Christians begin hunger strike, slam Congress for SC status delay
Over a thousand people, including bishops, priests, lay leaders and activists, gathered today at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for a two-day hunger strike that will conclude with a Parliament March on July 28.
Holding placards that read "govt stop delaying tactics" and "grant SC status", the protesters demanded the government to delete para 3 of the Constitution Order 1950 which restricted reservation benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.
"We are compelled to take this hunger strike as we are annoyed at the unnecessary delay by the government in granting SC status. It continues to treat us as second class citizens and we can’t tolerate this anymore," Fr. Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of the CBCI commission on Dalit, said in his welcome address.
"Ours is a non-violent struggle following the path of Jesus Christ. We are only demanding the deletion of an unjust clause which is against Dalit unity and secular principles of this country. We are clearly being deprived economically and socially," he added.
Inaugurating the hunger strike, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Rev. Roger Gaikwad noted that the ecumenical protest stood out from the rest.
"Ours is protest that has resulted from hunger for justice...hunger for human rights and for equality. We will follow the path of great leaders like Gandhi and Ambedkar to reach our goals," he said.
The Constitution Order 1950 made reservation in education, jobs and special welfare schemes available to those that follow Hinduism. It was however later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists, but not Christians and Muslims.
Those who converted to Christianity from Hinduism hence will not be able to avail reservation benefits although their condition remains the same even after conversion.
In his inaugural address, Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent Concessao, slammed the Congress-backed UPA for being a "block" to Dalit Christian struggle the last six decades.
"We have realised now that it is none other than Congress that has been a block in our struggle for justice. Those who are delaying justice are digging their own grace and history has proved it right. We are entitled to right of equality and fraternity enshrined in our Constitution," he said.
Adding to it, Alwan Masih, general secretary of the Church of North India, said justice was being denied for decades and it was time for Christians to mull over a different approach. "Christians are being pushed against the wall. Our government believes in inclusive development, but its failure in being even-handed draws a sharp contrast.”
Monday's hunger strike was organised by the NCCI, CBCI and National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC).
Terming it a 'national struggle', President of NCDC, Prof. Mary John held Congress party solely responsible for the blatant violation of Dalits' rights.
"Several commissions were instituted and expert opinions were sought. And despite their strong recommendation to delink religion from Presidential Order 1950, the government fails to act. It is now taking a U-turn on their past assurances," he said.
Prof. John cautioned that if action was not taken, Christians would oppose Congress party in all local and state elections. "It is time for Christians to deal with the situation politically," he said.
Added: Monday, 25 July 2011, 19:13 (IST)
Thank you for attending and expressing your support .
Added: Wednesday, 27 July 2011, 17:47 (IST)
This is very good. Thanks to Christian leaders. Why has the government continued to delay to give the rights to these backward classes. Why are they discriminated simply because they are not belonging to a particular religion. This is a humanitarian issue not religion. Let them grant them the status soon.
Added: Thursday, 28 July 2011, 0:02 (IST)
This clause of constitution raises a question on the declaration of the fact that India is a secular country?????
zyaul hasan, south africa