10/30/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Ambiguous opening to Hindu Dalits, more discrimination against Christian Dalits

A paper close to Hindu paramilitary group calls for outcastes to be allowed to head major Hindu pilgrimage centres. Commission investigating Dalit rights further postpones release of its report.

Delhi (AsiaNews) – In a surprising development, a leading paper close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation, said that it was in favour of appointing outcastes "to head major Hindu pilgrimage centres." Until now Hindu nationalists held that Dalits were unworthy of celebrating Hindu rituals.

In an editorial article, the Panchjanya newspaper wrote that "time has arrived to consolidate the Hindu brotherhood. Dalits, the warriors of the faith, and the disadvantaged should be suitably trained and made head priests and protector priests of Hindu pilgrim centres along with those who call themselves Brahmins by birth".

The paper insisted that Hindus themselves were responsible for the "sorry state" of their centres of pilgrimage, adding that it was "confident that Brahmins will come forward in this regard . . ."

The status of Dalits and outcastes is increasingly becoming a headache for the leadership of the Hindu nationalist movement, who have charged Christians of converting the lower castes, but is in fact facing an open challenge by Dalits themselves who accuse Hindu leaders of having rejected the basic principles of their own religion.

In the meantime, anti-Dalit discrimination continues. The National Commission on Minorities announced that its report on the status of Dalits will not be released today, but only in late March next year.

The Commission is holding an inquiry into, among other things, the reservation policy for Dalits, including Christian Dalits who have been ignored by the authorities according to pro-Dalit activists.

The All India Catholic Union, to protest against the delays, has released a statement in which it calls on "UPA President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh to assure Christians of Dalit origin that their long standing demands for getting Scheduled Caste status are not sabotaged by the central government bureaucracy and the courts". (NC)

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