02/20/2007, 00.00
INDIA
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Bharatiya Janata Party discriminates against Christians and Dalits

Frequent cases of discrimination, abuse and even murder are reported in states where the pro-Hindu BJP and its allies govern. The authorities are using old laws to take land from the Church and to prevent its activities. An appeal has been made to Premier Singh not to ignore the problem.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies are discriminating and using violence against Christians and Dalits, said leading Christian representatives during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the Catholic Association of Guwahati (CAG) in Assam.

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union (AICU), spoke of frequent discrimination and hate campaigns targeting Christian communities in states governed by the BJP and its political allies. For example, in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress-led government approved a freedom of religion act that discriminates against Christians and Buddhists, on par with laws in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In Chhattisgarh, the government wants to curb all services the church is rendering to all the people.

Often the authorities and local courts systematically apply Article 170 B, pertaining to land regulations, to Christian institutions and movements. This norm bans non tribal subjects from acquiring land inhabited by local people while allowing the government to acquire land for economic or development purposes. Invoking this law, the authorities take away land from the Church, which is held to be a non tribal subject despite the fact that it is led by tribal people and uses the land for the benefit of the entire community.

Abuses against Christians, including sexual violence and even murder, are common in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and increasingly in Karnataka.

Dayal appealed to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and to Sonia Gandhi president of the United Progressive Alliance to be mindful of the difficult social and economic situation facing Christians and Dalits.  Previous governments “excluded” these groups “in an illegal and sometimes criminal manner from all the benefits [enjoyed by] other castes”.

Premier Singh was urged to “support the Dalit Christian cause in the Supreme Court when hearings are held on the Dalit Petition in April this year.”

Allen Brooks, CAG spokesman, said the association was involved in many social welfare activities but that this was a “critical” phase. Throughout the coming year, the CAG will organise meetings and discussions among people from different caste, creed and religion to come under “a single platform to mobilise public opinion for lasting peace.”

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