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BosNewsLife – India ‘s National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM), an advisory body to the government, has launched an investigation into the alleged discrimination of millions of Dalit Christians, officials said Monday, November 28.

The term Dalit is used for the so-called “untouchables” of India , up to 300-million people, who occupy the lowest place in India ‘s ancient caste system of Hinduism. Several millions of them are believed to be Christians, although there are no exact figures.

Churches and several Christian advocacy groups have been urging the Indian Supreme Court to restore legal rights for Dalit Christians which were taken away from them in 1950.

Although the Indian government promoted affirmative action positions to Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist Dalits in university placements and government jobs, there was no mention of ‘Christians’. Currently “when Dalits become Christians, they lose these rights,” also referred to as ‘reservations’ added K.P. Yohannan, the president of Christian advocacy group Gospel for Asia (GFA), which supports native missionaries in India.

The NCRLM said it had already visited seven states to conduct research and ascertain the views of state governments. News of the ongoing investigations came after a weekend of public rallies in support of Dalit Christians in Orissa, an Indian state which has seen a series of attacks against Christians, BosNewsLife learned.

“The Dalit question comes up once again before the Supreme Court of India on Monday November 28 through the Public Interest Litigation writ filed by former Indian Law Minister Shanti Bhushan and other appeals by Dalit Christian groups,” said John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union and an adviser to the government on religious affairs in a statement to BosNewsLife.

“The Central Government has asked the [NCRLM] headed by [the] former Chief Justice of India, Rangnath Mishra, to also enquire into the issue,” he added.

Dayal claimed that Hindu bureaucrats linked to the previous Indian government of the Bharatiya Janata Party “successfully stonewalled and sabotaged” the current “government’s efforts to restore full legal rights to Dalit Christians snatched from them in 1950.”

Several political parties have expressed support for giving equal rights to Dalit Christians, but human rights groups fear a long political and legal process before the matter is resolved.