Commission recommends Dalit minorities affirmative action rights

By May 28, 2007

India (MNN) — The National Commission for Religious & Linguistic Minorities presented its long-awaited report to India's government. If the government follows the Commission's recommendations, millions of Dalit Christians and Muslims will receive the same affirmative action benefits as those who choose to remain in the country's majority Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths.

The report took more than two years, but President and Founder of Gospel for Asia, KP Yohannan says, "Now we wait patiently with prayer that the Supreme Court will affirm this, and this will become a law. It means millions of Dalits will have the freedom to embrace Christian faith for hope for this life and the life to come."

Studies conducted by the Commission concluded that Dalits who choose to follow Christianity continue to endure caste-based discrimination. In response to the findings, the Commission recommended that Dalit Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities receive several affirmative action benefits. One of those benefits would be that 15 percent of the seats in non-minority institutions would be reserved for the religious minority Dalits. Currently, affirmative action benefits are only awarded to Dalits who are Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist.

If the Supreme Court affirms this, many Dalits will begin openly practicing their Christian faith. "There must be endless millions (now I don't use those words casually) of people that have embraced the Christian faith, which gave them hope and life and forgiveness of sin, but they continued to be secretive. But now you can just imagine from everywhere people will be coming out and saying, 'Yes, we believe in Jesus.'"

There will also be many Dalits searching for liberation. Yohannan is concerned. "Right now, honestly, I do not think we have enough Christian workers, nor the unity of the churches there to embrace these people with open arms saying, 'Yes, we love you. Come and be with us. We are equal in the sight of God.'"

He's also concerned that this doesn't turn into a Christian liberation political movement. "Ministries need to be careful that Christ is preached primarily and explained and invite people to follow the Lord. This is where I am crying out to the body of Christ and leaders that we don't get confused with the liberation movement and those wanting to follow the Lord."

There are an estimated 300 million Dalits in India. They suffer unimaginable oppression and exploitation. Nearly 65 percent of Christians in India belong to scheduled castes, including the Dalits. Christian groups have long argued that it is unconstitutional for the government to deny the Christian Dalits the same rights as others.

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