News

Apr 25 2013

The UK Parliament outlaws Caste-Based Discrimination

by Meena Varma in News

Eleventh hour change from the Government turned 1000 protesters into 1000 partygoers   For the third time in 6 weeks, Dalit groups, communities and campaign organisations made a call to rally in Parliament Square to continue to urge the government to do the necessary to legislate against caste discrimination in the UK. Our call was again answered as coach loads of people from across the country joined 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 and met at the rally on Tuesday 23 April. The date will now live in all our memories forever. ‘Growing up in Birmingham I faced tremendous caste discrimination and ill treatment because I was a Dalit (or Untouchable) at the hands of so called high caste people. I became involved in the anti-caste movement so that victims of modern day discrimination would have a voice and legal redress. I am proud to be part of this momentous day”: Rajinder Rattu, Community Activist and Managing Director, Neighbourhood Consultancy Ltd 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. This will provide much needed legal protection to the hundreds of thousands of Dalits in the country. Amendments tabled by Business Secretary Vince Cable in the House of Commons today state that the Equality Act will “provide for caste to be an aspect of race”. This means that the government 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. Lords Avebury and Hussain joined the revellers in Parliament Square before the news had filtered through. Lord Avebury said’ This is all the more terrific for being totally unexpected!’ Soon after MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Fuller addressed the growing crowd. They both gave impassioned speeches in the Commons debate. At around 2.45 PM, the Shadow Junior Minister for Equalities Kate Green MP and Seema Malhotra MP came out to the crowd to break the momentous news – the UK Parliament had passed the amendment without the need for a vote, as there was cross-party consensus! Kate Green announced that Caste discrimination would soon be outlawed in the UK and paid particular tribute to Seema Malhotra MP for her sterling work in securing the amendment. This brought cheers and whoops from the 1000 people present Baroness Thornton who alongside Lord Harries and Lord Avebury were all instrumental in the success we had today came out for a quick chat with campaigners – only to be virtually mobbed by the crowd. In a major parliamentary stand-off, the House of Lords voted twice for legal protection to be given to Dalits who live in the UK. On April 16, Commons MPs overturned the first Lords vote, sparking a tug-of-war between the two Houses. But after the Peers again backed the proposals by 181 to 168 votes yesterday thus forcing the government to re-think – and hence the victory for the Dalits and the campaigners who have worked alongside them for many years ‘This is a major victory for us. Our planned demonstration in Parliament Square today to protest against the Government’s stand on the issue has now turned into a celebration,’ said Caste Watch UK General Secretary Davinder Prasad, who has been spearheading a campaign in favour of caste-based discrimination to be included in the UK’s equality laws. ‘We stand side by side today as we have done for the past 10 years to herald a victory and toast our Government for upholding the essential British notion of justice and equality,’ said Meena Varma, Director of Dalit Solidarity Network UK Sat Pal Muman, Chair, CasteWatchUK said with great passion that ‘we started to dig the grave yard 10 years ago to bury caste-based discrimination in the UK. Today, with power and strength of communities and wisdom of British Parliament a last push was given to bury it for good. I pay tributes to all who stayed the course and witnessed the epoch making event. There was singing, dancing and as ever with us Asians – a plethora of delicious food and snacks to be had and shared by all with everyone there. We are proud to release this statement on behalf of the 1000s at the rallies in Parliament Square on 4 March, 16 April and 23 April 2013

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Apr 22 2013

Unite Against Caste Discrimination – Please join us !!

by Meena Varma in News

When:    Public Rally on Tuesday 23rd April:  12.00 – 15.00hrs. Where:  Parliament Square, Westminster, London. SW1P 3AA. Why:      To Outlaw Caste Discrimination in the UK. On 4th March 2013, the House of Lords overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to outlaw Caste Discrimination in the UK with Section (9)(1) of the Equality Act 2010 to include Caste as a protected Characteristic in Law. The House of Commons Considered the Lords Amendment to Equalities Act Section(9)(1) But it was voted down by Commons on 16th April by 307 to 243 giving government majority of only 64. The ERR Bill is now in a ping-pong stage. Thousands of us rallied on Tuesday, 16th April in Parliament Square to urge government to protect victims . The ERR Bill returns to the Commons for re-consideration Tuesday, 23rd April. Once again, there will be a public Rally on Tuesday, 23rd April in Parliament Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA. Please be there to add your voice and support the campaign to outlaw Caste Based Discrimination in the UK. We realise that it is a very short notice but taking into consideration how important, urgent and huge our cause is, we have no doubt that we’ll get your support. We call upon all those, who want to see our future generations liberated from this pernicious form of discrimination, to join us and add their voice to the debate in House of Commons to be held on Tuesday 23 April, 2013, to outlaw caste based discrimination without any further delay. Statement of Dalit Groups April 2013  

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Apr 18 2013

1000 Voices and yet Unworthy of Legal Protection ?!?

by Meena Varma in News

1000’s of protesters assembled again on Tuesday 16 April in Parliament Square.  They came from across the country and were of all faiths and creeds. Their purpose – to demand justice for Dalits and urge the Government to accept the amendment to outlaw caste discrimination. On 4th March 2013, the House of Lords had overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to outlaw Caste Discrimination in the UK in Section (9)(1) of the Equality Act 2010. On Tuesday, 16th April 2013, the House of Commons reversed that decision in their consideration of the Lords amendment to the Bill and voted to reject it. The community leaders, activists all joined together in solidarity to make their voices heard. They were appealing to the British sense of Justice and fairness as well as the conscience of Parliament ‘to do the right thing’ and provide legal protection to Caste affected communities in the UK. Their demand deserved better ! – they now feel as if their collective voice went unheeded. Jeremy Corbyn MP (Islington) and Chair of the Dalit Solidarity Network UK commented on the demonstration in Parliament Square during the Commons debate: ” Outside the House at lunch time today, there was a considerable demonstration in support of the Lords amendment on caste discrimination. … All were united in the view that if there is discrimination on any basis, it is wrong….It is therefore incumbent on this House to do something.”… “I urge the House, if we think that discrimination is wrong, to legislate to say that it is wrong, and, if we want to outlaw it, to do it today”. We return again – to the House of Lords on Monday 22 April 2013 – for fair play and justice – trusting that they will do the right thing by the 100’s of thousands of UK Dalits. CasteWatchUK Press Release – 16th April 2013 To view the ‘Hansard’ transcript of the debate – hit the link below and scroll to column 219 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/chan140.pdf  

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Apr 08 2013

JOIN US ! in Parliament Sq, Tuesday 16th April 12.00-15.00 pm

by Meena Varma in News

We call upon all those, who want to see our future generations liberated from this pernicious form of discrimination, to join us and add their voice to the debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16th April 2013 to : OUTLAW CASTE DISCRIMINATION WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY Public Rally – Unite for Dignity Public Rally on Tuesday 16th April – 12.00 to 15.00 hrs Parliament Square, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA  Unite against caste discrimination in UK Asian communities who have faced Caste based Discrimination for decades are now calling to make the practice unlawful in the UK. A Public Rally was held in Parliament square, on Monday, 4th March 2013 when House of Lords debated the “Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill” that came up for discussion. The Peers of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dailts moved an amendment in that Bill to insert a new clause in the Equality Act 2010 to include ‘(d) Caste’ after section 9(1)(c) to make Caste a protected Characteristic in Law. Peers in House of Lords backed this amendment with a massive majority sending signals to people in this country and rest of the world that no form of discrimination, including caste based discrimination, will be tolerated against any of its citizens. In order for it to become law, this bill has to secure a similar mandate in the House of Commons and it expected to come up for discussion on Tuesday 16th April. Steering group of campaigners for caste victims are now lobbying the Members of Parliament directly and through their constituents and we have no doubt that a massive majority would also be secured through MP’s who would vote to ensure that British Society leads the world in human rights by demonstrating that its citizens continue to enjoy dignity and freedom from any form of prejudice including caste based discrimination.   Supported by:  CasteWatchUK, Dalit Solidarity Network (UK), VODI, ACDA & Kanshi tv Contact:  info@castewatchuk.org  Tel: 07891058712    

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Mar 18 2013

Important !! ERR Bill. Take Action Now !

by Meena Varma in News

We have already heard that the government looks likely to turn down the amendment despite its overwhelming majority in the House of Lords. Below and attached is the letter and email you could send to your local MP to urge them to support the amendment in the ERR Bill and vote for its acceptance when the Bill reverts to the Commons. We need as many MPs as possible to vote on the day from across the House. We anticipate the Bill will return to the Commons after Easter and will need to be passed by May 7. Please write to your own MP. That this House supports the majority vote passed in the House of Lords to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK by including caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010; notes the UK’s international human rights obligations; and calls on the Government to reconsider its position and to uphold the essential British value of equality and justice. Hit the link for a copy of a standard letter which can be used to lobby your MP MP template letter and brief BY POST: Print out the letter and address it to your MP. Add their name above the address of Parliament and add your own address at the top right so that they know it’s from a constituent.  You can find out who your MP is at: www.theyworkforyou.com BY EMAIL: You can copy the letter into an email and send it to your MP electronically. You can email your MP by going to: www.writetothem.com Also we need them to sign EDM 1183  http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/1183 It would be great to hear back from you when you have sent the information to your MP so we can keep track of how much of an impact we are making as a network.

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Mar 11 2013

‘The Ongoing Atrocity of Caste’

by Meena Varma in News

Dalit Solidarity Network UK are delighted to be partnering with Human Rights Watch to screen the acclaimed documentary on abuses against India’s Dalits, Jai Bhim Comrade, as part of the 2013 HRW London film festival 2013. The film will be followed by a Q & A session with the film’s maker,  Anand Patwardhan.  Showing at 6.15pm on Wednesday 20th March at the ICA Cinema in The Mall, London. For the trailer and tickets (£10/£8 concession) hit the link below : http://ff.hrw.org/film/jai-bhim-comrade. The film is in English, Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles.

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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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