Caste Discrimination and UK Law


The British government is planning public consultations on incorporating protection against caste discrimination into the U.K. equality law, but within the British Indian community, upper caste/hindutva community have already started rejecting the idea that caste discrimination is a problem. On 23rd November 2016, the Indian Forum on British Media held a public debate in a House of Commons committee room where Saunvedan Aparanti spoke about the not so hidden reality of casteism in Britain

Jaibhim everyone,

It is an honour to speak from the hallows of this all powerful parliament in Westminster. Under the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, it is this place that will ultimately decide whether a single word ‘caste’ will enter the Equality Act 2010. It is this place that has the potential to remedy a social system that has plagued the life of its victims from birth and a system that some of its beneficiaries will defend.

The time has come to finally ask a very simple question which is this: Why is there such an opposition to this legislation which will guarantee the human rights of the most vulnerable in society?

If you say that talking about caste will open pandora’s box and embroil religion, you would be wrong. Because caste supremacists are only obsessed with preserving their caste supremacy by any means possible including using religion as a means to an end. So if there is anyone who brings religion to the mix, it is the caste supremacist and not the victim. All the victim cares about is justice.

Because if caste supremacists were truly religious and moral, they would be very interested in reforming the system. They would be the first to welcome this legislation. They would persistently be lobbying parliament to include caste in the Equality Act 2010.

But they deny it. All we hear are accusations of orientalism, of caste simply not existing when study after study like the Caste Discrimination and Harassment in Great Britain report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research states the obvious. That the caste system is well and truly alive in this country. Examples include:

I. A group of young men refused service by a taxi driver because of perceived caste differences.

II. Work colleagues treating an individual as a ‘second class citizen’ when their caste identity had been revealed. III. Refusal of a venue to take the booking for a marriage reception

IV. Bullying at school and

V. Elderly women not receiving appropriate health care from a ‘higher caste’ care worker.

Some caste supremacists even say that the British invented caste during the Raj. If caste was invented by the British then then what explanation is there for the Buddha breaking away and forming his own religion 2,400 years ago in rejection of the caste system.

What explanation is there for anti-caste movements by social reformers like Tukaram, Ravidas and Chokhamela? These movements pre-date the British Raj. In fact, Dr. Ambedkar, the great crusader for social justice could access education only because his father had worked for the British Indian Army. The British Raj disrupted the caste system and history is witness to the Battle of Koregaon in 1818 in which 500 untouchable Mahar soldiers defeated the caste supremacist Peshwa army of 25,000 strong for the British East India Company.

This is history and if caste supremacists fear the downfall of their caste privilege, I don’t care. For me the dignity of people is more important than a crackpot idea. Look at the world around us, the days of protecting something delusional at the cost of human suffering are fast disappearing. People have realised that they’ve been taken for a ride for the last 4000 years by caste supremacists who will do anything to either defend the caste system or deny its existence.

By including caste in the Equality Act 2010, this country will stand tall in its longstanding commitment to human rights. Once again it can be proud of its legacy of protecting the vulnerable against privileged forces. Forces that have been peddling supremacist ideologies for far too long. But people have had enough, there is a revolution taking place from within communities who no longer accept their stations in life and are rising against the tyranny of the caste system.

It is time that the perpetrators of this disgusting tradition are brought to book. It is time that the courts do not have to make interpretative leaps to determine cases of caste discrimination. It is time for the word caste to be expressly included in the Equality Act 2010 so that there is legal certainty and guaranteed protection under the law. Most importantly, Britain will send a strong signal to the world that it does not tolerate discrimination.

Caste is not an internal problem, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this debate. It has to be acknowledged and exposed. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that the UK invoke Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act ‘without further delay to ensure that caste-based discrimination is explicitly prohibited under law’ and for victims to have access to effective remedies”. In other words, the game is up. The government knows it, caste supremacists know it and human rights activists know it.

So why is the government delaying passing legislation when the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires that caste must be made an aspect of race in the Equality Act. Let’s just say that the government and the caste supremacists are in bed with each other. I hope the government wakes up before the ceiling collapses on their caste denial and smells the coffee. Otherwise the government can always be taken to court and defeated like in the Brexit case recently.

So I kindly request the government to stop dodging its legal obligation under the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and to pass secondary legislation as soon as possible to include caste in the Equality Act 2010. By announcing a consultation instead of simply passing legislation, the government is seriously tarnishing the UK’s human rights reputation and the world is watching.

It is high time that caste discrimination is outlawed to protect its victims and this heinous practice is named and shamed internationally. It is simply unacceptable for a civilised society to carry on knowing that one of the most pernicious forms of discrimination in the world is permitted on British soil. If this government shows courage and upholds the commitment it says it has for human rights, it will be life changing for the multitude of victims in this country and also a beacon of hope for millions around the world.


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Saunvedan Aparanti Written by:

I am a human rights activist based in London with a special interest in fighting against caste based discrimination. I have an MA in Human Rights from UCL and currently studying Law. I am also a trained actor.

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