05/10/2010, 00.00

Census of castes underway, a hope for Dalit Christians

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Church and human rights organizations support the tremendous task of collecting data that is beginning in the country. The government "will be forced to open their eyes to the reality of caste discrimination, and do something to resolve the situation."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The census even based on caste “is a good idea. The last one we did in 1931, and it is important that the government knows the conditions in which all castes live. It is very useful also that it be underlined once and for all that changing religion does not in any way change the socio-economic status of a person”; Fr. Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Scheduled Castes tells AsiaNews.  Dalits, the "untouchables" of Indian social system are a key sector for the Indian Church, counting for 70% of their faithful, a total of 16 million people.

What is about to begin is the fifteenth census in the history of India: by next year, about 2 and a half million civil servants will visit about 7 thousand cities and 600 thousand villages in the country to ask for data on fifteen key parameters. Among these, age, sex, caste, literacy, religion and economic situation. Everything will be collected and presented by the end of 2011.

According to Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, human rights activist and winner of the prestigious Gwanju Prize, this endeavour will “force the government to open its eyes to the situation of the untouchables, and then implement the recommendations submitted by the Minorities Commission. We will have a picture of how Christians and Muslims of the lower classes live: the Government, based on data of 1931, pretends to ignore these people, and many are living without rights. "

Until now, the activist continues, "these people are only employed by non-governmental organizations, Christian groups and those for minorities. Now the government will do something social discrimination based on caste is a reality in the country, which can no longer be ignored. We will finally have places reserved for lower castes, and a greater allocation of money to carry out development plans. "

However, Raghuvanshi warns, "there is always the great risk of corruption: a survey like this could pave the way for the ambitious plan for a unique identity card, but there is the risk of further discriminate, with a semblance of legality, against religious minorities .

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