08/13/2021, 14.34
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Odisha: Christian Dalits call for inclusion in Scheduled Castes

by Purushottam Nayak

On the “Day of Protest”, six Dalit leaders sent a request to the government for changes to the 1950 Order. Despite a 2004 petition, Dalits continue to be discriminated against. Several studies indicate that they would still be marginalised even if they converted to Hinduism.

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – Six Dalit leaders have presented a request to Odisha authorities calling for changes to the provision that prevents Christians from enjoying Scheduled Caste status.

“We humbly appeal to the Prime Minister of India to take early steps to extend the Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians as per the recommendation of the Ranganath Misra Commission by deleting Paragraph 3 of the Constitutional Order (Scheduled Caste) 1950,” said Prafulla Kumar Lima, president National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), Odisha Chapter.

For Christian Dalits, 10 August, is a "Day of Protest". In 1950, on this day, the government denied them the right to be included among the five disadvantaged castes recognised by the government.

Christian Dalits want changes to Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, which excludes Christians (and Muslims) from the list of groups that enjoy certain advantages offered to believers of other religions, i.e., Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others.

After examining the socio-economic conditions in which the Dalits live, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities chaired by former Chief Justice Ranganath Misra, presented a report in 2007 recommending the government extend scheduled caste privileges and protections to Christians.

According to various studies, even if Christian Dalits were to change their religion, they would still suffer from marginalisation in their new religious community and their conditions would essentially not change.

In 2004, a petition was filed with the Supreme Court asking for equal rights for Christian Dalits. It is still pending. Despite all the recommendations, the government has not yet taken steps to amend the 1950 Order.

On this year’s Day of Protest, “We wish to humbly draw the attention of the Prime Minister that, Dalit Christians continue to suffer the same stigma of untouchability and the same discriminations like other Dalits,” said NCDC Secretary Bikash Kumar Bardhan.

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