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  • » 12/10/2015, 00.00

    INDIA

    Christian leader calls for an end to discrimination against Christian and Muslim Dalits

    Nirmala Carvalho

    Under the ‘Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order’ of 1950, scheduled castes and tribes enjoy certain economic, educational and social benefits, such as job quotas in the country’s bureaucracies. However, rights and privileges under the order are reserved only for Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits, at the exclusion of Christians and Muslims. For rights activist, “Children suffer the same discrimination”. This is unfair, especially today, Human Rights Day.

    Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Today, everyone is celebrating Human Rights Day. This year’s focus is on ‘Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.’ Sadly, since 1950, “Christian Dalits have been discriminated by a presidential order because of their religious affiliation," said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

    The activist told AsiaNews that "India is a secular state and religious discrimination is prohibited by Article 15 of our Constitution. We ask for positive action for Dalit Christians. "

    Protection from discrimination based on religion “is one of the most important rights” under India’s constitution, the GCIC president explained. However, Christian Dalits “are not only discriminated because they are Dalit but also because they are Christian.”

    The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 – also known as the Presidential Order of 1950 – denies Christian and Muslim Dalits rights and privileges granted to other Dalits.

    Although the caste system has been formally abolished, the presidential decree de facto acknowledged the existence of castes by recognising that they have the right to certain economic, educational and social benefits, like job quotas in government bureaucracies.

    Initially reserved for Hindus, the third paragraph of the Presidential Order of 1950 was amended by Parliament to extend constitutional benefits to Sikh Dalits (1956) and ‘Buddhist Dalits (1990), but similar benefits were refused to Christian Dalits.

    Rights advocates have complained for years that Christian and Muslim Dalits are discriminated since they cannot enjoy the same rights and privileges given to Dalit who belong to other religions.

    “The denial of justice to Dalit Christians goes against the letter and the spirit of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 25 of the Constitution of India on equal justice, equal opportunities and freedom of religion,” George said.

    “It is a tragedy that nearly 75 per cent of India’s Christians, some 20 million, belong to Scheduled Caste communities, and are denied statutory and constitutional benefits because of the 1950 Presidential Order.”

    "The worst thing is that when a Dalit decides to convert to Christianity, he or she loses all the advantages related to his social affiliation,” the activist said. Conversely, these “are restored once he produces a Scheduled Caste certificate,” which is available only to Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits.

    Even sadder, even “Children suffer the same discrimination."

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    See also

    14/02/2005 INDIA
    Hopes for the rights of Dalit Christians
    Supreme Court will consider the constitutional status of Dalit converts to Christianity hitherto marginalised and rejected by Indian society.

    05/11/2007 INDIA
    Hindu Dalits against equality for Christians and Muslims
    A nation-wide campaign is being launched today to stop the central government from extending Scheduled Castes rights to Christian and Muslim Dalits, who have been hitherto excluded. For Hindu nationalists the move is essentially electoral but the Catholic Church warns that if India is to progress it must recognise that economic development and social oppression do not go together.

    11/01/2008 INDIA
    Upper castes behind anti-Christian violence in Orissa
    The executive secretary of the Church’s Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes argues that the upper castes are using a religious pretext to advance their political goals, namely keeping the marginalised in ignorance and poverty so as to continue to exploit them.

    12/04/2005 INDIA
    Supreme Court to hear Christian Dalits' claim


    19/12/2009 INDIA
    India: Parliament set to discuss proposed equal rights for Dalit Christians, Muslims
    The National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities has submitted to the Lok Sabha the proposed amendment of the law which for 59 years divides Dalits according to their religious affiliation. Is the first time that the issue is discussed by the parliament in New Delhi.



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