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UN says India's caste system a human rights abuse

September 29, 2009 16:58 IST
The United Nations Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, is expected to ratify draft principles which will recognize India's caste system as a human rights abuse.

The UN will condemn the persecution suffered by 65 million 'untouchables' or 'Dalits' who carry out the most menial and degrading work

The UN draft, which has been opposed by India, pledges to work for the 'effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent.'

The Indian government had lobbied heavily for the Human Rights Council to remove the word 'caste' from a draft earlier this year.

India's opposition was undermined however by Nepal, the former Hindu kingdom, which has supported the move. Its foreign minister Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam said Nepal welcomes UN and international support for its attempts to tackle caste discrimination.

The UN has now called on India to follow Nepal's example, but New Delhi remains opposed to international interference on the issue.

Navanethem Pillay, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is a South African Tamil, said Nepal's response marked a 'significant step by a country grappling with this problem itself' and urged other states to follow its lead.

The issue is sensitive in India where untouchables and other low-caste groups wield increasing political influence, particularly in Uttar Pradesh.

According to The Telegraph, the caste divisions has become institutionalised by quotas for Dalits in government jobs and university places, which has in turn angered higher caste groups.

Source: ANI