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Religious to strike for dalit Christians

Groups say exclusion of Christians amounts to religions discrimination

Rita Joseph, New Delhi

July 22, 2011

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Christians, including bishops and laypeople, have announced plans to stage a hunger strike and demonstration in support of Christian dalit demands for Scheduled Caste status. Father G. Cosmon Arokiaraj of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said the strike and demonstration will begin on July 25, ending with a rally procession on July 28 starting at the Ramlila grounds and terminating at Parliament. The rally has been organized by the National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians, a joint program of the CBCI and the National Council of Churches in India, and will also include protesters of other faiths, Father Arokiaraj said. He said that for more than 60 years, Christians of Schedule Caste origin have been asserting their right for equal constitutional provisions on par with dalits of other faith but with few results. Paragraph 3 of the Constitution made concessions for education and employment available to low caste Hindus. This was then extended to include Sikhs and Buddhists, but Christians and Muslims were excluded. Several organizations including the Ranganath Mishra Commission, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Minorities have all branded the exclusion of Christian dalits as discrimination based on religion. “We have no choice but to protest and bring to light one of the longest struggles in history,” said Father Arokiaraj. He added that the Congress party and its government are solely responsible for the constitutional restrictions included in Paragraph 3. “We observe August 10, the day it was signed in 1950, as a black day,” adding that support of the Congress party will not continue if demands for Scheduled Caste status are not met. Related reports: Church urges immediate adoption of dalit-rights report Christians threaten to withdraw support for ruling party

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