In India, Prime Minister Morarji Desai has denounced as a national shame recent attacks on the country's so-called Untouchable.
In India, Prime Minister Morarji Desai has denounced as a national shame recent attacks on the country's so-called Untouchable. Also known as Harijans or Children of God, the Untouchable are outside India's strict caste system and have been deprived and persecuted for centuries. Efforts by the government to redress the inequalities suffered by them have provoked bitter protests and violent reactions from Indians in higher castes.
SYNOPSIS: Mr. Desai made his call for a nationwide effort to improve the Untouchable' lot during celebrations marking india's 31st Anniversary of Independence from Britain. Held at the Mogul-built Red Fort, the rally attracted large crowds who listened to Mr. Desai's address. On the eve of the anniversary, the Prime Minister had faced his own difficulties, with rumours of four senior Cabinet members planning resignation. The four are reported to be disillusioned over the failure of the ruling Janata Party to resolve the long-running dispute between Mr. Desai and party rebels - a dispute that has brought the party considerable unpopularity.
But Mr. Desai's anniversary speech avoided reference to the political climate and concentrated instead on national social problems. Referring to a violent demonstration outside his house two days earlier by upper caste farmers protesting at land grants to Untouchable, the Prime Minister said the action was shameful. More than 100 people were injured in clashes between the farmers and police. Instead, people should unite to end atrocities against the Harijans, he said. By working together, people could eradicate each centuries-old ills.
Mr. Desai also reviewed Foreign Affairs. He reported that India's relations with China were bad, but his Government was trying to improve them and China had responded favourably. After the speech, he was accompanied away from the rally by Defence Minister, Mr. Jagjivan Ram.