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Indian Supreme Court’s directive welcomed

Church leaders welcome criticism of treatment of tribal people

  • Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
  • India
  • January 7, 2011
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The Church leaders in India have hailed the Supreme Court’s directive asking for harsher punishment to four persons who paraded a tribal woman naked 16 years ago.

The court’s directive to Maharashtra government came Jan. 5 after the accused challenged the one-year imprisonment awarded to them by the state High Court in 1998.

“This (the appeal) itself shows the mentality of the accused who regard tribal people as inferior or sub-human,” the apex court said.

It said the dishonor of the victim called for harsher punishment.

"The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country’s history," it added.

The court said the tribal people, who constitute only about 8 percent of India’s population, are one among the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country. They suffer from high level of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease and landlessness.

Father Marianus Kujur, who heads the tribal unit in New Delhi’s Jesuit-managed Indian Social Institute, welcomed the Supreme court’s decision and hoped the move would help people become aware of the plight of tribals.

He lamented that the highest court in the country had to intervene in a state matter. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he added.

Father G. Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops´ Commission for tribal and dalit communities said, “it seems even in judiciary there is biased judgment toward dalits and marginalized.”

“Dalits and tribals should come together to fight the injustice done to them,” he added.

The case dates back to 1994 when the tribal woman was beaten, stripped and paraded on the road by some high caste people for having a relation with one of their family members in a village in Maharashtra.

The high court had in 1998 sentenced the four accused to one-year imprisonment.

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