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BosNewsLife – India ‘s Supreme Court said Tuesday, October 25, it had further adjourned a hearing in a landmark case on whether to grant the country’s estimated 18 million Dalit Christians the same rights as Dalits of Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths. It came as a setback for Christians after the court suggested last week, October 18, that it would take action on October 25. The Supreme Court scheduled a hearing “for the end of November,” but no specific date was given.

However the New Delhi based court asked parties involved in the court case to appear before the Justice Mishra Commission, which was set up by the Government of India to investigate the economic and social difficulties of religious minorities, including Christians.

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.

Among those fighting for the Dalit Christians are 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.

In published remarks the president of advocacy group All India Catholic Union, John Dayal, said he realized that “the [government backed] Mishra Commission set up in October 2004 but operational only now, is to determine the economic and social backwardness in linguistic and religious minorities.”

However he warned that “its charter does not include, so far, deciding the constitutional issue of caste among non-Hindu religions. The Government had in recent years given to Sikhs and Buddhists rights it had retained in 1950 just for Hindus, denying Muslims and Christians the protection of affirmative action in the Law.”

It was not immediately clear whether the Supreme Court’s request for hearings in front of the

Commission could change the situation for Dalit Christians any time soon…[Go To Full Story]