India (MNN) — Dalit Muslims and Christians today staged a demonstration in New Delhi demanding affirmative action rights as Scheduled Castes.
Thousands of Dalit Muslims and Christians marched, urging officials to grant Schedule Caste status to Christians and Muslims, giving them certain rights to jobs, education, and other rights. Hindu Dalits already receive these rights.
The demonstration was led by National Council of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslim Liberation Movement.
''Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste origin experience the stigma of untouchability within their religious communities and in civil society. They live through the same social, economical, and educational backwardness as other Scheduled Castes,'' the demonstrators said.
They demanded that the religious restriction be removed from Scheduled Caste reservation so that Dalits among them could be re-included in this category under Article 341 of the Constitution.
Many believe that if this happens, many Dalits will declare themselves Christians. This will mean massive church growth, creating an incredible need for trained church leaders.
Many Dalit Christians fail to declare the conversions, fearing their children will lose the right to higher education and jobs.
In March, The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSC/ST) rejected the demand for affirmative-action benefits for Dalit Christians and Muslims. The committee denied the need for the benefits on the grounds that "untouchability," the main criteria for the benefits, only affected Hindu Dalits, who are considered untouchables.