Ruling combine dominated by upper caste Hindus.

“While the UPA has focused on bettering the lot of the Dalit community, it is dominated by upper caste Hindus, very few of whom are genuinely concerned about the plight of dalits,” the American Embassy said in a cable sent under the name of Ambassador David Mulford on June 22, 2005 (35177: confidential), and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

‘Little upward mobility’

“This ensures that dalits will continue to be an oppressed, discriminated group in India. Although the GOI [Government of India] has passed legislation and established government bodies to administer these laws, it has failed to attack the root of the problem,” the cable said. “There are success stories, but acts of violence and prejudice against dalits, combined with government negligence, persist and there is little upward mobility among the dalit population.”

The Embassy wrote that without a broader, more comprehensive approach to teaching tolerance and equality early in primary schools, it is unlikely that the social acceptance of caste-based discrimination will fade any time soon.

“The increasing dominance of the private sector in the economy could also result in greater economic polarization if there is no mechanism in place to combat job discrimination.”

Embassy interlocutors reported that after one year of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, limited government efforts to improve the socio-economic status of dalits have shown little success. “Government reservation laws do not extend to the private sector, the largest and fastest growing segment of the economy. Most experts believe the key to ending discrimination is a comprehensive education campaign starting at the primary level to teach acceptance of dalits, a topic completely absent from India's public school system.”

Failure to organise

“Despite the political success of dalits such as current Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Ram Vilas Paswan, dalits' failure to organize at the national level has limited their ability to demand equal rights. Until the Indian majority increases pressure to change the status quo, many dalits will remain trapped below the poverty line in manual labor jobs with few mechanisms for upward mobility,” the cable went on.

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)