24 Sep, Jyoti Tewari :Hindus want European Union (EU) to offer "formal apology" for centuries and generations of maltreatment of the Roma (Gypsy) people of Europe, who still live in apartheid like conditions.
Acclaimed Hindu and Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that apology was the right thing to do in view of the continuous human rights violations and brazen structural discrimination suffered by them, which unfortunately was still continuing. Roma, who numbered around ten million and who mostly migrated from India many centuries back, continued to face social exclusion in Europe.
Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, also stressed reparations for the sufferings of Roma people in the form of affirmative action and community rehabilitation programs to bring them at par with rest of the population. European Union and member countries should show more responsibility and take care of their Roma population instead of cracking down on them.
Zed also urged His Holiness Pope Benedictus XVI Joseph A. Ratzinger, Patriarch of Orthodox Christian Church His All Holiness Archbishop Bartholomew, and The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan D. Williams, all of whom were very influential in Europe, to immediately come up with a White Paper on the plight of Roma people of Europe.
Rajan Zed asked how Europe, which prided itself for its human rights record, was tolerating such widespread prejudice against a segment of its own society. Maltreatment of Roma was simply immoral and a dark stain on the face of Europe.
Zed further said that references to Roma people reportedly went as far back as ninth century AD. How many more centuries they had to reside in Europe to prove that they were "real and equal" Europeans like any other, Zed asked and added that in some European countries, many businesses still refused them entry.
Although the participants in the much-publicized first-ever high-level European Roma Summit organized by European Commission in Brussels (Belgium) this month agreed that Roma faced deeply embedded institutional discrimination and social exclusion, but it failed to deliver any concrete results to improve their plight. Describing this Summit as just a "sweet talk", Zed said that Summit failed to secure commitments for actions, which was one of its main aims.
Zed further said that on paper, Roma were fully covered by EU legislation, which prohibited discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin in employment, social protection and education as well as access to goods and services, including housing. But in reality, Roma reportedly regularly faced racism, substandard education, hostility, social exclusion, joblessness, rampant illness, inadequate housing, lower life expectancy, unrest, living on desperate margins, language barriers, stereotypes, mistrust, rights violations, discrimination, marginalization, appalling living conditions, prejudice, human rights abuse, racist slogans on Internet, unusually high unemployment rates, etc.
Rajan Zed stressed that a comprehensive, sustainable, cohesive and integrated Europe-wide policy with strategic focus was needed to target discrimination against Roma and their integration; providing them equal access to education, employment, public services, housing, and health care; empowerment through participation; increased transparency of authorities; improving their material and human rights situation, etc.
Zed said that all world religions, denominations and religious leaders should also come out in support of the cause of this distinct ethnic and cultural group of Roma, because religion taught us to help the helpless.