02/06/2007, 00.00
INDIA – EUROPEAN UNION
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European parliament criticises India for abuses against Dalits

by Nirmala Carvalho
India is accused of not doing enough to protect Dalit rights. Strong-worded Indian diplomatic reaction finds support in the European parliament itself.

Strasbourg (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The European Union has passed a resolution expressing concern over India’s treatment of its Dalit community. Indian diplomatic sources have called the motion flawed; similarly, the parliament’s position has been criticised from within.

The Development Committee of the European Parliament approved a resolution that calls India’s laws protecting Dalits “grossly inadequate” and highlights abuses Dalits face such as child labour, illiteracy, violence, landlessness and employment discrimination.

MEPs expressed their concern that abusers are not prosecuted to the fullest of the law and that very few are convicted.

The European parliament urges the Indian government to take appropriate legal measures against these crimes and their perpetrators and asks Indian authorities to heed complaints by Dalits and take special steps to protect Dalit women.

In India, Dalit community leaders have welcomed the resolution by the European parliament. They point out that in 59 years of independence the economic and social conditions of their community have not substantially improved. For this reason, they see statements by foreign powers like the European Union as a positive step towards getting Indian authorities to act.

By contrast, Indian reactions were far from positive. Amar Sinha, a spokesperson for the Indian Embassy in Brussels, said that the resolution was “unfortunate,” lacking in “balance and perspective.”

It [the resolution] indicates a highly negative mindset on the part of the people who have drafted it,” the Indian diplomat said, adding that the “report focuses only on the negative aspects and has selectively used statistics to prove its hypothesis.”

British MEP Neena Gill condemning the report saying, it “is riddled with inaccuracies and does a clear disservice to the human rights cause! The value of this report is seriously drawn into question by the whole lack of scrutiny applied to it.”

Gill, who is the president of the delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia and the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the European Parliament, noted that of the 785 MEPs, less than 30 took part in the vote.

“This is a highly sensitive report on a very important issue and the way it has been rushed through Parliament without consultation of either the SAARC delegation, the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, nor the Foreign Affairs Committee, is outrageous!” Ms Gill said. 

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