By Robancy A Helen
India is a democratic and secular state. It promotes equality and brotherhood. The Constitution of India treats its citizens equally, but Indian society still holds on to casteism, and Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are discriminated against based on religion.
This is not something new. One understands the harsh reality of casteism. The deeply rooted mindset has prevented many marginalized communities, such as Dalit Christians and Muslims, from alienating others in the name of caste, class, and ethnicity.
Christians of Scheduled Caste origin are socially and economically deprived. They are denied Scheduled Caste status and demand to be treated equally in the church and society.
The Dalit Christians protested for 72 years for their rights. But the federal government and the state governments delayed their justice by granting them Scheduled Caste status. Some groups constantly oppose the reservation of Dalit Christians and Muslims.
The recent protest in Delhi demanding Scheduled Caste status by the National Council of Dalit Christians reiterates the tireless struggle of the people.
The Andhra Pradesh government passed a resolution in favour of the Dalit Christians on April 24, 2023. Following this move, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed a resolution on April 19, 2023.
“The Christians of Scheduled Caste origin are still facing caste discrimination, and they are denied their rights because they converted to Christianity. They should be given Scheduled Caste status,” said M. K. Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Most of the members of the Assembly welcomed this move and supported the resolution of Stalin.
Inigo Iruthayaraj, a member of the Legislative Assembly for Tiruchirappalli East and the Party Leader of Kristhava Nallenna Iyakkam mentioned in his speech in the Assembly a few Christian leaders: Archbishop Emeritus A.M Chinnappa, Father Backiya Regis, Father Devasagayaraj, Professor Mary John, Mathew Gnanapragasam, Nixon, and Dayanidhi, who work for the cause relentlessly.
The Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu, the Regional Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, and Dalit Movements congratulated and thanked the chief minister for supporting them.
The Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, Commission for Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes, called for a press meet in the press club in Dindigul on April 20, 2023. The chairperson of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission, Bishop P. Thomas Paul Samy, headed it.
He thanked the chief minister for passing the resolution.
“Dalit Christians are alienated and deprived of quality education, employment opportunities, economic status, and political empowerment. The chief minister has understood the pain of the Dalits and passed this resolution in the State Assembly,” he said.
“We are grateful to the chief minister, Thol Thirumavalavan, a Member of Parliament, and the President of Viduthalai Siruthaikal Katchi (VCK), who raised the issue in the parliament tirelessly,” said Father Arputharaj Asir, secretary for the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry–Cuddalore.
Thanking all the members of Tamil Nadu Assembly who supported this resolution, Father Arputharaj Asir notably thanked Archbishop Francis Kalist, the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, and all who have worked and are working constantly for years.