X. Article 7: Adopt educational measures to combat caste-based prejudices

Article 7: States Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and this Convention. 

In its Periodic Report, India indicates that it has devoted “considerable attention and space to constitutional provisions related to fundamental rights” in curricula481 and in developing policy guidelines for media “to ensure that racial or other prejudices are not propagated.”482 The treatment of the caste system in textbook and curricula, along with inadequate media representation of Dalit issues and the lack of Dalit journalists generally, suggest that the government’s efforts have so far been inadequate. In addition, the widespread practice and acceptance of caste-based segregation in government schools (see Sections VIII(E)(5)(a) and VIII(F)(1)(c)) may send the strongest and most intolerant message of all.

A.        Textbook and curricula in public and private schools distort the caste problem in India

The treatment of caste discrimination in textbooks and curricula can strengthen caste division and prejudice. For example, a report by the Mumbai-based NGO KHOJ found that even progressive curricula either exclude any mention of caste discrimination or discuss the caste system in a way that suggests that caste inequities and discrimination no longer exist.483 School textbooks may similarly fail to mention caste discrimination, may attempt to justify the origins of caste discrimination484 or may attribute the unequal situation of Dalits to their “ignorance, illiteracy and blind faith…because they still fail to realise [the] importance of education in life.”485

B.        Inadequate media representation of Dalit issues and lack of Dalit journalists

While Dalits, together with tribals, make up nearly 25 percent of the country’s population, the NHRC found that the media “provides negligible space to their plight/problems.”486 Beyond reports of major instances of violence, there is a lack of any sustained reporting of their problems and efforts to include their voices.487 Instead, these communities mostly receive attention when the discussion is focused on backwardness, population growth, lack of entrepreneurship and productivity, thereby perpetuating caste-based stereotypes.488 Part of the problem of representation of Dalit issues in the media lies in the lack of Dalit journalists. There is only one nationally prominent Dalit journalist, Chandrabhan Prasad, who has written about the structure of discrimination against Dalits.489

481 Government of India, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Periodic Reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD/C/IND/19, para. 159.

482 Ibid., para. 161.

483 Central Advisory  Board of Education (CABE) sub-Committee on “Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System,” pp. 8-9.

484 CABE sub-Committee on “Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System,” pp. 8-9. See for example a Social Studies text approved for use by the Gujarat State Board, which describes the varna (caste) system as a “precious gift” given by the Aryans to the world and extols the virtues of the caste system for socially and economically organizing society on the basis of labor. Ibid., p. 42.

485 CABE sub-Committee on “Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System,” p. 43.

486 NHRC Report, Section VI, p. 134.

487 Ibid.

488 Ibid.

489Chandrabhan Prasad, “India’s Hall of Shame,” The Pioneer, (accessed February 7, 2007).