the labour of Dalits through an obnoxious system called the bonded labor. This is another form of slavery. The state connives with the dominant caste civil society by denying the existence and prevalence of such a system and by partially and partisanly claiming that this system has been abolished. Article of the LTDHR asserts : \”No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. ‘ slavery and slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms\”. Therefore, we demand that the State take more stringent measures to bring to books all those who indul.e in this form of slavery and abolish this institution of the dominant caste civil society in India.

17. Through the denial of education to the Dalits throughout its history of oppression the dominant caste society in India has established its hegemony over the minds of the Dalits in multiple forms. This has resulted in the denial of the right to free thinking and the freedom of .expression. The Right to freedom of expression will necessarily entail the Right to dissent and produce countervailing discourses by the Dalits. Such countervailing discourses have invariably resulted in further increase in atrocity on the Dalits. Therefore, we demand that the Right to freedom of though and freedom of expression be protected for the Dalits in spirit and in letter.

18. Freedom of thought and freedom of expression take concrete shape in the belief systems of the people and subsequent allegiance to a practice of religion apart from ideological adherence to particular socio-political and economic forms. Dalits have been discriminated against by the State because of their allegiance to one or other religion. We demand that all Dalits must be considered as Dalits irrespective of their profession of faith and practice of religion.

19. The culture of Dalits cannot be equated with the dominant caste culture. As Babasaheb Ambedkar asserts they are a different people and all attacks on their cultural heritage must be stopped forthwith. India is a multicultural society and there must be room for the cultural expressions of all people living in it. While attacking the homogenization of cultures at the global level the Indian state as well as the dominant caste civil society seeks to impose its cultural forms on the Dalits and other indigenous people are commercialized through the media for greater economic benefits of the dominant caste society. Therefore, we demand that the rights of the Dalits to identify themselves as culturally different from other groups be guaranteed, that the commercialization of their cultural forms be stopped and state allocations be made for the promotion and preservation of the cultural forms of the Dalit people.

20. We recognize that Dalit women have three fold discrimination. They are discriminated against because they are women (gender), because they are Dalits (caste) and because theyare Dalit women by their own men fold (Gender and caste). The situation of Dalit women is alarming in India to say the least. Caste and gender discrimination is perpetrated in its worstforms on Dalit women. Therefore, we demand that special measure be taken for the protection of the rights of Dalit women in all the above said areas.

21. Human Rights Organizations the world over have till now focused on violations by the State and its institutions as Human Rights Violations. All other forms of atrocities have been relegated to the realm of civil strife by these bodies. Such a position is untenable. In India the State and civil society are hand in glove in the denial of rights to the Dalits and other indigenous people of the country. While the State abets violations by the civil society it is forced to take sides with the dominant caste society in its favor. Therefore, we demand that the International Human Rights Bodies bring under the purview of Human Rights all forms of discrimination and violations both by the state and by the civil society. Such a stand needs to be brought into the institutional framework of these Human Rights Bodies.

22. It is not only the International Human Rights organizations but also the UN that have left out the issues of untouchability and atrocity on Dalits from their perspective. We assert that these are problems of Human Rights prevailing in many countries of South Asia and no Body that is concerned about establishing Human Rights objectively can afford to ignore these. Therefore, we demand that in the 50th year of the Declaration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights give an assurance to all the Dalits of South Asia that the violations of Dalit Rights will be considered as violations of Human Rights and that the UN will respond seriously to such violations through the special procedures of the UN, be they thematic mandates or country mandates through their special Rapporteurs and Working Groups.

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA1128
Countries : India,
Issues : Caste-based discrimination,