News

Mar 05 2013

Dalit Groups Win the Day, Monday 4th March 2013

by Meena Varma in News

Outlaw Caste Discrimination in the  UK  We want Justice Now! This was the rallying cry from the 100s of protesters that assembled outside Parliament Square on Monday 4 March to protest against the UK government’s decision NOT to legislate against caste discrimination – despite provisions enabling it to do so in the Equality Act 2010. Our government has continued to fail to provide the necessary legal redress and protection for victims of caste discrimination in the UK. In its long awaited response to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research report (published 2010), on Friday 1 March 2012 the government released a statement that it would not enforce legislative measures, but instead introduce an educational programme to address caste discrimination in the UK This, despite the fact that the NIESR report specifically recommended legislation to provide explicit protection, summing up that educational measures were unlikely to work. So why ignore these recommendations, why ignore the voice of the Dalits who have consistently demanded legal recourse as being the only way to get justice ?. In the end, Dalit groups won the day as the protest culminated in a House of Lords amendment to legislate against caste discriminating. Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits, Lords Harries and Avebury and Baroness Thornton, joined by Lord Deben from the Conservative Party moved an amendment in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to bring caste in to the Act as an aspect of race – thus outlawing it in the UK. [ All photography : David Bonitto ] hit the links below to view more pics  >  UK DALIT DEMONSTRATION 1  >  UK DALIT DEMONSTRATION 2  The debate began at 4.36pm with a powerful opening statement from Lord Harries – saying that he found the government’s decision to go down the education not legislation route was ‘disappointing and genuinely distressing’ and going on to state that such a programme could be ‘highly counter productive’. Lord Deben was clear “I do not think it a worthy decision’ and he was ‘not convinced by the government’s argument’. Lord Avebury asked ‘why should caste be treated differently…to any other protected characteristic’? The government response was not a surprising one. On behalf of the government Baroness Stowell recognised that there is some evidence of caste prejudice and discrimination taking place in the United Kingdom. However the government’s view is ‘this education programme, which will explore all the issues, not just those covered by discrimination legislation, is an appropriate and targeted way of dealing with incidents related to caste’ Baroness Shreela Flather, who is a Hindu of Indian origin quite pertinently asked: ‘Who is going to educate whom? We have put down so many things under education that I should think they could fill a whole blackboard. Without legislation, I do not understand who will give this education and who will be educated.’ The Minister however did go on to state ’The Government are largely in accord with the aims of this amendment. We all want to see an end to caste-based prejudice and discrimination. We are not closing the door to legislation. We have no plans to remove the power from the Act, and we will leave it there in case new evidence emerges…’ We are still wondering how much more evidence there needs to be. Plenty has now been amassed over the past 10 years and documented from the Dalit Solidarity Network UK report in 2006, to Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance in 2009 and the National Institute’s ‘robust’ report in 2010. The amendment went to a vote at 6.05. And we had a result! 256 peers voted for the amendment – with support from all sides of the House and all parties; 153 voted against. At 103 votes in favour, it was an outstanding and comprehensive victory. We know that other discrimination legislation did not change hearts and minds overnight. What they did do was to begin to change behaviours. Only when we had a law to protect and made certain discrimination morally and legally wrong did we see a change in attitudes. Lord Deben ended his speech by imploring the government ‘…do not fail the Dalits’.  

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Feb 20 2013

Mass Rally, Parliament Square, Monday 4th March 2013 1.30-3.30 pm

by Meena Varma in News

We call on all our friends and members to join us in Parliament Square, Westminster, London to add their voice to the debate to outlaw Caste Discrimination. The Peers of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits have moved an amendment in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill to make ‘caste’ a protected characteristic in the Equality Act. The House of Lords will debate the amendment on March 4 and given time will call for a vote.  IF SUCCESSFUL THIS WOULD BE AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARDS FINALLY OUTLAWING CASTE DISCRIMINATION WITHIN THE UK We will be joined by our friends from CasteWatch UK, VODI, ACDA and Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha UK – co organisers of the Rally

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Feb 17 2013

Landmark Case for Caste discrimination imperilled

by Meena Varma in News

The Guardian An employment tribunal hearing the first claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of caste discrimination has collapsed after information handed to the judge by police led the judge to recuse herself from the case. Vijay Begraj, a former practice …  > click here to read the full article

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Feb 11 2013

Landmark Coventry Case

by Meena Varma in News

The UK’s landmark test case of caste discrimination is stalled for the fourth time. In a bizarre twist to the Begraj case, an application for the judge to be disqualified is now pending. > Read more of this now

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Feb 06 2013

“Delhi Declaration”

by Meena Varma in News

Led by the Chair of the National Federation of the ‘Dalit Land Rights Movement’,                Vincent Mahoharan – also Patron of DSN-UK .  Activists of the ‘Dalit Land Rights Movement’ drafted the “Delhi Declaration” at a two day national constitution to demand equitable land distribution for Dalits This event concluded on Tuesday January 22nd 2013 Click here to access the “Declaration“

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Jan 10 2013

House of Lords 9th January 2013

by Meena Varma in News

Baroness Thornton’s amendment clause 28ZD on Caste in the Equality Act to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012 was tabled in the House of Lords in the evening of Jan 9. 2013 Both DSN-UK and ACDA were present at the meeting Unfortunately, in spite of very powerful arguments from Baroness Thornton, herself, Lord Avebury ; Lord Harries and Lord Deben all calling for the legislation to be activated the Government felt unable to accept this amendment. Baroness Stowell of Beeston, speaking on behalf of the Government, did however agree to a further meeting with all stakeholders Baroness Thornton proposed an ‘big thank you’ to Lord Avebury and Lord Harries for their enormous contribution to this campaign as well as to Lord Deben for his significant comments made during the debate. She concluded by saying: ‘The Government are getting this wrong and they need to remedy it’. For the ‘Hansard’ transcript of this meeting please hit the link below http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/130109-gc0002.htm#13010974000272  

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Jan 07 2013

International Human Rights Day 10th December 2012

by Meena Varma in News

Human Rights Day 10 December 2012 At a reception to mark the London launch of the UK’s campaign for election to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DSN-UK and CasteWatch UK continue to take up the cause for Dalit people in the UK and internationally. Here they met with the  Ambassador of Nepal; Keith Porteous Wood – Executive Director, National Secular Society; Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – Senior Minister of State for Human Rights, Foreign and Commonwealth Office  and Baroness Uddin – Politician and Community Activist. Issues discussed included the need for the UK Equality Act legislation to be activated as well as further discussions on the campaigns in South Asia specifically India and Nepal    Meena Varma,Director DSN-UK; Davinder Prasad, Director, CasteWatch UK              Davinder Prasad; Baroness Warsi  Davinder Prasad; Ambassador of Nepal (cenre)  from left:Keith Porteous Wood; Baroness Uddin; Meena Varma; Davinder Prasad

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Dec 03 2012

Maria Miller MP publicily urged to act on caste-based discrimination UK

by Meena Varma in News

A coalition of community groups, human rights organisations and politicians has renewed its call for the government to tackle caste discrimination in the UK by introducing legal protection for those from traditionally lower status Asian backgrounds. Although a section of the Equality Act 2010 could offer lower-caste Asians a legal safeguard against discrimination, it has not been activated despite repeated demands from campaigners. Supporters of the legislation say the law is needed to prevent discrimination at work, in the classroom and in the health service. Two separate studies – one commissioned by the government from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (Niesr) after the act was amended to include the power to extend protection against discrimination and harassment to caste – have reported the existence of caste-based discrimination in the UK, but no official steps have been taken. A survey published three years ago by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance found that 58% of those questioned felt they had been discriminated against because of their caste status, while 79% said they did not think the police would understand if they tried to report a caste-related “hate crime”. A law practice manager and his solicitor wife are also currently engaged in the UK’s first discrimination claim on the grounds of caste prejudice. Vijay Begraj claims he suffered discrimination and was wrongfully dismissed from his job at the firm where they both worked because he was of a lower caste than his wife, Amardeep. The Coventry-based firm, Heer Manak, denies the claim, which it describes as “ludicrous”. A conference at the House of Lords on Wednesday heard that Dalits (the caste formerly known as “untouchables”) and others affected by the caste system are growing increasingly exasperated by the lack of action. Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat member of the all-party parliamentary group for Dalits, has since written to the equalities minister, Maria Miller, to express the conference’s “great disappointment … over the government’s procrastination, and the absence of any credible reason for the delay”. He also asked whether the government’s failure to act had anything to do with objections made by members of the higher castes. “We only know that you have been lobbied by high-caste representatives, and this has led you to say that there is no consensus for bringing section 9 (5)a into operation,” he wrote. “This was seen as equivalent to saying there should be no legislation against racial discrimination because white people might object to it!” His demands were echoed by Lady Thornton, the shadow equalities spokesperson, who said: “Now that the research has been done and the government has got the evidence, it shouldn’t delay looking at it.” A spokeswoman for Miller’s department, the DCMS, said: “We are carefully considering the findings of the Niesr report on caste discrimination, together with the views expressed by various sections of the Hindu and Sikh communities, both those who want the government to legislate and those who oppose such legislation.” She said no one should have to endure discrimination or prejudice on the grounds of caste or any other personal characteristic, adding: “Such behaviour is wrong and should not be condoned whether or not it is prohibited by legislation.” The DCMS confirmed that Avebury’s letter had been received and that a response was being prepared. A joint statement issued by dozens of anti-discrimination and human rights groups is demanding that the government activate the legislation immediately. “By not acting on the evidence presented to it, which we regard as highly significant, we believe that the UK government is discriminating against victims (mainly Dalits) of caste-based discrimination in the UK who are not given a similar level of protection accorded to victims of other forms of unacceptable discrimination,” it says. “There is complete consensus amongst groups and individuals that are affected by caste-based discrimination in the UK on this matter and the urgent need to invoke section 9 (5)a of the Equality Act 2010. Maria Miller M.P, the Equalities Minister . Photograph : David Jones/PA Sam Jones: ‘The Guardian’ Friday 30 November 2012  – 15.51. GMT Eric Avebury : Anti Caste Discrimination meeting November 28th House of Lords For more on this meeting –  hit the link to Lord Avebury’s blog (below) http://ericavebury.blogspot.co.uk/ Why won’t the Government get serious about Caste Discrimination ?? For more on this article – hit the link (below) http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2012/11/why-wont-the-government-get-serious-about-caste-discrimination

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Nov 29 2012

Successful meeting at ‘House of Lords’

by Meena Varma in News

Why is the UK Government ignoring Caste based discrimination in the UK ?  A ‘Joint Statement’ urging the Government to act has been signed by a number of Dalit Community and Solidarity organisations; representing the views of the majority of Dalits, themselves, within the UK. It was presented to Baroness Thornton, the shadow spokesperson on Equalities, who urged us to ensure that it was also presented to the Goverment’s Equalities Minister : Maria Miller MP [hit the link to view the ‘Joint Statement’] Joint Statement on Caste Based Discrimination in the UK 28 November 2012  

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Oct 24 2012

Please Sign The Petition !

by Meena Varma in News

Please sign the Petition (link at end of page) We need a big result in order to persuade Maria Miller MP to ‘trigger the clause!!’ As you may know, despite the inclusion of caste as a factor of discrimination in the 2010 Equality Act, the lack of Ministerial activation of Clause 9(5)(a) has prevented access to recourse and justice to those who have faced this ‘hidden apartheid’. The importance of this has been exemplified with an on-going employment tribunal – Coventry solicitors Vijay and Amardeep Begraj v. Heer Manak Solicitors. The couple have recorded over 100 instances of discrimination including harassment, reduced pay and unfair dismissal – all because they formed a relationship across the invisible caste divide. This is the first case of caste discrimination to gain such widespread attention in the UK; though of course, this has been a growing issue for a long time. As we wait for further developments in the case of the Begraj dispute, we urge you to sign a petition to indicate your support for our call to the Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller MP to activate the aforementioned clause in the Equality Act, and ensure that caste discrimination is outlawed in the UK. You can find the petition here:  https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/outlaw-caste-discrimination-in-the-uk-activate-clause-9-5-a      

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