[Protesters demand rights for dalit Christians and Muslims outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi, on August 10. (Photo by Ritu Sharma/UcaNews.com)]
New Delhi: Sporting black badges on their shoulders and holding black flags in their hands, over 200 Christians and Muslims on Monday protested outisde the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi demanding equal rights for Dalit converts.
The day, observed as 'Black Day' both by Christians and Muslims, coincides with August 10, 1950 when India's first president Rajendra Prasad signed the 1950 presidential decree denying special rights to non-Hindus.
The parliament amended the order in 1956 to include Sikhs and in 1990 to extend the benefits to Buddhists. Christians and Muslims have been excluded under the pretext that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
The Indian constitution guarantees a reservation of government jobs and places in educational institutions for dalits and other underprivileged classes.
However, Christian and Muslim dalits are denied these benefits on the ground that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
“There is no untouchability in any religion but it exists in the soil of India. Indian Christians live in a society where people are discriminated against on this basis,” John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council, is quoted by ucanews.com.
The demonstrators shouted slogans “We demand justice” and “We will fight to death until our demands are met” while their leaders explained the decades-long struggle by Christians and Muslims to rectify what they termed as the violation of India’s Constitution, according to Vatican Radio.
They asserted that the presidential order is against the secular nature of the country as enunciated by the Preamble of the Constitution.
It also violates the Article 14 of the constitution that upholds equality before the law, article 15 that prohibits discrimination of any citizen on ground of only religion, Article 25 that guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom to profess any religion and Article 26 that promotes equality before the law and equal protection of the law, they said.
The order is also against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party, they pointed out.