India Commitee of the Netherlands
Attn. of Mr. G. Oonk
3511 LH Utrecht
The Hague, 13 April 2004
Dear Mr. Oonk,
Herewith I thank you for your letter of 19th of February which you sent to me also on behalf of the co-funding agencies (Cordaid, Hivos, ICCO, Novib), Justice & Peace, ChurchinAction and CMC. In this letter you are asking attention for caste discrimination and for mass murder in the Indian state of Gujarat in the first half of 2002 in relation to to coming session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva (HRC). In addition to your letter a meeting took place on the 15th of March between you and two officials of Cordaid on the one hand and officials of the Department of Human Rights and Department of South Asia on the other hand, in which views on these issues were exchanged.
I share your concerns about discrimination of caste-less people, also referred to as discrimination based on work and descent. In Dutch human rights policy discrimination is one of the priorities. As mentioned in your letter, the UN and the European Union (and The Netherlands as member of both) have since the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001 given more attention than before to caste- and similar forms of discrimination. In the above mentioned conversation is was indicated that it is not considered effective to include caste discrimination in the mandates of several Special Rapporteurs. The Netherlands and the European Union are of the opinion that the issue of caste discrimination comes under discrimination on the basis of work and descent, as determined by the Committee Against Racial Discrimination. Therefore the Special Rapporteur Against Racism is the right person to report on discrimination based on work and descent.
Regarding your request to take action in favour of a resolution in the coming UNHRC, I can inform you that the European Union, including The Netherlands, do bring up discrimination based on work and descent every year in the EU speech drawn up in the context of the fight against racism and discrimination.
With regard to the communal violence begin 2002 in Gujarat, I can inform you that The Netherlands has been closely monitoring the developments in Gujarat ever since. It is correct to state that many court cases are not proceeding as they should, compensation measures are long overdue and discrimination continues. I share your concerns about these matters. Independent organs as the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court have however accomplished that cases like the 'Best Bakery' in Baroda have again been brought to court, after all the accused had been acquitted by the local court. The same goes for the murder of thirteen Muslims that were obscured by the police. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently came with evidence that the police has played an objectionable role in this case. This case will soon go to court. Although it is proceeding slowly, the judicial process is still going on.
As you know The Netherlands has, since the outburst of communal violence, done its best in the context of the EU to bring up the Gujarat issue during bilateral and multilateral fora. In June 2002 the EU has carried out a démarche in which the Government of India was seriously addressed on the happenings in Gujarat. Earlier efforts of The Netherlands, in the context of the EU, to draw attention to the happenings in Gujarat did not get sufficient support. Also at this moment there is not enough support for that, largely because what happened is two years ago now.
I trust that to have informed you sufficiently.