Christian 'Untouchables' Planning Nationwide Rally for Equal Rights in India
Dalit Christians, members of the lower caste "untouchables" in India, are reportedly planning a nationwide rally in March to demand equal rights and stand up to government discrimination that they say targets them for their beliefs.
The Times of India has reported that dalit Christians are organizing meetings and planning a rally in New Delhi in March in protest against a Caste Order that allows dalits to receive government benefits, but mainly for those who still identify with their Hindu background.
National Council of Dalit Christians advisor E D Charles blamed India's Congress and the ruling BJP party for failing to take into consideration recommendations to provide Christian dalits with equal rights in the country.
"Neither the Congress government when it was in power nor the present BJP government has taken any initiative toward this and has put the commission report on the shelf," he said, referring to the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission of 2007.
Charles added that "it is evident that the principle of unity in diversity and minority rights on religious and linguistic are followed only for namesake in our country."
International Christian Concern noted that both low caste Christians and Muslims have been denied government benefits for years, while Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs receive theirs. Christian activists have said that the government excludes Christian and Muslim believers, because Hindu nationalists see such belief systems as anti-Indian.
Back in December 2014, ICC noted that close to 25 million Christian dalits are being forced to choose between their faith and the government benefits.
"This choice has significantly affected the constitutional right India's citizens have to freely choose a religion for themselves," ICC reported at the time.
"It also has left millions of Dalits to have to decide between choosing to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior and receiving government benefits that have the ability to take their families out of poverty. All added up, this discrimination has affected the official appearance of India's religious landscape."
Dalits face discrimination and poverty throughout India because of their caste status, and many have seen converting to Christianity as a way to escape the trappings of the caste system.
Caste disputes continue producing tragic stories, however, including an attack in Sunped village in Faridabad back in October 2015, where two dalit children were burned alive.
Father Devasagaya Raj of the Catholic Bishops of India condemned the "inhumant act," noting that such attacks happen all over India against "the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable of Indians."
"The Catholic Church in India stands with the weakest people and has raised a voice with the government and in society calling for protection and respect for the dignity of the outcast and the poor," he added.