Caste Reservation in India Essay

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INTRODUCTION In early September 2001, world television news viewers saw an unusual sight. A delegation from India had come to the United Nations Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, not to join in condemnations of Western countries but to condemn India and its treatment of its Dalits (oppressed), as Indians better known abroad as “untouchables” call themselves. The Chairman of India’s official but independent National Human Rights Commission thought the plight of one-sixth of India’s population was worthy of inclusion in the conference agenda, but the Indian government did not agree. India’s Minister of State for External Affairs stated that raising the issue would equate “casteism with racism, which makes India a racist country, which we are not.”1 Discrimination against groups of citizens on grounds of race, religion, language, or national origin has long been a problem with which societies have grappled. Religion, over time, has been a frequent issue, with continuing tensions in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia being but two recent and still smoldering examples. Race-based discrimination in the United States has a long history beginning with evictions of Native Americans by European colonists eager for land and other natural resources and the importation of African slaves to work the land. While the framers of the U.S. Constitution papered over slavery in 1787, it was already a moral issue troubling national leaders, including some Southern slave owners like Washington and Jefferson. On his last political mission, the aging Benjamin Franklin lobbied the first new Congress to outlaw slavery. “Indian Groups Raise Caste Question,” BBC News, September 6, 2001. Accessed February 27, 2002. 1 2 Just weeks before the Constitutional Convention, the last Congress of the Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinance. It was, in part, a successful effort to

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