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Dalit Christians rally at Indian Parliament for Human Rights

All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisation and All India Christian Council Memo to Prime Minister welcomes priority welfare schemes for Minorities, but urges government not to forget Dalit Christians’ development

PRESS STATEMENT
For immediate release on behalf of Dr. Joseph D’souza
President, All India Christian Council

ANS (12/11/06) — The All India Christian Council at its massive prayer rally on parliament Street this morning (Monday, Dec 11) called on the Indian government to do justice to the Christian Community by restoring the human rights of Dalit Christians and ensuring that its priority development schemes for religious minorities did not bypass our community because it did not constitute a vote bank and was politically not as powerful as others.

A unique point of the day’s rally was the participation by a large number of Hindu and Buddhist Dalits, showing their solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters. This gave the lie to the argument advanced by some sectors that Dalits now in Hinduism were opposing the inclusion of Christians in the Scheduled caste list. Speakers point out that there was scope for Dalits of every religious belief to benefit by affirmative action programs in the private and public sector.

Led by Christian Council president Dr. Joseph D’souza, and Dr. Udit Raj, President of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organization, the rally passed a memorandum for the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi reminding them that the promises of the united democratic Front remained unfulfilled as far as the Christian community was concerned. While the Prime Minister had taken many laudable initiatives, for which he deserved our congratulations and thanks, their implementation did not touch the Christians in the Country.

In face even as the government guaranteed the security of minorities and protection of law, the rise in violence against the community had increased sharply this year. States ruled by the BJP of course were in the lead such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, but there was also violence against the Church in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.

An ominous development was the focused violence against Christian women, especially in Dalit and Tribal areas. While home churches, nuns and pastors were routinely attacked, there had been many cases where wives, daughters and sisters of pastors and other Christians were dragged out of their homes and gang raped. In almost all cases, the police remained passive witness, inactive, and in several states such s Madhya Pradesh, actually connived with the hooligans of the Hindutva Parivar in the violence.

The Council and the Confederation called upon the government to take suitable legal measures to end anti Christian regulations in states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in particular where the state governments were functioning in a manner that violated constitutional provisions safeguarding minority rights. In the same contest, a few Congress chief ministers, including the Chief minister of Himachal, had sought to support the anti conversion regulations of Gujarat though Mrs. Gandhi herself had come out strongly against such laws that hit India’s image as a tolerant and secular nation.

On the issue of Dalit Christians, the memo points out the inordinate delay by the Justice Rang Nath Mishra commission in giving its report. The commission is now on an extension till March next year. Consequently, even the Supreme court, which is hearing a Public Interest Petition on the freedom of faith of Dalits – who are robbed of education and employment opportunities of they become Muslims or Christians – has adjourned till April next year its proceedings in the matter.

On the economic, educational and development front, the Council demanded that government specially include Christians in its sub plans and special component schemes during the tenure of the Eleventh Five year plan. Bank Loans, land rights and other benefits as also participation in Panchayati raj be extended to the community. At present, the Christians stand nowhere even in the government’s own disbursement of funds through the national Minorities Development Fund, the memo said.

Addressing the gathering Mr. Oscar Fernandez, Hon’ble minister for Labor, said that this amendment is pending for long and that the gathering here and voice of those gathered will be taken to the Parliament of India. Mrs. Margaret Alva, the Congress Working Committee Member said that she spoke this morning withMrs. Sonia Gandhi about this and that the government will do something soon about the amendment.

The All India Christian Council’s website is: www.aiccindia.org.