07/18/2011, 00.00
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Indian bishops, on hunger strike for the rights of Christian and Muslim Dalits

by Nirmala Carvalho
Together with other organizations for the rights of Dalits they hope to convince the government to abolish the law that discriminates on the basis of caste and religion. The strike, scheduled July 25 to 27, 28, will culminate with a march to Parliament. Vincent Manoharan, Dalit rights activist, warns: "The government is like the BJP, nothing will change."
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches (NCCI), the National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians (Nccdc) and the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) are organizing a mass hunger strike to demand the government extend the status of Scheduled Caste also to Dalit Christians and Muslims. The strike was called for July 25 to 27 next and will culminate with a march to Parliament on July 28.

The struggle to ensure equal rights to Dalit Christians and Muslims has been ongoing since 1950, when parliament approved art. 3 of the Constitution Scheduled Caste (SC): Under this section, the law recognizes the rights and facilitation of economic, educational and social access only to Hindu Dalits. Later, in 1956 and 1990, the status was extended to Buddhists and Sikhs.

However, Vincent Manoharan, a Dalit, and president of the National Federation of Dalits Land Rights Movement (Nfdlr), is sceptical about the outcome of this latest form of protest, because "although in recent years Congress [the ruling coalition, ed] seems more open to reviewing the law, the only difference with the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is that it acts in the light of the sun, not in secret. "

Manoharan, until 2008, also general secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (Ncdhr) also criticises the conduct of the Government over the past eight years, which in addition to examining the situation and referring the issue to the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities - and only at the urging of the Supreme Court - has failed to do anything concrete. "Although Manmohanji [Singh, Indian Prime Minister, ed] leads the country, everyone says that his problem is that he can not take any decision alone. This means - explains the Nfdlr president - only if heis free from external influences, will make a decision favourable to the Dalit Christians and Muslims. "

Manoharan, also warns: "If in a democracy the legitimate request of a person or an entire community remains unanswered for too long by all the pillars of democracy, then the person or the community will be forced to use other means to fight anti-democratic situations , to reach and achieve the same goal. I think this is the situation in which the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are going to encounter. "

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