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Catholic World News

India's Christians join in 'black day' protest against discrimination

August 10, 2010

Some Christian institutions in India raised black flags on August 10, and staff members wore black badges, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the decision that sanctioned discrimination against Christian dalits-- members of the traditional “untouchable” caste.

On August 10, 1950, the government enacted a policy offering special programs for dalits in an attempt to lift their social and economic status. But the benefits—including free education and quotas for entry into educational institutions and government jobs—applied only to Hindu dalits. The benefits were extended to Sikhs in 1956 and to Buddhists in 1990, but remain unavailable to Christian dalits.

“Dalit”—which in Sanskrit means “trampled upon” is a reference to the lowest caste in traditional Hindu society: the “untouchables.” Although India’s government has recognized the need for special assistance to the families that suffered oppression for generations, that aid has not yet been applied to the Christian members of the dalit caste—despite years of pleas from Church leaders for equal treatment. Dalits account for roughly two-thirds of the 28 million Christians in India.

The “black day” protest on August 10 brought an enthusiastic response, with public protests in New Delhi, Chennai, and Hyderabad. In Tamil Nadu, where most of the 6 million Christian residents are dalits, large crowds joined in the public demonstrations.


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