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Features \ Asia features

Indian Church’s 'Black Day' for Dalit Christians

Indian Christians and Muslims demanding the rights of members of low caste origin.  - RV

Indian Christians and Muslims demanding the rights of members of low caste origin. - RV

04/08/2017 01:30

(Vatican Radio)  Dalit Christians and Muslims of India will once again observe ‘Black Day’ on August 10 this year to highlight the discrimination that low-caste Christians and Muslims have been facing for 67 years.  India’s Catholic bishops want to remind the people that the country bears a constitution-based discrimination against Dalit Christians, i.e. Dalits who embrace Christianity. 

Who are Dalits?

Dalit which means "broken" or “downtrodden”, denotes former "untouchables" so low in ‎social status ‎that they were considered outcasts or outside the caste system of Hindu society.  The ‎Indian ‎Constitution reserves special privileges and benefits such as quota in government jobs and educational institutions for Dalit, tribal groups and scheduled castes to ‎help their socioeconomic  uplift.

Discrimination

The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order (Paragraph 3) that India’s first president Rajendra Prasad signed on August 10, 1950, initially stated that “…no person who professes  a  religion  different from the Hindu  religion  shall  be deemed to be a member  of  a  Scheduled Caste.”   Subsequently, the Order was modified to include Sikhs (in 1956) and Buddhists (in 1990) after they protested, but Muslims and Christians of low caste origin were excluded.  Dalits form the bulk of India’s Christian community, who make up 2.3 per ‎cent of the ‎country’s population.  ‎ ‎

"Black Day"

Dalit Christians and Muslims have been observing “Black Day” on Aug. 10, the anniversary of the signing of the controversial presidential order Paragraph 3.  First observed in 2009, it is organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches in India and the National Council of Dalit Christians.

To know about this and much more we talked to Fr. Devasagaya Raj,  secretary of the CBCI Office for Scheduled and Backward Classes.  Speaking on the phone from his office in New Delhi, Fr. Raj first explained who the Dalits are.

Listen:

 

04/08/2017 01:30