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Dalits 'are converting to Hinduism'

Bishop says conversions a result of Christians being denied scheduled benefits

Bishop Anthony Poola of Kurnool addressing the gathering Bishop Anthony Poola of Kurnool addressing the gathering
  • C J Varghese, Kurnool
  • India
  • July 4, 2011
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Bishop Anthony Poola of Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh says many Dalit Christians are converting to Hinduism because they are being denied benefits resulting from scheduled caste (SC) status.

Unlike their Hindu counterparts, Dalit Christians are not given reservation quotas on jobs, elected bodies, in educational institutions or other benefits, he said.

The prelate said the primary thing that identifies an Indian is his caste and that one’s religion does not change one’s caste.

Bishop Poola was speaking at a July 1 seminar in Hyderabad entitled: Dalit Christian Issues, which was attended by the chief minister, N Kiran Kumar Reddy, and federal minister for health and family welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad.

About 230 Christians, including local lawmakers, bishops, priests, pastors and members of the public, were also present.

He regretted the Bharatiya Janata (Indian People's) Party's refusal to support the Christian cause and the Congress Party’s silence over the issue.

B Danam, a retired civil servant said Dalit Christians do not register as Christians because they fear losing SC privileges and violent persecution.

“By not giving us SC status you are giving others the opportunity to discriminate against us,” said J. D. Saleem, a Dalit lawmaker.

He said the government should introduce a bill giving SC status to Dalit Christians in the monsoon session of parliament, which begins on August 1.

The southern state’s chief minister said that wouldn’t be an easy task and citing the struggle to get legislation giving more rights to women through.

However, he said “the government has the will and so I am sure that positive results will be in your favor.”

Regarding violence against Christians, he said “we will come down hard on attacks against Christians anywhere in our state.”

Related links:

Dalit rights delay dismays supporters

Church urges immediate adoption of dalit-rights report

Christians threaten to withdraw support for ruling party

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