Monday, February 10, 2014

Dalit Christians renew demand for scheduled caste status

KOLKATA: Despite their decades-long demand, the central government is yet to decide on giving scheduled caste status to Dalit Christians. The National Council of Churches in India (An umbrella organization of 30 churches in the country - feels that it is time the government addressed the issue and provided justice to them.
The community here considers the demand for SC status to Dalit Christians the "the longest struggle in independent India". The call surfaced once again as National Council of Churches in India observed its centenary celebration.
"Reservation should not be affected by religious status. Dalits who converted to Sikhism and Buddhism are given Scheduled Caste status. This is discrimination against Christians," said Sunil Raj Philip, convenor of NCCI centenary celebration.
Earlier last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Christian leaders and promised to resolve the issue, after Christians and Muslims protested in New Delhi demanding SC status to Dalit Christians and Muslims as recommended by Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission.
"There has not been any progress after that and we are awaiting responses from the government," Raj Philip said.
The government referred the issue to the national Commission for religious and Linguistic Minorities or Ranganath Mishra Commission in 2004. The commission submitted its report in 2007 and the report was tabled in the parliament in 2009. According to Raj Philip,12 state governments and Union Territories have recommended the issue of granting SC status to Dalit Christians. Responding to a petition filed in 2004 Supreme Court had also asked the central government for its response. But it is yet to respond to that," he said.
Meanwhile, the national councils of churches in the neighbouring countries have decided to start dialogues with administrations in respective countries to address the issues affecting Christians. "We will campaign for protection of human rights in all of the neighbouring countries. We will also try to provide help wherever possible. We will initiate dialogues with the administrations to reach a solution," said Roger Gaikwad, general secretary of NCCI.
NCCI has denied reports that the NCCI president and member churches endorse the leadership and candidacy of Narendra Modi. "NCCI, being the ecumenical body of member churches from different traditions, does not endorse any political party or leader," a statement said.

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