VI. Article 3: Prevent, prohibit and eradicate caste-based segregation

Article 3: States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction.

Although there is no de jure policy of segregation in India, Dalits are subject to de facto segregation in all spheres, including housing, the enjoyment of public services (see Section VIII(F)(1)), and education (see Sections VIII(E)(5)(a) and VIII(F)(1)(c)).135 This widespread segregation has led to a description of the practice of “untouchability” as India’s “hidden apartheid.”136 However, India’s periodic report fails to provide any information about segregation, instead confining the information provided under Article 3 to India’s support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and its participation in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance  held in Durban in 2001.137 Tellingly, India lobbied furiously against the inclusion of any references to caste discrimination, or discrimination on the basis of “work and descent,” in the final conference documents.138

A.        Segregated housing colonies for Dalits

Residential segregation is prevalent across the country, and is the rule rather than the exception.139 Most Dalits in rural areas live in segregated colonies, away from the upper-caste residents.140 This segregation is not limited to rural environments (see Section VIII(E)(3)(b)). Government programs for Dalit housing maintain the existing spatial segregation.141 Basic residential services such as water are segregated by caste, meaning that Dalits are forbidden from using the water sources and toilet tanks used by non-Dalits.142 The State provides poorer quality facilities for Dalit colonies and sometimes does not provide any of the facilities that are provided to non-Dalit colonies;143 for example, medical facilities and the better, thatched-roof houses exist exclusively in upper-caste colonies.144 An extensive survey of 11 Indian states on the prevalence of “untouchability” in rural India (hereinafter the Untouchability in Rural India survey) found that Dalits were denied entry into upper-caste homes in more than 50 percent of villages studied.145

B.        Segregation in relief camps

Dalits are segregated in disaster relief efforts (see Section V(A)(1)(b)).

C.        Segregation in schools

Dalit children and teachers are segregated from their counterparts in schools (see Sections VIII(E)(5)(a) and VIII(F)(1)(c)).

D.        Segregation in public life

Dalits are prohibited from using public services and entering private businesses (see Section VIII(F)).

135 The Special Rapporteur on racism addressed the issue of segregation in his 1999 Annual Report:

In the rural areas especially, the practice of untouchability is said to be very much alive and is reflected in segregated housing, with the Dalits forced to live at least 1/2 km from the rest of the villagers, and in the prohibition for them to use the wells, the shared water source. Segregation also reportedly exists in the schools, public services and public places (shops, hairdressers and public transport; in restaurants, dishes used by Dalits are sometimes separated from those used by the higher castes).

Mr. Glélé-Ahanhanzo, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/26, January 15, 1999 (55th CHR Session) E/CN.4/1999/15, (accessed February 7, 2007), para. 99.

136 Human Rights Watch, Broken People, p. 2.

137 Government of India, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Periodic Reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD/C/IND/19, March 29, 2006, paras. 53-56.

138 “Anti Racism Summit Ends on Hopeful Note,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 10, 2001, (accessed February 7, 2007).

139 NCDHR Response to the Special Rapporteur’s Questionnaire, p. 5.

140 According to an activist working with Dalit communities in 120 villages in Villapuram district, Tamil Nadu, all 120 villages have segregated Dalit colonies. Human Rights Watch, Broken People, p. 26.

141 NCDHR Response to the Special Rapporteur’s Questionnaire, p. 5.

142 Ibid., pp. 5-6.

143Human Rights Watch, Broken People, pp. 26-27. 

144 Ibid., p. 26.

145 Shah, et al., Untouchability in Rural India, p. 65 (Table 2.1).