Hidden Apartheid - CHRGJ

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Hidden Apartheid - CHRGJ

I. Summary List of the Critical Issues Pertaining to India’s Periodic

Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial

Discrimination

Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New

York University School of Law submit the following information to the Committee on the

Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Committee or CERD) for consideration in its review of

India’s fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth periodic reports under

the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

(Convention or ICERD). This joint-submission is based on in-depth Human Rights Watch

investigations on caste discrimination in India and the findings of Indian governmental and

non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on caste-based abuses.

Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 165 million people in

India has been justified on the basis of caste. Caste is descent-based and hereditary in

nature. It is a characteristic determined by one’s birth into a particular caste, irrespective of

the faith practiced by the individual. Caste denotes a traditional system of rigid social

stratification into ranked groups defined by descent and occupation. Caste divisions in

India dominate in housing, marriage, employment, and general social interaction—divisions

that are reinforced through the practice and threat of social ostracism, economic boycotts,

and physical violence. This report focuses on the practice of “untouchability”—the

imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes. This

practice relegates Dalits, or so-called untouchables (known in Indian legal parlance as

scheduled castes), to a lifetime of discrimination, exploitation and violence, including

severe forms of torture perpetrated by state and private actors in violation of the rights

guaranteed by the Convention. Although the practice has been condemned by many Indian

leaders, including most recently by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, unless the

government accepts responsibility to end the widespread prejudice, crimes against Dalits

will continue. India has consistently cited its numerous legislations and government

policies as a measure of compliance with its obligations to end caste-based discrimination,

choosing to ignore its failure to implement these measures which has resulted in continued,

and sometimes enhanced, brutalities against Dalits.

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