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India's Christians observe anniversary of official discrimination against dalits

Catholic World News - August 10, 2011

Wearing black badges and raising black flags, Christians of different denominations joined together on August 10 to observe 'black day' to mark the 61st year of official discrimination against Christian dalits.

It was on August 10, 1950 that the federal government enacted the special legislation paving way for the constitutional discrimination against dalit Christians.

“Dalit”—the word literally meaning “trampled upon”--refers to members of the lowest castes, treated as “untouchables” in traditional Indian society. In 1950, the government made Hindu dalits are eligible for free education and quotas in government jobs and legislatures, in a bid to improve their social status.

While these statutory privileges were later extended to Sikh and Buddhist dalits, they are denied to Christian dalits--who account for Two-thirds of the 27 million Christians in India.

“In many places, the bishops themselves led the protests,” Father Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of the Dalit Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told CWN from Lalgudi near Trichy in the southern Tamil Nadu state, where he led more than 1,000 Christians in a public protest.

The “black day” protest follows a July 25-28 hunger strike and march on parliament in New Delhi. That earlier protest was joined by nearly 50 Catholic bishops, and drew over 10,000 demonstrators.

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