AHO PRESS RELEASE
13th November 2013
HINDU COMMUNITY RAISES CONCERNS OVER GOVERNMENT RESEARCH ON CASTE DISCRIMINATION
Hindu community leaders have raised concerns that new government sponsored research on caste discrimination risks repeating the mistakes of previous research with unfortunate consequences for the UK Hindu community. The new research has been commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as part of the government consultation leading up to the introduction of caste legislation for the first time in the UK.
The research appears to be repeating the mistakes of earlier studies:
· It does nothing to address the key issue of the extent of caste discrimination in this country. The existence of pockets of discrimination has been documented in the previous government sponsored research carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) report. But the authors of that research have already admitted that their report was not designed to establish robust evidence on the prevalence and severity of such discrimination.
· It appears to be proceeding on the basis that the problem is focussed on the Hindu population, when the government’s own research found that only one of 23 documented cases of discrimination took place within that community. The debate at a recent EHRC sponsored stakeholder event focussed disproportionately on the Hindu community, continuing the stigmatisation of this society that was especially apparent in the parliamentary debates on the subject of caste.
· Finally, there is concern that a majority of the EHRC appointed research team have previous links to one side of the caste debate and that this may represent a conflict of interests. The research team leader, Dr Meena Dhanda, and several others on the research team have acknowledged links to lobbying groups including Caste Watch UK, the Dalit Solidarity Network and the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance.
Vivek Sharma, from the AHO Secretariat, said:
“First and foremost, the Alliance remains committed to eradicating all forms of discrimination based on caste or any other grounds. We welcome the decision by the government to enter a period of research and consultation about the introduction of the proposed caste legislation and we wish to engage fully with that process.
“We are very concerned that now the research has started it has become clear that there is nothing in place to examine the extent of caste discrimination in this country. We accept that there is evidence of geographical pockets of discrimination, but there is no reliable research as to how widespread the problem is. Caste legislation may impose a significant cost on businesses and public authorities and we are concerned that in the absence of any hard facts this may well be disproportionate to the extent of the problem of discrimination that actually exists.
“We are also concerned about conflicts of interests within the research team and a continued focus on the Hindu community when the evidence we have suggests that the problem lies just as much within other communities. We would like to work together with all affected groups to ensure caste discrimination is eradicated.”
The NIESR report (published in December 2010) acknowledges that the percentage of the population which experiences caste discrimination and the frequency of discrimination is unknown and that only a major programme of research could establish this. Similarly, it could find no evidence on whether there has been any change in the extent of caste discrimination.
The Government Equalities Office has promised, in ‘Caste Legislation introduction - programme and timetable’ ( July 2013), that work will be undertaken to determine information about the extent of caste discrimination in Britain that can be used as a comparative baseline for any future consideration of the effectiveness of caste legislation. However, it is unclear at the moment what plans it has in place to fulfil this promise.
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