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Caste Discrimination in the UK Reported

The Guardian reports on the importing of an ancient form of discrimination:

Researchers detail claims that many of the 50,000 Dalits in the UK – once known as India’s lower-caste “untouchables” – suffer discrimination from other castes in terms of jobs, healthcare, politics, education and schools.

…In a report likely to provoke bitter controversy, researchers were told how couples who marry outside their own caste face “violence, intimidation and exclusion”. The study, No Escape – Caste Discrimination in the UK, focuses on domestic discrimination, although campaigners are also trying to force British firms with commercial interests in India to outlaw practices unfair to Dalits. The government has promised to consider the issue in forthcoming legislation and to look at claims of discrimination against lower-caste Gurkhas in the British army.

David Haslam of the Dalit Solidarity Network, who organised the research, said the group had spoken to 130 people for the study.

The Dalit Solidarity Network (UK) has a website here, but unfortunately it does not appear to have been updated since 2002. There is more general information on the organisation’s international website, but nothing about the new report. In fact, the only likely reference to it comes from a Japanese website which makes reference to the following:

‘Research Project: Caste Discrimination in the UK Diaspora’, Dalit Rights- The Newsletter of the Dalit Solidarity Network-UK, Issue No.13, Winter 2005/6, p.4.

However, this issue of the newsletter does not appear to be available online.

How the British government should deal with caste was the subject of a Parliamentary debate last November. Labour left-winger Jeremy Corbyn noted that the

Dalit Solidarity Network UK produced a solid report on caste discrimination in the private sector. It lays down a number of demands that should be made of the private sector companies that invest in India. It has started talks with HSBC bank, Lloyds TSB, Standard Chartered and Barclays about their investment strategies.

That report was entitled “Caste Discrimination and the Private Sector: Employment Principles for Foreign Investors in South Asia”, and is available to read here (and a brief outline is here). Labour MP Rob Marris added that

We have caste-based discrimination here in the UK. Those who know the UK south Asian community quite well, and I count myself as one of those, can sometimes see, by looking at south Asians and those from a south Asian background, from what caste they have come—because of systematic discrimination for 2,500 years. Dalit people look different. That is reproduced in this country. Sometimes, sadly, here in the UK, it is possible to get a sense of which is a Dalit and which is a Jat temple, or gurdwara, on visiting them. Caste exists in this country, as well as in south Asia and Africa.

And regarding the Gurkhas (a brigade of Nepalese soldiers who serve in the British Army), Marris added that

There have been serious allegations of discrimination, as regards both recruitment and what happens to those recruited, in terms of their career progression—or, according to the allegations, lack of career progression.

However, not everyone thinks that the UK situation is a major cause for concern. Back to the Guardian (link added):

In India, Dalits and non-Dalits rarely eat together, but 81% of those questioned said the restriction did not usually apply here. Piara Khabra, MP for Ealing Southall, accused researchers of exaggerating the extent of problems: “It is a big issue in India, but not here. There is a broader community and different traditions. People live happily together.” He said many complainants may claim caste discrimination mistakenly or for political reasons. “I am the MP and people come to me who are from the lowest castes.”