Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India's "Untouchables"

Hidden Apartheid

Caste Discrimination against India’s “Untouchables”

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I. Summary List of the Critical Issues Pertaining to India’s Periodic Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Hidden Apartheid was produced as a “shadow report” to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), in advance of its February 2007 consideration of a report by the government of India.

CERD is a body of independent experts responsible for monitoring states’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. India ratified the Convention in 1968. The Convention guarantees rights of non-discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.” In 1996, CERD concluded that the plight of Dalits falls squarely under the prohibition of descent-based discrimination. 

As a state party to the Convention, India is obliged to submit periodic reports detailing its implementation of rights guaranteed under the Convention. During the review session CERD examines these reports and engages in constructive dialogue with the state party, addressing its concerns and offering recommendations in the form of “Concluding Observations.” As part of this process, CERD uses supplementary or alternative information contained in non-governmental organization “shadow reports” to effectively evaluate states’ reports.

The India report being considered by CERD in February 2007 (the report was more than eight years overdue when it was submitted) covers more than a decade of India’s compliance with the Convention (from 1996 to 2006) yet does not contain a single mention of abuses against Dalits—abuses that India’s own governmental agencies have documented and verified. This report fills that gap and presents CERD members with information that we believe is essential to a fair assessment of India’s record and, ultimately, to encouraging the government to live up to its treaty obligations.


February 2007 Volume 19, No. 3 (C)