A state law, passed in India’s Maharashtra state, prohibiting and criminalizing the practice of social boycotts has been seen as a great victory for Christians in India. Often, social boycotts are used by village councils to socially exclude Christians from village life until they convert to Hinduism. This can mean an individual is cut off from a village well, not allowed to engage in local commerce, has the electricity cut off from their home, and even denied a food ration in times of scarcity. Hopefully this new law will spread to other states in India, especially Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, where social boycotts are widely practiced against Christians because of their faith identity.
08/04/2017 India (Asia News) – After the 2016 Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressed) Act received presidential assent, the state became the first in the country to adopt a law that seeks to enforce strict rules of coexistence among members of different castes and faiths.
The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) welcomed the new state law because it bans abuses by informal village councils. This is “a step in the right direction to stop the oppression of some categories of people like Dalit Christians,” GCIC President Sajan K George told Asia News.
The law takes into account all human rights issues and bans discrimination on the basis of moral and social acceptance, as well as political orientation and gender. It even makes it an offence to impose clothing or language requirements on people.
In rural areas, tribal Christians and Dalits suffer harassment for caste and religious reasons. “Social boycotts have serious economic implications since our fellow Christians make up the majority of the poor and day laborers who are denied jobs, food rations and access to village wells,” said George.
“This law will give great dignity to Dalit and tribal Christians who are often expelled from villages and forced to live a migrant life on the margins of society,” he added.