Monthly Archives: February 2018

DSN-UK director shortlisted for a ‘Secularist of the year 2018’ award

19th February 2018

We are delighted to share that DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, has been shortlisted for a ‘Secularist of the year 2018 award’. The award ‘recognises a campaigner or group for an outstanding contribution to the secularist movement’. The NSS’s council of management selected the shortlist from nominations which were submitted by its members and supporters. The winner of the prize will be announced at the Secularist of the Year luncheon on Saturday 24 March.

Meena has been nominated for her work as Director of Dalit Solidarity Network UK in challenging ‘caste’ discrimination – through research, academic work and public advocacy.

Meena said: “I am so honoured to be even nominated for Secularist of the Year 2018. The campaign to end caste discrimination is a global one and we stand side by side in solidarity with so many including the National Secular Society. Caste discrimination is a human rights issue and can only be addressed when it is seen through a lens separate to religion and when the rich and powerful are not the only ones to have the ear of governments.”

Over the last 10 years Meena led DSN-UK. The nomination reaffirms her strong expertise in caste-based discrimination issues in the UK and South Asia.

“Caste Aside” documentary

12th February 2018

A thought provoking documentary – ‘Caste Aside’ is due to be screened once again in London at SOAS University, on 27 February 2018. The documentary has been wonderfully made by highly talented producer, Priyanka Mogul and director, Damiano Patrucci. It features both pro and anti-legislation arguments on caste discrimination in the UK. ‘Caste Aside’ features DSN-UK Director Meena Varma, Dalit rights activists, Hindu community leaders, academics and lawyers, as well as those who feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their caste here in Britain.

As we continue waiting to hear from the government on the outcome of the Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law: a public consultation, the screening and the panel discussions after the screenings offer a platform to hear both sides- their arguments, worries and experiences. From the last discussion hosted by Warwick in London and Warwick Policy Lab it became apparent that whilst pro-legislation activists are concerned about the protection of Dalit rights against caste-based discrimination and access to justice, the anti-legislation side remain concerned about such legislation’s impact on their communities and perceived attack on the Hindu religion. The arguments about the Vedas at the event and its potential inclusion of caste discrimination did divert the discussions to Hinduism. However, it has to be highlighted that as religious freedom is protected by the Human Rights Act the proposed legislation will not interfere with religious freedom and does not target any particular religion.

Those advocating against caste-based discrimination, including DSN-UK, agree that the most effective way to outlaw caste-based discrimination is to add caste to the Equality Act 2010. They believe that there is no guarantee that case law will develop to recognise caste as already covered by the existing laws. This uncertainty makes bringing a claim expensive, stressful and uncertain, and such burdens would likely be reduced if caste is simply inserted into the Equality Act 2010.

Those interested in the caste legislation in the UK are encouraged to visit and (the resources section).