Dalit Christian discrimination rocks minority commission meeting

Dindigul (Story – Matters India): A meeting of the Tamil Nadu Minorities Commission on Tuesday heard several people accusing the Churches in India of discriminating their Dalit members.

Dalit Christians are denied even basic rights and the upper caste Christians ill treat or totally ignore them, according to representatives of various Dalit Christian organizations who attended the meeting at the Dindigul Collectorate.

They urged the government to intervene and protect the Dalit Christians’ basic rights.

The groups claimed that their people formed more than 70 percent of Christians in Tamil Nadu but upper caste Christians dominate churches. This dominant group treats Dalits Christians as minority, they alleged.

Minorities Commission chairperson Bishop M Prakash of the Independent Church, who chaired the meeting, admitted that discrimination against Dalit Christians existed in churches across the state.

But neither the commission nor the government could interfere in it as it was like a fight among members of a family. They should sort out these issues among themselves.

The government could advise both sides to find an amicable solution, he added.

The Dalit Christians questioned how long the suppressed class could negotiate without any solution.

Around 80 percent of Dalit Christians suffer from caste discrimination in the Church especially in some dioceses with a group of persons enjoying foreign funds, alleged Christopher of Dalit Viduthalai Iyakkam (Dalit Liberation Movement).

He also said that schools managed by Christian Missions did not admit Dalit Christian students and refused to follow 17 percent reservation for Dalits prescribed by the government in minority schools. The Commission should inspect minority schools. Recognition of erring schools should be cancelled and funds from the government should be stopped, he demanded.

A group of Christians from Reddiyarchatram complained that revenue officials had sealed a worship center and denied permission to conduct prayer there. Revenue officials assured the chairperson to open the center for prayer quickly.

Commission members Sardar Manjit Singh Nayar, Justin Selvaraj, A.M. James and K. Kalamani and Collector T.N. Hariharan were present.

Drawing the commission’s attention to the closure of the Kuralampatti church by the Tahsildar, Fr Ramesh sought adequate security for the minority community. Responding, Murugesan, Tahsildar, Dindigul West, said permission would be given for holding prayer service in the church if it did not disturb locals.

The groups also demanded community certificate to those who had converted to Buddhism.

Bishop Prakash said computerized community certificates for Buddhism could not be given at present and steps would be taken to give hand-written community certificates.

He said people could approach the district minority welfare office and avail the benefits given by the government.

Giving statistics, he said scholarships worth 21.4 million rupees were given to minority students in 2014-2015. Financial assistance of `608,000 rupees was offered to 15 members of Muslim Mahalir Uthavum Sangam.

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