The Indian diaspora in North America has been at the forefront of a powerful movement, passionately rallying and voicing their concerns against discrimination and atrocities faced by marginalized communities, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in India. This collective effort transcends borders and highlights their commitment to human rights and social justice.
In an inspiring display of global solidarity, the online petition launched by the Ambedkar International Center (AIC), USA, on June 22 has garnered an impressive 785 signatures to date. The petition, titled #Save_Lives, addresses the pressing issue of atrocities against marginalized communities in India, particularly the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). With only 215 signatures needed to reach its target of 1000 supporters, the campaign is steadily gaining momentum.
The petition is addressed to United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch (HRW), FORUM-ASIA (Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (Commonwealth HRI), World Organisation Against Torture, United Nations Committee Against Torture, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and Front Line Defenders.
The AIC's petition seeks to draw the attention of global leaders, human rights organizations, and pro-justice advocates to the critical issue of caste-based violence and discrimination in India. Recent years have seen a significant increase in heinous crimes and atrocities committed against Dalits, SCs, and STs in the country.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau of India, as of 2021, there were a staggering 70,818 pending cases of atrocities against marginalized castes and 12,159 cases against STs awaiting investigation. Shockingly, 263,512 cases against SCs and 42,512 cases against STs came up for trial, with an alarming 96.0% and 95.4% of these cases, respectively, pending trial at the end of the year.
The backlog of pending cases in Indian courts has reached a staggering 50 million, further highlighting the dire need for immediate action to secure justice for the victims. This situation raises questions about the effectiveness of central and state governments, the police, elected representatives, legislatures, administration, and the judiciary in addressing these issues.
In February this year, former Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said 69,511 cases were pending in the top court as on February.
"There are 59,87,477 cases pending in high courts across the country, as per the information available on National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) on February 1, 2023," he said. Out of these, 10.30 lakh cases were pending in the Allahabad High Court -- the biggest high court of the country. The Sikkim High Court has the least number of 171 cases. The total pending cases come to 4,92,67,373 or over 4.92 crore. The government, Mr Rijiju said, has taken several initiatives to provide "suitable environment" for expeditious disposal of cases by the judiciary.
The Ambedkar International Center, USA, is calling on the international community to support its demands for change in India. Their key demands are:
Publication of the Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA 1989) with 2015 & 2018 amendments in all regional languages. This step aims to enhance accessibility to the legislation, ensuring that victims and their families can better understand and utilize their legal rights.
Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and Specification of Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors dedicated to trying offenses under the PoA Act. This would expedite the legal process and provide a more focused approach to addressing atrocities.
As the Ambedkar International Center's #Save_Lives campaign approaches the 1000-signature mark, it highlights the global community's commitment to addressing atrocities against SCs and STs in India. Every signature brings us one step closer to achieving justice for countless individuals who have been affected by caste-based violence.
Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) donated Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches (BAWS) Volumes to the Wayne State University at Detroit on September 8th,. A total of 18 Volumes were donated to the University Library.
AANA, comprised of local Michigan members, has been in communication with Wayne State University for the past year, working tirelessly to make this valuable resource available. The organization hopes that these books will serve as vital references for faculties, scholars, researchers, and local students interested in Indian history, politics, religion, caste, and socioeconomic issues, both during British rule and after India's independence.
During the course of this initiative, Ms. Veronica, a Senior Librarian at Wayne State University, expressed her newfound interest in Dr. Ambedkar, a prominent figure in Indian history and social reform. She commended AANA's efforts to preserve Dr. Ambedkar's legacy and was particularly intrigued to learn about his book, "Buddha and His Dhamma," as she is currently exploring Buddhism.
AANA's commitment to promoting knowledge and understanding extends beyond Wayne State University. The organization has been active in donating books on Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Periyar Ramasamy, and other Indian social reformers' works to local libraries across the United States. As a result, many of Dr. Ambedkar's writings are now in circulation throughout the USA, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of India's history and social issues.
Further intensifying the movement, Equality Labs and other organizations have been tirelessly advocating for the passage of SB 403, a ground breaking bill in California. If passed, SB 403 would make California the first state in the United States to enact legislation specifically against caste discrimination. Thenmozhi Sounderarajan of Equality Labs who have been on hunger strike for over a week now, says, " We fast as a commitment to healing, reconciliation, and remedying of violence. Together, we can end caste discrimination—for good!" The Ravidassia community of California have been extending unending and tireless support for the cause and voicing against prevalent discrimination.
Together, the Indian diaspora in the United States through their collective efforts, petitions, book donations, and protests, are championing the cause of justice, equality, and human rights for all. Their actions serve as a beacon of hope and solidarity, demanding an end to discrimination and atrocities, not only within their host countries but also on a global scale.
In a deeply concerned and detailed open letter addressed to Members of Parliament and Ministers in Canada, the South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network Canada (SADAN) expressed its serious concerns regarding Petition e-4507, which seeks to introduce the concept of "Hinduphobia" into the Canadian Human Rights Code. The organization, representing the South Asian diaspora in Canada, specifically from communities historically subjected to caste-based violence and oppression, has raised several points of contention regarding the petition.