On 11 December, 2013, a group of Indian Christian leaders and laypersons, led by Mr Alwan Masih, General Secretary, The Synod of The Church of North India, met at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to peacefully rally the cause of Dalit Christians and to move the government to accord them scheduled caste status.
Leaders from several denominations and organizations, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC), National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), and Church of North India (CNI) gathered to peacefully protest against Dalit Christian discrimination.
As the crowds marched towards Parliament however, the peaceful protest was met with brutal cane charging and water cannon attacks from the police force. Many in the crowd got injured, but still refused to leave the protest rally. This resulted in a large-scale arrest ordered by the senior policemen at the venue.
The arrested protesters (including church leaders, Bishops, nuns, and many others) were kept in police custody until late in the evening when a message was received that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has invited a delegation of 15 Christian and Muslim leaders to meet with him and submit a memorandum on the issue.
The delegation met with the Prime Minister the following day and presented their demands for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims in the country. They were assured that the Cabinet Committee would take necessary action on this matter.
Mr Masih, who also spoke at the rally, said, “The denial of reservation status to the Dalit Christians is a discrimination and human rights violation.” He added that for decades Christians in India have been fighting the Presidential order of 1950 that denies equal rights to Christians and Muslims based on their religion.
“Dalit” is the name given to people who were (and still are in some parts) considered “Untouchables” according to the Indian caste system. They have roots all over the country, speaking different languages, and practicing different religions. As a community in India, they have been systematically exploited in a multitude of ways and continuously robbed of basic human dignity. Although the government has now accorded scheduled caste status to Dalit Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists, Dalit Christians and Muslims have been overlooked in this regard. We firmly stand beside our Dalit brothers and sisters in this continued fight against discrimination.