Gujjar people in India want rights, more than 20 dead

By June 4, 2007

India (MNN) — Tribal farmers known as the Gujjars are
clashing with the Indian government over affirmative action rights. The death toll is now more than 20 as the
Gujjars in the state of Rajasthan seek rights given to other low castes of
India's society which would provide them opportunities for education and jobs.


Operation Mobilization
works in India with national believers. OM's Peter Dance is concerned about this
outbreak of violence. "Basically the government's trying to keep a lid on
it. However, it is very, very serious, and it's actually starting to spill over
into other states. This is a very, very serious situation. It could really blow
up."

The elected Hindu government in Rajasthan promised these
rights in their bid to win the election, only to renege on that promise.

Tens of thousands of people have been stranded on highways
or at railway stations in Rajasthan due to the protests.

Their demands are being met with opposition from other tribes.
The Meenas oppose the granting of tribal status to the Gujjars fearing they will
lose their own quotas for education and jobs. The two sides clashed in eastern
Rajasthan as the Meenas tried to break the blockade.

Dalit Hindus also have these affirmative action rights, but
they lose those rights if they convert to Christianity. 

Many believe this could further anger the upper castes of
India's society. Dance says, "They have already been doing that. That's
the whole part of why the church is being persecuted because of their standing
with the Dalits, and they're turning to Christ by the tens of thousands. The
upper castes are bringing all sorts of anti-conversion laws to stop Dalits from
becoming Christians."

According to Dance, conversion to Christianity angers
nationalistic Hindus. "It basically takes [Dalits] out of the
Hindu faith, and therefore the caste system starts to deteriorate, which
actually is a fundamental part of the Hindu belief system."

OM is working with Christians in India, says Dance.
"Part of our mandate is to support and encourage these new believers.
Discipleship training is part of that. And in a lot of cases, we're standing
beside them financially because they've left their job, and some of these
pastors have several of these church communities scattered around their local
area."

Few Gujjars are Christians. Pray that Christians in
Rajasthan would reach out with compassion to the Gujjar people so they can
understand Christ's love.


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