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June 22, 2011

Awareness drive on the cards for identification of Dalits

Islamabad

June 22, 2011

Karachi
The religion-based census is depriving scheduled castes in Tharparkar, as elsewhere in Pakistan, of their lawful rights, according to a scheduled caste leader.
“We are planning to launch an awareness campaign in Tharparkar so that Dalits do not register themselves as Hindus in the next census,” said Surendar Valasai, the founding president of the Scheduled Caste Federation of Pakistan.
The word Dalit literally means “backward and oppressed”, and since historically 70 to 80 percent of the population of Dalits are counted as Hindus, they have been looked down on with contempt and hatred by Rajputs and Brahmins since ages.
According to the last census conducted in 1998, the Hindu population in Pakistan
was 2,443,514, including 2,111,171 higher caste Hindus and 332,343 scheduled caste Hindus. If the scheduled castes opt not to identify themselves as Hindus, the demographic scheme of Tharparkar would be drastically altered.
But Dr Khatao Mall, a senior physician at the Civil Hospital Mithi, thinks otherwise. “Education has brought a vital change in the attitude of upper-class Hindus. They no longer discriminate against scheduled castes and eat with them at restaurants and in marriage ceremonies,” he said.
“If scheduled castes decide to have their distinct identity in the next census, it will be like a separate electorate.”
A large number of scheduled caste children in Tharparkar have no way but to work as child labourers to support their families. This is despite the fact that Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990. The CRC is a comprehensive instrument comprising 54 articles and two optional protocols that cover the full range of human rights of persons below the age of 18 years.
However, access to radio and TV channels has proved to be effective in raising awareness level in the area. “People living in villages listen to BBC Urdu regularly and are well aware

what’s going on in Pakistan as well as on the international level. Even drivers are aware about the latest news because they listen to radio while driving their car,” Khatao said.

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