this weekend after India’s Supreme Court again postponed a hearing on granting them more rights.
The government already deferred five previous scheduled hearings of the case related to the rights of India’s estimated 16 million Dalit Christians on July 12 and February 18 of this year, and on November 28, August 23 and October 18 of 2005.
The hearing was to decide whether Dalit Christians, also known as "untouchables" as they are t6he ‘lowest caste’ in India’s Hindu system, can be denied job and education rights. These rights are already extended to Dalits of other faiths, although they too experience discrimination, human rights groups say.
The delay was expected to further fuel a debate Saturday, October 14, when about 100,000 Dalits are expected to participate in a rally calling for genuine religious freedom in India. The ‘World Religious Freedom Day’ demonstration will be held in Nagpur, the largest city in central India in the western state of Maharashtra, organizers told BosNewsLife.
MORE TIME REQUESTED
A government backed commission looking into the rights of Dalits requested the latest Supreme Court delay because it claims to be behind schedule in preparing its report.
In a published statement, John Dayal, chairman of the advocacy group All India Catholic Union and secretary general of the All India Christian Council urged officials, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand that the commission finishes its work and present its findings as soon as possible.
A 1950 a presidential order set up education and public sector employment quotas for Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Muslim and Christian Dalits, who are not bounded by the caste system, are excluded and therefore Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam lose the social rights.
Speaking to media, Bishop Peter Remigius, head of the Catholic aid group Caritas India, said the repeated postponements are "frustrating and humiliating". He warned that, "delaying the hearings can only further marginalize Christian Dalits in society and within their own group."