Tulip human rights award given in absentia to Dalit leader

January 10, 2013

Dutch newspapers and human rights groups concerned with the Dalits (untouchables) report that the winner of the Dutch Human Rights Tulip of 2012 has been barred from traveling to the Netherlands to receive his award in person on  Wednesday 9 January. Marimuthu Bharathan, a Dalit human rights defender from Tamil Nadu, was refused a passport by the Indian authorities, according to a press release by International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN).This is the second year in a row that the recipient of the Dutch Human Rights award will not be present at the ceremony in The Hague [Last year, Chinese activist Ni Yulan was in custody awaiting trial during the award ceremony.]The  jury of the Tulip has recognised Marimuthu Bharathan as a “tireless champion of better living and working conditions for his country’s Dalits”. Himself a Dalit, he works against caste discrimination by supporting Dalits who as manual scavengers are condemned to clean dry latrines with their bare hands. He also sets up Dalit organisations, campaigns for reforms of the corrupt police system, and fights for compensation and rehabilitation of Dalits who suffer human rights violations. Mr Bharathan’s work as director of the Human Rights Education and Protection Council in Tamil Nadu has put him on a collision course with the state’s authorities who consistently prohibit demonstrations for Dalit rights organised by him and disrupt his work.

According to Indian human rights organisations, this refusal appears to be connected with a false murder charge. “The passport refusal is yet another example of the disenfranchised position of the 200 million Dalits and the defenders of their rights in India. The Indian authorities clearly fail in combating discrimination and exclusion of Dalits and are themselves often the perpetrator of crimes against them. The systemic abuse and torture in police stations is an example of that,” said Gerard Oonk, director of the India Committee of the Netherlands and co-ordinator of the Dalit Network Netherlands.


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