“Dalit Issues & Upcoming Census in Pakistan”

12th June, 2009

Press Club

A one day consultation “Census and its implication on Scheduled castes” was organized by Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN- an alliance of organizations and professionals/individuals working against discrimination based on religion or race) on 12th June, 2009 at Press Club Hyderabad.

Some 50 individuals from different organizations and professional groups participated in the event. Among the participants were Engineer Gianchand (ex-MPA), Zulfiqar Shah (secretary PDSN), advocate Bhoromal, Dr. Sono Khanghrani (CE TRDP), Pirbhu Satiani (TRDP), Mali Rathore (Convener PDSN), Advocate Arjundas (Pakistan Manghwar Council), Zahid Farooq (URC), Ramesh Jaipal (Pakistan Scheduled Caste Movement), Sarwan Kumar (HRCP), Veeji Kolhi (Mehergarh), Zain Daupoto (IDO), Bisharat Ali (PILER), Pushpa Kumari (PDSN), Nazir Baloch (GRDO), Jan Khaskheli and others. Malji Rathore (Convener PDSN) facilitated the speakers.

Sharing aims and objectives of the consultation Zufiqar Shah said that giving the socio-political environment of the country it’s very difficult to talk about the issues concerning the very lower class like Dalits. He said that general practice in the country has been keeping indigenous population excluded from all development strategies thus leaving them more marginalized.

Zulfiqar Shah said that according to government sources Rs.235 million has been reserved for up coming national census and 0.2 million people have been trained already for the process. He said that is was highly surprising that not a single person from Dalit community was coordinated in regards. He further said that practical observation is that Dalits (41 scheduled minority castes) are more than 2 million in Pakistan but in last census conducted in 1998 they were counted only 0.2 million and some thing. Zulfiqar Shah urged the government to take ample actions to represent Dalits fairly in next national census.

Zahid Farooq said that development strategy starts right with the process of census as resource allocation is made according the proportionate. He said that minorities in Pakistan are deliberately neglected by the authorities just show their number low. Zahid Farooq urged the participants that a national level conference on this issue be organized before next census takes place.

Advocate Bhagwandas Bheel told the participants that force conversion of religion is a big and humiliating problem for scheduled castes persons. He said that virgin girls from scheduled castes are kidnapped by majority community people and forcibly married after conversion of religion. He said that government should devise a law that permit a converted woman to appear before the court to justify whether she was not converted forcibly.

Pibhulal Satiani said that in Thaparker area most villages are dominated with scheduled castes’ population but names of the villages are after ‘muslim name’. He said that a campaign at taluka level is needed to address and sensitize the masses in this regard.

Veeji Kolhi said that class-based society like Pakistan divides more to all of us. He said that ‘Dalit identity’ is important and we should not hide this identity in any case. He urged the participants to get united against the atrocities scheduled castes are faced with.

Ramesh Jaipal said that they were happy to learn about PDSN and would volunteer for any activity assigned. He said that a national level movement was needed to address such an alarming issue.

Engineer Gianchand said that awareness at masses level is needed. He urged the scheduled caste community to register themselves in up coming census so as to minimize the discrimination at very basic level.

Advocate Arjundas said that political representatives must take notice of the discrimination scheduled caste community face during the process of census. He urged the government to revisit the Hindu personal law and provide basic rights to scheduled caste people.

Dr. Sono Khanghrani, in his chief guest address, said that at this stage we all must know the ‘interest’ of the government. He said it’s all the political game scheduled caste people are trapped in. He said that government deliberately strategizes the census in a way that minority groups are counted less. Dr. Sono said authorities in action want that scheduled caste people be not represented in the legislative thus, they should be kept away from development. He supplemented his argument by giving example of Umarkot) and Sanghar where 55% and 33% population is scheduled caste but political representation is highly very low.

Dr. Sono told the participants that, for example, a family which is not registered with NADRA (National Database & Registration Authority) can’t get benefits of government facilities like education of children etc. He said that most of the scheduled caste people don’t have CNICs (Computerized National Identity Cards). He urged the scheduled caste people to register themselves with NADRA.

He said that it’s a ‘case of Dalits’ and we should take it to all possible local, national and international levels. Dr. Sono said that we should take opportunity of media opening and reach to maximum number of people.

Participants agreed on following decision;

  • A program/conference will be organized in Mithi and PDSN will get other members agreed on date.

  • Pakistan Scheduled Caste Movement will organize a program in Rahimyar Khan and PDSN will participate actively.
  • A group of PDSN will meet journalist, officials and parliamentarians in Karachi and take the ‘case’ of Dalits to them. PILER will facilitate the group.
  • PDSN will prepare and get published pamphlets on the issue and will distribute.

Following were the major demands of the participants;

  • The Government should launch a Caste Wise and even Sub-Caste Wise Census Operation to enumerate the different castes and sub caste of the different Scheduled Castes

  • The Government should allocate separate Seats in the Parliament for Scheduled Castes as per their population ratio, to ensure their voice is heard at the National Level. Four feats in National Assembly, four in the Sindh Assembly, two in the Punjab Assembly, and one each in NWFP and Balochistan Assemblies must be reserved exclusively for Scheduled Castes

  • The Government should constitute a National Commission for Scheduled Castes, to hear the complaints of caste and racial discrimination, and take necessary and required action

  • The Government should allot land to landless Dalit Peasants, on priority basis

  • The Government should create a separate fund for helping the destitute, orphans, widows and poor individuals of Scheduled Castes, under the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal / Social Welfare as per their population ratio, and scholarships to the Scheduled Caste students

  • The Government should Protect the Scheduled Castes from being threatened, exploited, victimized, and trapped in debt bondage

  • For the 2009 census, participants suggested that coordination with religious leaders of worship places of various minorities must be insured for an accurate number of Scheduled Castes.

Report by: Bisharat Ali


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