India Supreme Court Delays Hearing on Equal Rights for Dalit Christians

The Supreme Court hearing on granting Dalit Christians equal rights to non-Christian Dalits has once again been postponed until the following week.

The hearing, scheduled for Oct. 18, has been rescheduled for Oct. 25 as the Indian government once again tries to hinder the hearing, sources reported Thursday.

According to Mission Network News (MNN), the Indian government requested that the court dismisses the case providing the explanation that it has appointed a commission to investigate the situation.

K.P. Yohannan, the president of Gospel for Asia, believes that the delay will be beneficial to the Dalit Christians case.

“There will be a greater amount of international pressure coming up on the government to make this decision,” said Yohannan to MNN. ”And, if they say no to it this is going to be a human rights violation and a huge crisis for the government. They only have one option; to do what is right according to the constitution. That’s what we’re praying for and I think it’s going to happen.”

The discrimination against Dalits, in particular Dalit Christians, has received heightened international attention in the past month with the Dalit Freedom Network conference held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, followed by the U.S. Congress hearing on human rights violation against Dalits in India on the same day.

In the weeks leading up to the anticipated hearing on Oct. 18, Indian Christians were also rallying support for the cause of Dalit Christian.

Yohannan, for instance, called for Christians around the world to join in two days of fasting and prayer on Oct. 17-18 for equal rights for Dalit Christians.

“Through our prayer and fasting, we are standing in the gap,” said Yohannan to AgapePress. “And it takes a massive amount of prayer and fasting and intercession to break the hands of the evil one and make this thing work.”

According to reports, the postponement of the hearing is nothing shocking to Dalit Christians, nor to their supporters. The case had originally been scheduled for Aug. 25 and was given a new hearing date of Oct. 18 when the Indian government requested that the hearing be postponed until January 2006.

Although the Indian government request of delaying the case until 2006 was denied, the date was moved to nearly two months later. Similarly, the Indian government’s attempt to get the Oct. 18 case dismissed, managed instead to move the hearing one week later.

However, Yohannan is optimistic about the court case on Oct. 25 and envisions a Christian movement consisting of Dalit Christians as a result of the passing of the amendment to grant Dalit Christians equal rights to non-Christian Dalits.

“The floodgate will be wide open. People will in masses come to faith in Jesus. That’s what is going to happen,” said Yohannan to MNN. “I think God is behind it. I don’t think anyone can stop it and that’s what we should really be praying for.”

Nanci Ricks, the executive director of Dalit Freedom Network also agrees with Yohannan on the significance to religious freedom that this bill will have on Christianity if it is passed.

“Now people will be freed to choose the religion that they desire rather than being oppressed and persecuted because of their religion.”

Currently, the Christian population in India consists of 24 million believers, which makes up 2.4 percent of the general population. Among the believers, close to 60 percent are Dalit Christians, yet surprisingly 70 percent of them are landless and close to 60 percent illiterate, reported the Pakistan Christian Post (PCP).