Registered as a charity since 2005, Dalit Solidarity Network UK (DSN-UK) campaigns against the atrocities and poverty that over 260 million Dalits suffer due to caste discrimination.
Their vision is a world without caste discrimination. By campaigning for the human rights of Dalits, DSN-UK aims to do just that.
According to the network, “Dalits – formerly known as untouchables – comes from the Sanskrit word, meaning ‘broken’ or ‘oppressed’ and has been chosen as a preferred term by the community.”
Little understood and largely unacknowledged, caste discrimination is one of the worst human rights abuses globally. The exclusion of ‘lower-caste communities’ by other groups contributes to structural inequality in society.
To combat this, DSN-UK has launched an Everyday Casteism evidence-gathering campaign. The charity is urging people in the UK to share instances of casteist behaviour, including incidents of discriminatory or caste hate speech behaviour, experienced on a day to day basis by people perceived to be ‘lower’ caste in the UK.
Through this campaign, DSN-UK aims to show the world that caste-based discrimination does exist, it’s faced by non-dominant caste people and that it is a valid problem which must be addressed in the UK.
Gazala Shaikh, Director of DSN-UK tells us how such discrimination seeps into all spheres of social interaction.
“Caste-based discrimination manifests in all places – workplaces, educational institutes, social and religious places. Through advocacy and lobbying, it’s been a decade-long struggle to ensure caste remains as a protected characteristic in the Equalities Act.” Whilst, the government agreed to include ‘caste’ in the Equalities Act 2010. Although this was eventually overturned, the duty has yet to be repealed.
Gazala shares how ‘caste’ gets lost in the discussion regarding marginalised communities:
“When you look at marginalised communities, caste gets masked in the whole aspect in the dialogue. Our job is to bring that out, unmask it and therefore address it.“
When people talk about the Dalit community, they usually speak about the atrocities that happened back in India, so for people in the UK, it’s seen as something that is alien. It’s not connected to them or their lives directly. In the case of reporting on the Dalit community, it’s very episodic in that it features a key event that happened in the past. By and large, reporting is from an outsider’s view from the top-down in which power inequity is not addressed. What we need is a sustained campaign to address caste-based discrimination instead of reporting of a specific moment in time.”
DSN-UK have played a vital role in addressing the risks of economic exploitation and caste-based discrimination throughout business supply chains. The charity has worked closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative to produce Base Code Guidance: Caste in Global Supply Chains. The code addresses discrimination in recruitment, poor working conditions and minimal pay in business operations. Through advocacy, companies are given a greater understanding of how to deal with the nuances in this sphere.
The charity has spearheaded the campaign in opening up discussion in civil society. Namely, the final report on the UN human rights review of the UK included a significant recommendation on caste discrimination.