Commissioner Chris Patten
European Commission
External Relations Directorate-General
B-1049 Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, 7 November 2003
Dear Mr. Patten,

Caste discrimination and the EU-India Summit, November 2003

In view of the planned EU-India Summit on 29th November 2003 in New Delhi, we, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, hereby strongly urge the European Commission to use its influence to include caste discrimination as a specific topic of the agenda as part of the human rights dialogue.

In spite of constitutional and legal measures put in place by the Indian Government, caste discrimination and its related human rights violations continue to be severe, systematic and widespread. This is largely due to lack of access to justice and means of redress. Provisions and policies adopted to address caste discrimination remain to a large extent non-implemented leaving Dalits deprived of their socio-economic rights. Extensive documentation on Dalit human rights and livelihood shows only a few indications of improvement. The phenomenon of caste- or descent based discrimination is also prevalent in other countries in South Asia and Africa and sometimes even hardly recognised as a problem.

The European Parliament has recently given strong recommendations on caste discrimination to the Commission, the Council and the Member states. Our Parliament has adopted on September 4th 2003 a resolution on human rights in the world in 2002 (2002/2011(INI)) in which a number of paragraphs are directed at action to enhance the fight against caste discrimination. The European Parliament is for instance calling on the Commission and the Council to promote the call for a Special Rapporteur on caste discrimination; to address the issue of caste discrimination in political dialogues and to take concrete measures in EU development and trade cooperation with the countries concerned. Thereby we call for the establishment of bilateral consultative mechanisms on the issue and support for the emancipation of the Dalits.

Furthermore the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights 2003 has adopted last August a resolution (2003/22) on discrimination based on work and descent. The resolution calls on states to formulate and implement at the national, regional and international level new and enhanced policies and plans of action to effectively eliminate discrimination based on work and descent, taking into account the measures proposed in General Recommendation XXIX, and to give widespread publicity to the General Recommendation.

By means of this letter we call on the Commission to take the necessary steps in order to achieve the mentioned recommendations by the European Parliament and to use all the influence it has to bring the substance of the above-mentioned Sub-Commission resolution into the human rights dialogue of the EU-India Summit in November 2003.

Yours sincerely,

Bob van den Bos
Member of the European Parliament (ELDR)

This letter is co-signed by:
Eija-Ritta Anneli Korhola (PPE)
Glenys Kinnock (PSE)
Robert Evans (PSE)
Maria Martens (PPE)

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - January 20, 2004