Christians and Muslims protest continued Dalit discrimination

[Anglican Communion News Service] Christians and Muslims joined forces in New Delhi March 10 in a silent rally against continuing discrimination against them.

In 1950, the Indian government made the Constitutional Scheduled Caste Order to increase rights and improve the lives of previously disadvantaged Dalits; but Christians and Muslims were excluded from the new benefits because both groups reject casteism.

When originally made, the 1950 order provided benefits only to Hindu Dalits. Sikhs and Buddhists were added later but Christians and Muslims remain excluded. An estimated 70 per cent of India’s 25 million Christians come from the Dalit background. A protest organizer said that the exclusion of Christians and Muslims “dismantled the social, economic and educational benefits of Dalits who converted to Christianity and [Islam].”

Both groups are supported by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which has stated that the non-inclusion of Christian and Muslim Scheduled Castes (SC) is “a discrimination based on religion and goes against the articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution of India.”

The general secretary of the Church of North India Synod, Alwan Masih, said that the silent protest sent the message “we want justice” with a “roaring sound” as “thousands of Dalit Christians and Muslims [gathered] in Jantar Mantar . . . to demand their rights.

“Church leaders and people gathered at the silent rally, stood in protest with a black cloth covering their mouth signifying their silent demand that they should be granted their rights without discrimination on basis of religion,” Masih said.

The protest was organized by the National Council of Dalit Christians and supported by the Church of North India, and the Church of South India, along with other Christian churches and bodies, including the Mar Thoma Church and the National Council of Churches in India. The churches of North India and South India are members of the Anglican Communion, and the Episcopal Church has been in full communion with the Mar Thoma Church since 1976.

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