We all have our own personal and professional memories of the much beloved Lord Eric Avebury. The pictures below indicate a time of triumph and celebration, with Eric at its heart and centre.
It was 23 April 2013, St George’s Day – the day that commemorates the time when one man took on the mighty dragon. And so too in 2013, when the little known Dalit campaign to address caste discrimination in the UK took its protest to the streets and Parliament Square.
We took on the might of the Her Majesty’s Government who had steadfastly refused to activate a clause in the Equality Act that would provide legal protection for victims of caste discrimination – in the same way that it did for race, religion, gender, transgender and other protected characteristics.
Members of CasteWatch UK, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Voice of Dalit International, Federation of Ambedkarite Buddhist Organisations UK, Central Valmik Sabha UK, Indian Christian Concern and Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB, as well as scores of regional and community organisations met at the rally on Tuesday 23 April. The date will now live in all our memories forever.
The carnival atmosphere was evident as we heard at 2.30pm that the UK Government had laid down their amendment to use the Ministerial power to trigger the legislation in the Equality Act 2010 to outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste, providing much needed legal protection to victims of caste discrimination in the UK.
Amendments tabled by the then Business Secretary Vince Cable in the House of Commons stated that the Equality Act will “provide for caste to be an aspect of race”.
The government had conceded on the principle and tabled an amendment, which requires the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations to include Caste as an aspect of Race (under Section 9(5) of the Equality Act) within two months of enactment of the Enterprise Regulatory and Reform Bill. The Bill was enacted 2 days after the protest on 25 April 2013.
Lord Avebury had joined the ‘protesters’ in Parliament Square before the news had filtered through. The protest then became a time to celebrate.
Lord Avebury said’ This is all the more terrific for being totally unexpected!’
Eric and other members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits were so key to this victory. Without their unerring support and commitment we would never have seen this day.
Sadly our regret is that Eric passed away before the current Government had addressed many of Eric’s own Parliamentary Questions on the implementation of the caste legislation – which was agreed by Parliament and across all parties now shockingly nearly 3 years ago.
We will keep fighting for the will of Parliament not to be ignored and for the caste legislation to be implemented. Eric would expect nothing less.
We will miss him greatly.
Dalit Solidarity Network UK