BosNewsLife – Millions of Dalit Christians remained in uncertainty Tuesday, November 29, after the Indian Supreme Court delayed a decision on whether they will receive the same legal rights as Dalits of other religions.
The Supreme Court announced it would examine the constitutional validity of current legislation, which deprives Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam of the rights afforded to Dalits of Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh background.
The court case, brought by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, had sought to remove decades of discrimination from Dalits who embrace Christianity, but has now been adjourned to the third week in February next year.
Although the Indian government promoted affirmative action positions to Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist Dalits in university placements and government jobs, also known as reservations’ there was no mention of ‘Christians’.
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.
Human rights groups expressed disappointed that the Dalit Christians will experience more uncertainty over their legal status. “The continuing delay of giving Dalit Christians equal rights with other Dalits is an affront to India ‘s secular democracy,” Stuart Windsor, the National Director of religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife.
In a related development, India ‘s National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM), an advisory body to the government, launched an investigation into the alleged discrimination of millions of Dalit Christians, BosNewsLife learned earlier.
It came after thousands of people reportedly demonstrated in the Indian state of Orissa in support of the Dalit Christians over the weekend.
“The time for waiting is over – 50 years is long enough. We as Christians need to stand up and act. And this rally is the beginning of our public agitation and movement,” said Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, a major advocacy group in a statement.