ICDR President’s Opening Statement from First Global Conference

(Statement made by Dil Bishwakarma known as DB Sagar, Founder and President, International Commission for Dalit Rights, and Convener of the Global Conference Organizing Committee)
 
Good afternoon!
 
IMG_4246It is my honor to deliver opening remarks for the First Global Conference on Defending Dalit Rights 2015. Today, we began a new history of the Dalit Rights Movement – together we will develop a common vision for 2020 for establishing Dalit Rights in the contemporary world. I have a question for each of you – how do you envision the Dalit Rights Movement by the year 2020, and what strategy actions will we develop to achieve those visions? Let’s discuss and exchange ideas and experiences that you have brought here. We will discuss not only challenges Dalits have been faced with, but also find pathways to common solutions to deal with those challenges. We are here with the commitment to establish Dalit Rights as human rights and human rights as Dalit Rights in the contemporary world.
 
As a victim of caste discrimination, and as a witness and an advocate of the Dalit Rights Movement, I have seen firsthand and experienced painful discrimination and challenges, and have met many victims and survivors of caste-based discrimination and exclusion across the borders. I have seen thousands of Dalit men and women who have been killed or displaced because they fall in love with an inter-caste girl or boy, and pursue a new dream together.
 
Our sisters have been facing caste-based sexual violence and rape, and our brothers have faced inhumane treatment, such as unthouchability or caste-based atrocities, exclusion, and discrimination because of their caste status, not because of their economic status. Each day, thousands of Dalit men and women and children experience painful caste-based discrimination and violence from their own society, colleagues, or even from the state mechanisms in the caste-affected countries. Overall, caste-based discrimination and violence is a key challenge for development, democracy, and freedom. It is time to raise our voices, and let the international community listen the voices of Dalits and minority groups through this First Global Conference.
 
Who are the most deprived groups in this planet – in terms poverty, exclusion or gender violence? The response would be the nearly 300 million Dalit men, women and girls. Dalits have been forced into slave or bonded labor, human and sex trafficking – it is a contemporary humanitarian crisis that referred as a ‘hidden apartheid’ and modern-day slavery. Caste-based discrimination and practice is a violation of international human rights agreements and constitutional provisions. The elimination of caste discrimination is a global agenda and global responsibility.
 
There is no single solution to eliminating caste-based discrimination. This is a common responsibility of Dalit or non-Dalit people; all religious or faith-based organizations and the international community must joint together. Then caste discrimination will go. Like slavery and apartheid, caste discrimination is not something God created; it is man-made and must be overcome and eliminated by the collective actions of human beings.
 
In the name of religion, based on gross misinterpretations, people have justified apartheid, slavery, religious extremism, and caste based discrimination; and, minorities and Dalits have been victimized, even into this 21st century. However, we do know all mighty God never discriminates among human beings. God treats all human beings equally, no matter which faith we believe in or belong to. We need to collectively find and collaborate with the good people from all walks of life and belief systems. Today, I appeal to religious leaders to take collective steps to eliminate caste-based discrimination and prevent Dalits and other vulnerable groups from experiencing its impact.
 
We do believe that it is time for the international community to collaborate with the Dalit Rights Movement and endorse the international human rights agreements, including the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines to Eliminate Caste or Work and Descent-based Discrimination. I especially call upon the United States to endorse these Principles and Guidelines, and facilitate other Member states of the UN to grant their endorsement.
 
We thank Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for introducing her resolution against Caste-based Discrimination in the U.S. Congress. The caste and race-based discrimination is the same under Article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the term ‘descent’ applies not only to race, but also other forms of inherited status and strongly condemns discrimination based on work and descent as a violation of All Forms of Racial Discrimination that include caste-based discrimination in the contemporary world. The U.S. is a leading voice of human rights, freedom, and democracy – we appeal to to the U.S. Congress to pass the binding resolution and endorse the term caste-discrimination as a violation of the Civil Rights Bill.
 
We also recall the UN and member states to recognize all forms of discrimination and inequality as a key challenge of the vision 2030, and create affirmative actions to fulfilling the rights of all Dalits and marginalized groups, particularly those who face intersecting inequalities. The UN’s new declaration must require states to fulfil their constitutional, legal, and international obligations to eliminate structural barriers, and foster inclusive norms that enable good governance, rule of law, social justice, and human rights accountability of all development actors, including citizen-led systems of monitoring. It should also call for affirmative policies to ensure proper participation and engagement of organizations led by people that are most vulnerable and who have been most marginalized – such as Dalits – within UN systems and national governments.
 
We do believe that this historical global conference will develop contemporary strategies and the Dalit Rights Global Declaration as a powerful message from the Dalit Rights Movement. Our vision 2020 will achieve a collective effort from both local and global levels through networking, collaboration, and the mobilization of our resources and movements.
 
Let’s develop a common vision and strategy – that drives us together to establishing Dalit Rights by our collective actions. In this occasion – we thank you all – frontline Dalit Rights Advocates or change-makers who have been vocal and active to save lives of victims on the ground. You are the true heroes of the Dalit Rights Movement – we salute you for your sacrifices, leadership, and efforts.
 
We would also like to thank each of you who are here today; we thank our contributors, volunteer supporters, and leaders of the Global Conference Organizing Committee and its member organizations. Without you it would not be possible to host this historic conference today. I sincerely appreciated and honor each of you for your great leadership and service. You are truly a leader and driving force of the Dalit Rights Movement.
 
Together, let’s recall Dalit Rights are human rights and human rights are Dalit Rights! Many generations have been suppressed over the centuries. Our generation has to be the last! Let’s transform our individual and organizational efforts collectively, at all levels, to establish Dalit Rights in the contemporary world.
 
Thank you, Madame Congresswoman Norton for accepting our recognition and invitation to this first global conference.
 
Thank you all. Once again – Dalit Rights are human Rights and human rights are Dalit rights!
 
03/19/2015
 

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