Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, asked how Sweden, which prides itself for its human rights record, was tolerating such reportedly widespread prejudice against a segment of its own society. Maltreatment of Roma was a dark stain on the face of Sweden.
According to Swedish Government’s Human Rights Website, “The Roma still occupy a highly vulnerable position in Swedish society and are exposed to discrimination although this is prohibited by law. Generally speaking, many Roma encounter great difficulties in virtually all spheres of society. This applies to education, the labour market, housing and health care and to possibility of participating in the community on the same terms as the majority population.”
Roma reportedly suffered maltreatment in Swedish history for long time. They were contemptuously referred to as tattare or Gypsies. Many were deported over the centuries to Finland. Various edicts during 17th century decreed that the Roma were to be driven out. During the 18th century, many were drafted into army, while others were dispatched to forced labour or forced settlement. Romani immigration was banned from 1914 to 1954. During the period between two world wars, the tattare/Gypsy issue was the topic of a fierce debate with racist overtones and often drawing on racial biology. The abuse of Roma in the form of forced transportation, banishment, ban on owning businesses, forced assimilation, forced sterilisations, etc, has been a reality.
Despite extensive legislation against ethnic discrimination, additional funding for Roma related prejudice/discrimination issues with Ombudsman, formation of various agencies to improve their living conditions, Roma still reportedly faced political, social and economic exclusion. Can’t the about 9.2 million people of Sweden properly integrate and include their about 60, 000 Roma brothers/sisters, Rajan Zed asked.
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that Roma had been living in Sweden since 16th century. How many more centuries they had to reside in Sweden to prove that they were 'real and equal' Swedes like any other, Zed asked.
He further said that it was like an undeclared apartheid. The maltreatment of Roma was reportedly outside even the European Union norms. Everybody openly saw the prejudice and various reports had clearly pointed out the brazen discrimination Roma faced in Sweden, but the country seemed to have just ignored it and appeared to lack the will to stop it.
Roma inclusion and integration programs needed to immediately take off the ground providing them with better health and education avenues, higher economic opportunities, sources of empowerment and participation, etc, Zed pointed out.
Zed further said that Church of Sweden, which was the national church and claimed up to seven million membership (out of total about 9.2 million population), 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 and it was the duty of majority to protect its minority.