Just when everything seemed to be going well for the strong Dalit contingent lobbying at the ngo forum of the World Conference Against Racism (wcar) here, a showdown at the plenary session with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, on the eve of the inter-government conference, has put the skids on their campaign.
Annan snubbed the agitating Dalit activists who wanted him to respond to a statement by Republican Party of India MP Prakash Ambedkar that caste-based discrimination should be included in the programme for action and declaration at the inter-government conference. "We have come here to listen to each other and not to behave in this way. Let us have a serious dialogue," said Annan to the protesting Dalit activists. The secretary-general further told a packed plenary of about 5,000 ngo delegates and media persons that Ambedkar's was a statement and not a question that he had to answer. "Let us listen to each other and respect each other," a visibly annoyed Annan admonished the Dalit protesters. Also present was UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.