Thousands of Dalit Christians rally for equal status

Thousands of Dalit Christians rallied in Delhi on Wednesday for a special status that would grant them the same special provisions in education and employment as Dalit Hindus.

They condemning the repeated failure of the Indian government in extending Scheduled Caste status to include them.

The status is given to Dalit Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to ensure that they have equal access to jobs and places in schools and colleges. Dalit Christians and Muslims are, however, excluded from receiving special status.

The Christians called for the immediate implementation of recent recommendations made by the Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCLRM).

The NCLRM issued a report urging the government to eradicate discrimination by extending Scheduled Caste status to Christians and Muslims. It denounced as "biased" paragraph 3 of the 1950 Constitution Order, which accords economic, educational and social benefits to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists only.

Wednesday's rally was organised by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) and brought together Christians from across India.

"This injustice against out Dalit brothers and sisters has been going on for six decades and more. Without justice, there is no peace. We are going to press on till we get peace and justice," said the Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent Concessao.

Sam Paul of the All India Christian Council urged the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh to be evenhanded and move quickly to undo the injustice being meted out to the Christian community.

“We have been demanding this for the last 10 years in various forums, rallies and campaigns,” he said.

The All India Christian Council held the rally to put pressure on the government as it reconvenes for the next parliamentary session.

In a statement, Rev Dr Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said the government was "grossly" discriminating against Dalit Christians and Muslims by denying their reservation guarantees enshrined in the Constitution.

"Repeated studies have shown that conversion does not remove the social stigma attached to the caste, rather it may enhance it. Therefore the reservation status must be extended to all Dalits irrespective of religion," he said.