NEW DELHI – A church council fighting for the rights of Dalit Christians in India has called on churches and Christian organizations to observe Aug. 10 as "Black Day."
The National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC) says a Black Day should be observed by the Church on account of discrimination suffered by Dalit Christians on the basis of a presidential order issued six decades ago.
It was on Aug. 10, 1950, that the Scheduled Castes Order was added to the Constitution of India, effectively preventing "low-caste" non-Hindus from enjoying the economic and educational benefits authorized by the government for the Scheduled Caste people.
The order made reservation in education and jobs available to those from low-caste but restricted Scheduled Caste status only to Scheduled Caste who profess Hinduism. Though the order was later modified to include Sikhs and Buddhists, it still excludes Christians and Muslims.
Organizers hope that the observance of Black Day on Aug. 10 "will be a step toward conscientizing our own Christian communities on this concern and to urge the Government to pay heed to the just demand of deleting para 3 of the 1950 Order."
"You may like to observe the day (Black Day) in any appropriate symbolic manner including hoisting a black flag in the premises of churches and institutions, holding rallies and public meetings, submitting memoranda and organizing Press Meets on the ongoing injustice," states a note from Black Day organizers.
For several decades, the Church has fought against the presidential order by holding sit-ins and protest rallies. Such actions, however, have gone largely unheeded by the government.
Last month, a massive rally was held to protest the government's continued delay in giving Dalit Christians equal status.
Protesters called for the implementation of recent recommendations made by the government-appointed National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCLRM).
The NCLRM report stated that non-inclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the scope of Scheduled Castes was discrimination based on religion and goes against the Indian Constitution.
Still, efforts to change the law have made little progress, observers say, because legal officials continue to justify the exclusion of Christian Dalits from the reservation quotas on the grounds that the caste system was only part of the Hindu religion and therefore only applied to members of that faith.
According to estimates, there are about 20 million Dalit Christians in India.