Monday, March 21, 2011

LET'S ELIMINATE RACIAL DISCRIMINATION..21 March, 2011 by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


The very first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".


March 21st, every year, is observed as the 'International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination'.  On this very day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa against the apartheid "pass laws".  In 1966, the UN General Assembly while proclaiming this International Day, 'called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination' (resolution 2142 (XXI)).


Earlier, in 1949, thanks to the vision of Dr. Ambedkar and our Constituent Assembly, the country gave to its citizens the fundamental values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.


Sadly however, there is a huge gap between the ideal and the reality.  While we Indians, are first to cry hoarse when we feel racially discriminated in Australia, UK or the USA, we don't bat an eyelid when discrimination literally becomes institutionalized in our everyday reality at home. 


The Dalits continue to be at the receiving end in a society which has by and large become immune to their plight. They continue to be "stereo-typed" for specific jobs and even in 'kitlis' (tea stalls) - where one would think that all are equal-separate saucers / cups are "reserved" for them. 


Every effort is made to co-opt and homogenize the Adivasis.  Apart from the fact that they are denied their rights to the 'jal', 'jungle' and 'jameen' (water, forest and land) which have been rightly theirs for centuries, the onslaught by mega-corporations and the nexus with vested interests makes them strangers in their own land. 


The poor and the marginalized and particularly the Dalits or Adivasis, have little or very limited access to what is rightfully theirs be it education, healthcare services, employment opportunities and other basic amenities.  Discriminating others seems to have become an "okay" thing and many of us don't even realise that we do so.


One needs to do a cursory glance at the 'Matrimonial Columns' (which is a great source of revenue for our dailies) and one will realise how caste, colour and ethnicity easily gain precedence over intrinsic values.  If this is not blatant discrimination, then what is?


A day like today should provide us with the necessary motivation to look into ourselves, our attitudes and actions and goad us to take courageous steps towards a more inclusive society. Let's eliminate racial discrimination today!


(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)


21st March, 2011

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333
Fax:  79 27489018






No comments: