Christian Aid Exposes Discrimination against Indian Dalits in Tsunami Relief

Christian Aid have recently revealed that some minority communities in India are being discriminated against by the government in the distribution of tsunami relief. Dalits in India, according to human rights groups, have even been asked to leave the relief camp.

Dalits in India are on the lowest rung of the caste system and often face economic and social discrimination. They are labourers receiving the lowest daily wages and do not own boats or land. They are even considered to be the social inferior of fishermen and their families.

Along with many other victims in the fishing communities, Dalits have lost their homes and livehoods in the catastrophic tsunami. Christian Aid partner the 'National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights' (NCDHR) reports that in some places in the state of Tamil Nadu, Dalits have been told by members of higher castes to leave the relief camps.

In some other extreme cases, Dalits have been prevented from drinking from the same water tanks or eating in the same places as others in the relief camps.

Even though India's constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of caste, in reality deep divisions continue to exist and prejudice against Dalits is rife, according to Christian Aid.

NCDHR, reported that even the government officials have not respected the Dalits. They didn’t visit any Dalit camps and failed to provide as much food and other relief materials as is being given to other fishing communities in the region. Some Dalits are being refused having deaths and missing people registered. In addition, Dalit areas are also the last to have water and electricity supplies restored.

A Dalit woman told Christian Aid, "The difference is that what happened to them has been recognised and they are getting some relief - we are getting nothing."

Christian Aid voices its concerns over the discrimination against the Dalits. It works with partner organisations across India and in the international community to fight caste-based discrimination. A grant of £25,000 was given to NCDHR to monitor incidents of discrimination and ensure aid is distributed equally.

Ashray, a member of a network which is working in 26 coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, is also receiving funding from Christian Aid to ensure that the Dalit community benefits from emergency aid and rehabilitation.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are often banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink separately and also suffer physical abuse such as rape and murder, according to Christian Aid.