India's Dalit Christians continue to protest discrimination

A church council fighting for the rights of Dalit Christians in India has called on churches and Christian organisations to observe August 10 as "Black Day".

It was on August 10, 1950, that a presidential Order prevented 'low-caste' Christians from enjoying the economic and educational benefits authorised by the government for those of the Hindu faith.

The National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC) says a Black Day should be observed by the church on account of discrimination suffered by Dalit Christians on the basis of paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes Order) 1950.

"You may like to observe the day in any appropriate symbolic manner including hoisting a black flag in the premises of churches and institutions, holding rallies and public meetings, submitting memoranda and organising Press Meets on the ongoing injustice," said a note from the organisers.

They hope that the observance of August 10 as a Black day "will be a step toward conscientising our own Christian communities on this concern and to urge the Government to pay heed to the just demand of deleting para 3 of the 1950 Order".

The 1950 Order made reservation in education and jobs available to those from low-caste that follow Hinduism. It was later modified to include Sikhs and Buddhists, but still excludes Christians and Muslims.

For several decades, the church has fought tooth and nail against the decision by holding sit-ins and protest rallies that have gone largely unheeded by the government.

Last month, a massive rally was held to protest the government's continued delay in giving Dalit Christians equal status.

Protestors called for the implementation of recent recommendations made by the government-appointed National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCLRM).

The NCLRM report stated that non-inclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the SC ambit was a discrimination based on religion and goes against the Constitution of India.

There are about 20 million Dalit Christians in India.