NCDC files petition to end decades of low caste Dalit Christian discrimination

Published 10 January 2020  |  
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The Supreme Court of India on January 8 reviewed a petition that focused of providing equal government benefits and protection to Dalits and low caste Christians in the country just like the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalit counterparts.

As per the country's 1950 executive order, low caste Christians and Muslims do not receive the same government benefits that Dalits from Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh backgrounds receive.

Though the Indian constitution formally abolished the caste system, low caste individuals in the country continue to suffer caste-based discrimination irrespective of their religious background. So, a change in religion does not mean members of the Dalit community do not endure anymore discrimination.

The petition filed by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) wants Dalit Christians to be included in the Scheduled Caste category and for all Scheduled Caste benefits and protections to be made "religion neutral."

Franklin Caesar Thomas and S. Gowthaman, advocates representing NCDC, said, "[a] change in religion does not change social exclusion. Caste hierarchy continues to hold fort within Christianity even though the religion forbids it."

In the petition, there was a plea to "Allow and extend the Scheduled Caste status to Christians of Scheduled Caste origin for availing special privilege in education, getting scholarships, employment opportunity, welfare measures, affirmative actions, right to contest in the reserved constituencies from panchayat, legislative assemblies up to the Parliament and for availing the legal remedy/ protection under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention) of Atrocities Act, 1989 amended in the year 2018."

Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde called on the Indian government to consider the petition and respond to it within two weeks.

If the Supreme Court accepts and grants the petition, decades of significant discrimination that Christians and Muslims in the country endured will come to an end.

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