Indian Christians march on parliament, demand end to discrimination
July 28, 2011
Nearly 10,000 Christians joined four dozen bishops in a march on India's parliament on July 28, demanding an end to legal discrimination against Christian dalits.
Dalits--the word literally meaning "trampled upon"--refers to lowest castes in India's Hindu tradition: the group also know as "untouchables." Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist dalits are now eligible for free education and quotas in government hiring, as part of a broad effort to improve their socio-economic status. But these statutory privileges are denied to Christian dalits, who account for two thirds of 27 million Christians in India.
Successive governments have ignored the Christian demand for equality. Hindu groups oppose the extension of these rights to Christian dalits, fearing that such a change in policy could trigger mass conversions to Christianity.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, who flew in from Rome to participate in the July 28 demonstration, described the continued neglect of the Christian demand as a "blatant discrimination." He spoke at a public meeting that concluded the demonstration, at which leaders of several political parties endorsed the Christians' demand.
The march to the parliament was preceded by three-days of hunger strike during July 25-27 in which hundreds of dalit Christian activists from across the country participated.
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