Orissa's Tribals: If you are a Christian, you can not have a caste certificate
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Certificates of caste denied because you are Christian, or a close relative of Christians, or married with Dalits: this is the case in some tribal communities in Kandho the district of Kandhamal (Orissa). The complaint comes to AsiaNews from Brother KJ Markos, a Monfortian Missionary, lawyer and human rights activist. In the last five months there four cases have come to light, but Brother Markos warns: "There are many similar stories and the number is growing."
Originally from the village of Pikoredi (Tikabali block), Prakash Pradhan, a tribal Kandho, presented the application for the certificate of caste in order to get a scholarship for his children. In four months, the man returned to the office at least 10 times. In the end, the official told him he could not release the document because he was a Christian. The same thing happened to his brother, Bali Pradhan: although a Hindu, he could not get the certificate because related to a Christian.
Kautilya Pradhan, K Nuagam, submitted an application for the certificate in June. To date, he has never received anything, he is not a Christian, but her mother is.
Jacob Pradhan, of Bogadi (near K Nuagam), is a Christian minister who has been trying in vain for four months to obtain the document, which is required to qualify for a scholarship for his children. Even with recommendations from some local authorities, he is not even able to get the certificate. Then, the discovery: the delay depends on his wife. The woman is a Dalit, and consequently their children can not be considered tribal.
For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), it is "an official persecution of Christians in Kandhamal by the authorities," who "feeds on the vulnerability of the minority." "The government - he adds - is making fun of tribal Christians, and prevents the community from enjoying their constitutional rights."
A "urgent" concern, says the president of the GCIC, "is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP, Hindu ultra-nationalist group, ed], which is at the forefront when it comes to opposing the rights of tribal Christians. In Orissa, the VHP are threatening to launch a campaign calling for the Christian deputies to resign from the government. "
Caste certificates are important because they give holders access to social and economic rights, such as obtaining a scholarship. Compared to the members of Scheduled Caste (SC) - which is recognized only in the cases of Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists - those of Scheduled Tribe (ST) can all - in theory - enjoy their rights, without distinction of religion.