A church bearing the name Dalit – Bharatiya Dalit Church (BDC) was launched by Dalit Apostle and Dalit Pope Iruthayaraj Thusnevish on Friday at the inauguration function held at Bible Bhawan, Amrita Shergill Marg, New Delhi in the presence of pastors, church leaders, human right activists and well wishers which include a former DIG and acting Member of Parliament, with a call for equal rights for Dalits in the country.
During the event, Mr. S. Arockiyadoss alias Timothy was consecrated and ordained as the first priest of the Dalit Church by the Dalit Apostle, who is the founder and Head of Dalit Catholic Church & Patriarch of Dalit City, Diocese of Tamil Nadu.
Speaking at the event, the Dalit Apostle Thusnevish said, "Jesus was a Dalit, who understood the plight of Dalits. Like Moses led the oppressed Dalit Israelites out of Egypt, I hope that this church and its priest will do the same. God is with you," he said. The Apostle was assisted by Rev. M.S. Stanley, Bishop of Gospel Prayer Church, Kancheepuram in installing the new pastor of Bharatiya Dalit Church.
Explaining the importance of establishing the church, Mr. Franklin Caesar Thomas, Prominent Dalit activist and Supreme Court advocate and National Co-ordinator of National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) said the emergence of Black churches in the United States was a necessary step in the right direction as the African Americans fought for their rights and justice. "It is the same for the Dalit in India," he said.
"Dalit Christians are those who suffer the most for bearing the name of Jesus. They are the most afflicted and persecuted folks among Indian Christians because of their faith. They shed their blood because of their faith in Jesus," said Mr. Thomas who has been fighting for the equal rights for Dalit Christians in the Supreme Court of India.
"We are not against any religions or denominations but we are against casteism and its evil practices be in other religions or within Christianity," said the Dalit activist.
In the second session of the programme, Rev. Manmadan, a pastor from Tamil Nadu gave a welcome speech. The session was moderated by Asst. Prof. Dr. Vinod C. V., a scholar who also spoke on the occasion said, "Religious places are the breeding grounds of discrimination, this must stop. If we do not speak for ourselves no one will. Therefore, church like this is a platform to express Dalits," he said.
During the session, church leaders like Rev. J. Yesunathadoss of Grace Church, New Delhi, Mr. Vijendra Kasana, Supreme Court advocate, Mr. Kudanthai Arasan, Founder and President of Tamil Viduthalai Puligal Katchi, Dr. Praful Kumar Moon, Post Doctorate Fellow and Mr. Amol Vajji, Ph.D. scholar, both from the Jawaharlal Nehru University gave short speeches and blessed the church and its priest.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Bijendra Singh, IPS (Rtd), former Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh said, "Christianity has always fascinated me. But casteism and Braminization among Christians must go," he said.
The only woman speaker of the occasion, Ms. Supriya Sarkar, Secretary of All India Christian Federation (AICF) said she wishes to see more representation of women and Dalits in all walks of life.
Mr. Ali Anwar Ansari, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha from Janata Dal(United) who has been a pillar of strength and support to Dalits in the country also spoke and said that discrimination based on religion is very unfortunate. "Dalits of all colours and religions must be equal. We will continue to faith for the equal rights of all. We are first Dalit then Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc. We are first Dalit," he said.
It must be noted that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have been denied the Scheduled Caste (SC) status since the Presidential order of 1950 - The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) order 1950 signed by the then President of India which says: "No person who professes a religion other than Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste" which was later amended to include Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste net. However, others, prominently—Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are not still included.
The National commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) popularly known as Justice Ranganath Misra Commission has said in 2007 that the Constitution Schedule Caste Order 1950 para 3 is unconstitutional and its must be abolished and completely de-link the scheduled caste status from religion and make the scheduled castes net fully religion – neutral like that of the Scheduled Tribes.
The subsequent governments have not been able to implement the recommendation of the commission.
The event was closed with benedictions and call of blessings by the pastors for the new church and its first ordained priest.
According to its official statement, Bharatiya Dalit Church (BDC) is committed to preach good news of Jesus Christ to the Dalits who are socially outcastes and economically poor; with a dream of a casteless society envisaged by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar where all are equal which is the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus.
The event was closed with a vote of thanks from the newly ordained pastor of the church followed by benedictions and call of blessings by the pastors for the new church and its first ordained priest.