07/24/2007, 00.00
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Indian Christians press for Christian Dalit rights

The rights of Christian and Muslim Dalits will be decided over the next few weeks. Compared to Hindus they have been discriminated until now. Government gets favourable opinions, but still wants another. The secular nature of the Indian state is at stake.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – “On behalf of thousands of Christian leaders and 1.6 Crore (16 million) Dalit Christians, we appeal to the National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC) to honour the findings of Justice Ranganath Mishra’s Commission which did a thorough job of studying this issue,” said Dr Joseph D' Souza, president of the All India Christian Council (AICC), who today made an official appeal for a quick and just recognition of the rights of non-Hindu ‘untouchables’.

Under current legislation Christian and Muslim Dalits are denied privileges granted to Scheduled Castes. An old 1950 law gave Hindu Dalits a series of privileges, but granting them to some but not all Dalits on the basis of religion violates the secular nature of the Indian state and undermines its own purpose, which was to help underprivileged groups in Indian society.

We “recommend that paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950—which originally restricted the Scheduled Caste net to the Hindus and later opened it to Sikhs and Buddhists, thus still excluding from its purview Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis, etc.—should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely de-link the Scheduled Caste status from religion and make the Scheduled Castes net fully religion-neutral like that of the Scheduled Tribes,” said in its final report the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which the government had charged in the matter

However, the issue is still before the High Court of Justice, which has called on the Union government to express its opinion. The latter opted instead to refer the matter to the NCSC, pledging to respond in eight-week time.

The AICC, which is an umbrella organisation for thousands of groups, urged the CNSC to back the recommendations of the Mishra Commission, which has already carried out a thorough review of the issues at hand.

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