Impact of the 26 December 2004 tsunami on human rights conditions [IND43308.E]

Relief workers and members of India's Dalit caste ("untouchables") have reported instances of discrimination against the caste in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit India's southern coastal region on 26 December 2004 (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 7 Jan. 2005; The Times of India 1 Jan. 2005; AFP 7 Jan. 2005; ANS 5 Jan. 2005; Japan Today 11 Jan. 2005).

Among the allegations was the forced removal of Dalits from relief camps by higher caste survivors (AFP 7 Jan. 2005). It was also alleged that Dalits were refused entry into relief camps by members of other castes (Times of India 1 Jan. 2005) and were refused relief supplies by government officials (ANS 5 Jan. 2005; AFP 7 Jan. 2005; Deutsche Presse-Agentur 7 Jan. 2005). A Dalit woman who lost her husband to the tsunami told AFP that her family did not receive the promised compensation of 100,000 rupees from the government (AFP 7 Jan. 2005). According to a Dalit official, Dalits are being asked to bury the dead without being given "gloves or medicines but only alcohol to forget the rotten stench" (ibid.; see also ANS 5 Jan. 2005). Another Dalit official is quoted as having said that Dalits were not counted among the dead in some communities (ibid.). According to AFP, no government official or assistance were sent to Keshvanpalayam, a village housing 83 Dalit families, which was flattened by the tsunami (7 Jan. 2005).

Indian government officials denied the allegations, and insisted that every family affected by the tsunami was being provided relief (ibid.; see also Japan Today 11 Jan. 2005). A UNICEF spokesperson also denied that the government was discriminating against Dalits, but acknowledged that the caste issue existed before the disaster and continued to exist after the disaster (AFP 7 Jan. 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection.

References


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 7 January 2005. Jay Shankar. "India's Untouchables Forced out of Relief Camps by Higher Caste Fishermen." (Dialog)

ASSIST News Service (ANS). 5 January 2005. Jeremy Reynalds. "India's Lowest Face Additional Discrimination in Tsunami Aftermath." http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/s05010024.htm [Accessed 12 Jan. 2005]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 7 January 2005. "Low-Caste Tsunami Victims Denied Aid.". http://www.beliefnet.com/story/158/story_15877_1.html [Accessed 12 Jan. 2005]

Japan Today. 11 January 2005. "India: Rights Group Calls India's Tsunami Relief Efforts 'Pathetic'." (Asia Human Rights in News) http://www.ahrchk.net/ahrc-in-news/mainfile.php/2005ahrcinnews/255 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2005]

The Times of India [New Delhi]. 1 January 2005. Shankar Raghuraman. "Caste Antagonism in Providing Relief?" http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/978075.cms [Accessed 12 Jan. 2005]