India´s Untouchables Are Forgotten at Durban, Aide Says

Sees Too Much Emphasis on Mideast Problems

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DURBAN, South Africa, SEPT. 4, 2001 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- The World Conference Against Racism is focusing too much on Zionism and not enough on forms of racism such as the plight of Indian´s 260 million "untouchables," a Catholic conferee says.



"The conference´s sessions have become unbalanced around the Palestinian issue and the equating of racism and Zionism," said John Dayal, secretary-general of the All India Christian Council.

The United States and Israel pulled out the conference Monday after denouncing what they called anti-Israeli language in its draft declaration.

"The conference must not be destructive, but serve to create new perspectives on discrimination and racial intolerance, at times perpetrated by governments themselves," Dayal told the Vatican agency Fides.

"We requested the dissolution of the Indian representation in Durban, because it is not the voice of the poor and the marginalized, of the minorities and the untouchables," he added. The untouchables are excluded by the present caste system from Indian society.

Dayal emphasized that "if the Durban conference has forgotten the discriminatory caste system, the greatest responsibility is that of the Indian delegation, expression of a nationalist Hindu government that has betrayed the rights of minorities."

The All India Christian Council attended the Durban conference as an nongovernmental organization. Its presence served to continue the Church´s work against the caste system.

The Vatican document presented at Durban, "The Church in Face of Racism," says that in "Africa and Asia there are still societies with a rigid caste division and social stratification that are difficult to overcome. … [It is] not an exaggeration to say that, within some countries and ethnic groups, there are forms of social racism."