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Call to curb discrimination against scheduled caste

Call to curb discrimination against scheduled caste

HYDERABAD: Participants — mostly belonging to the scheduled caste — have voiced concern over the fact that they are discriminated against socially and even by their own community.

The concerns were expressed at an ‘expert meeting on vulnerable communities because of their belief’ held on Sunday at a local hotel by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Titled ‘Challenges for scheduled caste’, the meeting was presided over by commission’s secretary general I. A. Rehman.

Participants were Dr Jaipal Chhaparia of the Pakistan Hindu Forum, Advocates Veerji Kohli and Bhagwandas Bheel, Mahesh Kumar, Kanji Ranu Bheel, Radha Bheel, Ramsha, Pushpa Kumari and others.




They discussed different forms of discrimination within the society and community, saying they were treated like untouchables mainly by Muslims. They said that in schools, scheduled-caste students drank water in separate glasses or would get assistance from someone to give them water.

Social activist Radha Bheel, was critical of the fact that when a Hindu girl after conversion wanted to return to Hinduism, she was disallowed under Islamic teachings. At the hands of landlords, Bheel and Kohli peasant women underwent more discrimination in the fields as compared to her Muslim counterparts. She said scheduled-caste students faced discrimination while eating or drinking among their fellows and in most cases they were made to sit at the back of their classrooms.

Mr Rehman said the current Constitution had placed a large segment of society that is the minorities into a compartment. When the Constitution was drafted, everyone expected it to undergo changes whenever required. Regrettably, it was not the case and the words ‘scheduled caste’ was still part of the Constitution.

He said the HRCP did not accept UN’s clauses that dealt with religion and stood for the right to change one’s religion. Minorities may discuss the right to profess a particular religion, but they should not confine everything to it and they should aim for goals which were achievable. There was no capital punishment for apostates 30 years ago, therefore, such people had the option of relocating to other countries. He maintained that social bias was quite evident when it came to the status of a Muslim and non-Muslim, poor or peasant.

Veerji Kohli pointed out that if the Kohlis, Bheels and others needed to get rid themselves of stigma of being called ‘scheduled caste’, they would have to get not only Constitution’s Article 260, but their religious book Manusamarti, which defined four Hindu castes, amended. The Hindu parliamentarians and ministers did not take oath which was Muslim specific, requiring them to vow to protect Islamic ideology, he said. A separate oath should be defined for them, he demanded.

Dr Chhaparia called for giving five per cent job quotas to Hindus in all cadres, saying that Hindu students in schools should be given an alternative subject to Islamiyat. Hindu legislators did not represent the majority of their own community, he said, urging parties to redefine manifestos for their Hindu members as well.

Kanji Ranu Bheel talked about conflicts in the Hindu community, saying that he would be comfortable with Arbab (former CM) more than Mullani (PPP leader) in Tharparkar because the latter abhorred his community. Thari women dressed in their traditional attire were projected in videos and printed material by NGOs for the satisfaction of donors, though they (Thari women) did not get any rights. He called for doing away with the ban imposed on a non-Muslim from becoming prime minister, chief minister or governor.

HRCP Sindh vice president Asad Iqbal Butt, journalist and novelist Mohammed Hanif, HRCP co-director Najmuddin and its member Neel Kanth also spoke at the meeting.

They said that if communities considered themselves as Pakistanis and human beings first instead of religious minority, only then would they get their rights. They said they should separate religion from their political and social system.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2015

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