India: Dharna by Christians for Equal Rights

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EFI Press Release

Dharna by Christians for Equal Rights

National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians (NCCDC) organised the Dharna by
Church Leaders on Thursday, the 29th November 2007 from 10 am to 1 pm at Jantar
Mantar, New Delhi demanding justice for Dalit Christians by implementing the
recommendations of the National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities
(NCRLM). 50 Bishops and Church Leaders, 300 Clergy, along with more then 200 lay
people belonging to different Christian denominations and social activists from
different parts of India participated in the Dharna.

Dalit Christians for the last 56 years are denied constitutional rights, their
religious freedom, and deprived of equal rights, opportunities and legal protection.

In the light of this, Churches in India have demanded the immediate implementation
of NCRLM recommendations by deleting the paragraph 3 of the Presidential (Scheduled
Caste) Order of 1950 and to de-link Scheduled Caste status from religion and make
the Scheduled Caste status religion neutral and ensure justice to Christians of
Scheduled Caste origin.

A memorandum signed by Church leaders is submitted to the office of Prime Minister
of India, President of India, Vice President of India, and Minister for Social
Justice, Minister for Law, Minister for Minorities Affairs, and Minister for
Parliamentary Affairs at the end of Dharna.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Archdiocese Delhi and President of National United
Christian Forum consisting of CBCI, NCCI, and EFI churches stated, "For the last 5
and a half decades Dalits are demanding equality of Rights. They are an oppressed
lot. We request the Government of India to listen to the voice of Dalit Christians
and stop exploiting the goodwill of Minorities."

Bishop Rev. Dr. Jeyapaul David, President of NCCI, said, "It's a Human Rights Issue.
Dalit Christians are fighting for the reservations that are provided to the Dalits
in the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities. These rights and reservations have been
denied to them simply because they are Christians. We are not demanding financial
support for them. It's a matter of faith."

Rev. Dr. Atul Y. Aghamkar, Chairman of EFI stated, "EFI expresses its solidarity
with struggles and aspirations of Dalit Christians and appeals to Government for
legal Rights and privileges on par with SC/ST people of India. This as matter of
justice and human rights and discrimination on the basis of religion is against the
constitution of India."

EFI requests the Government to accept the demands of Dalit Christian community and
grant them equal rights as per the Constitution of India.

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell,
General Secretary,
Evangelical Fellowship of India,
New Delhi, India