07/19/2019, 15.07
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New minority programme leaves out Dalit Christians, says Sajan K George

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Union government unveiled a plan titled ‘Empowerment without appeasement and development with dignity". The authorities recognise six minority groups – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsees; however, Dalit Christians are still excluded from the quota system established by a 1950 presidential order.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Indian government has presented a new welfare programme for the country’s religious minorities.

Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi yesterday presented the ‘Empowerment without appeasement and development with dignity’ plan to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament.

The minister’s new mantra is aimed at six minority groups: Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsees.

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), welcomes “development with dignity” but wonders “about the 12 million Dalit Christians who have no reserved seats".

For Naqvi, there is no single district in the country where minorities have not benefitted from the welfare programmes launched by the government of Narendra Modi since 2014. "We believe in relentless emancipation and development with dignity,” he said.

The minister then cited his ministry’s expenditures for minority support programmes: 38.27 billion rupees (US$ 555 million) in 2016-2017, 41.95 billion rupees (US$ 610 million) in 2017-2018, 47 billion (US$ 682 million) in 2018-2019.

According to Sajan K George, the new programme is a good initiative, but "Dalit Christians are still the most deprived in terms of justice because they are denied the benefits of affirmative actions” for disadvantaged castes.

The Christian leader notes that the 1950 presidential order states that "no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a scheduled caste.”

Later, paragraph 3 was modified, "to include Sikhs and Buddhists. However, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis are still excluded from the advantages” reserved for the lower castes in India’s social hierarchy. Dalit Christians "continue to suffer double discrimination.

“The caste system is not just a religious system, but also a socio-economic one,” George explains. “If a crime is committed against Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist Dalits, they can turn to the law. The same does not happen for Christian Dalits, who are not considered among the disadvantaged castes. Therefore, they are exposed to forms of oppression, exploitation and atrocities."

"Without the legal benefits of the system of reserved quotas, the emancipation of Christian Dalits seems bleak," he laments.

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