Dalits of India need our help to combat violence and discrimination

24 September 2008

Dalits of India need our help to combat violence and discrimination

On 19th September the European Union will hold its ninth official meeting with the government of India, a summit whose participants will include members of the European Commission and the Indian Prime Minister. France being the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, the summit will take place in Marseille. Nicolas Sarkozy will certainly be present, especially given that the TV cameras will also be in attendance. In the European Parliament today India was celebrated as the faithful ally, major trading partner and partner in the common struggle against terrorism. But SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer called attention also to a side of the country which is less discussed.

In the past

Just like Europe, India is a subcontinent with many different peoples and many different languages. And just as in Europe, attempts have been made to put an end to a past marked by war and oppression. Despite this, India continues to witness instances of torture, to apply the death penalty, and to use violence against the people of Kashmir. Kashmir has never been given the referendum that was clearly necessary in 1947, when India and Pakistan divided one from the other, in order to determine to which state it wished to belong.

Masala in Marseille

 EvlinIndia is a major country with an immense population. “For Europe, the strategic partnership with India agreed in 2004 should be no reason to close our eyes to discrimination against, and the lack of rights of, 170 million people, the 'untouchables', or Dalits, who belong to no caste,” said SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer today in the European Parliament's plenary in Brussels. “The Indian Premier correctly compared the oppression of the Dalits with apartheid in South Africa,” he added.

End violence

“Many Dalits have turned to Christianity or Islam,” Meijer continued. “The extremist opposition party the BJP wants to use the coming elections to mobilise Hindus against Christians and Muslims, and to force the Dalits to accept that they will be eternally poor and without rights.” Ending his contribution with an open question, Meijer asked “How do we help the Indian government to stop this violence? And how can we ensure that EU aid following the recent floods also reaches the Dalits?' Although prospects for this do not look favourable, Meijer hopes that the summit meeting will also provide an answer to this question.

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