11/20/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Hindu nationalist BJP against equal rights for Christian and Muslim Dalits

The Bharatiya Janata Party and a Hindu Dalit organisation announce a two-month long nation-wide mobilisation to defend the 1950 Constitution Order. The proposed action is in response to a sit-in sponsored two days ago by the Catholic Church of India for the repeal of the same Order because it discriminates Dalits based on religion. The BJP accuses the government of betraying the constitution and conspiring in favour of minorities.
Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced nation-wide mobilisation against the extending to Christian and Muslim Dalits rights now available to Hindu Dalits alone. Between 26 November 2009  and 26 January 2010, the SC Reservation Rights Protection Manch, a Hindu Dalit organisation, will carried out a number of initiatives, round tables, sit-ins and meetings on the topic ‘Honour the Constitution’ in order to defend the 1950 Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order that grants rights and privileges to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist untouchables.

BJP general secretary Thavar Chand Gehlot, who is a member of the Hindu Dalit organisation, said that extending the rights of scheduled castes to all outcastes would be a betrayal of the constitution. In line with this argument, he has accused the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of sinister designs and of conspiring to usurp the rights of scheduled castes in favour of minorities.

The announcement was made two days after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Dalit Christians and the National Council of Churches in India sponsored a sit-in in New Delhi (picture). On that occasion, thousands of Christian and Muslim Dalits marched through the streets of the capital to demand changes to the 1950 Constitution Order (see Nirmala Carvalho, “Thousands of Christian and Muslim Dalits march against discrimination,” in AsiaNews, 18 November 2009).

Untouchables excluded from such protection have been demanding redress for many years. However, no measure of pressure has been able to force successive governments to change the Order for the past 59 years.

Yet, various parties and state legislatures have backed demands by Christian and Muslim Dalits, provoking the anger of the BJP.

Likewise, the main opposition party lambasted the National Commission for Linguistic Minorities for coming out in favour of discriminated outcastes.

For Gehlot, the Commission is acting in bad faith and in league with Christians and Muslims to distort the country’s culture and traditions.

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