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BosNewsLife – India ‘s Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 18, postponed a ruling on whether millions of Dalit Christians will receive the same legal rights as their non Christian counterparts, but said a new hearing in the landmark case will be held next week, officials confirmed. The term Dalit is used for the so-called “untouchables” of India , up to 300-million people, who occupy the lowest place in the country’s ancient caste system of Hinduism.

Although the Indian government attempted to correct this situation by giving affirmative action positions to Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist Dalits in university placements and government jobs, there was no mention of ‘Christians’, said petitioners who want the Supreme Court to change the situation.

Currently “when Dalits become Christians, they lose these rights,” added K.P. Yohannan, the president of Christian advocacy group Gospel For Asia (GFA), which supports native missionaries in India . The Supreme Court of India said it “adjourned till October 25, its hearings,” the National Forum For Dalit Christian Rights, a major umbrella group of churches and other organizations, told the BosNewsLife New Delhi Bureau.

The Supreme Court announced it would hear the “the matter on merits,” on October 25, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

In August, the Court postponed a discussion about extension of full civil rights to Christian Dalits after state Attorney-General Milon Bannerjee asked for more time to study the matter. After the postponement, Christians following the case reportedly presented a petition to the government, asking for “urgent insertion of a discussion about their situation.”

Among the petition’s signatories were the National Forum of Dalit Christian Rights as well as the Christian Dalits of Tamil Nadu, the All India Catholic Union, the All India Christian Council, Voice of Dalit International, and other Christian church and pro-Dalit organizations across the country.

The Supreme Court brushed aside suggestions by the Attorney-General that it should not intervene in matters of the President, saying it was “a crucial issue and we would examine the legal side of the issue on the basis of the rulings cited by the petitioner and the Attorney General,” PTI reported.

Ahead of Tuesday’s court procedures, the Justice Mishra National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which investigates human rights abuses, began its hearing into the Dalit Christian issue.

“On behalf of the Dalit Christian community in India, the delegation [of the National Forum For Dalit Christian Rights] “urged the Commission to also hold hearings in Punjab and the Southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh where most of the Dalit Christians lived in penury and facing social ostracism,” the group told BosNewsLife…[Go To Full Story]