Guest / Limited Access /

For more than half a century, Indian law has set aside government jobs and education benefits for the socially ostracized Dalits, commonly known as "untouchables." About 60 percent of India's 24-million-member Christian community has a Dalit background. Yet not one of them benefits.

An expected Indian Supreme Court ruling on what Indian Christians call this "decades-old injustice" against Dalit Christians could soon change all that.

In a surprise move, in February the Supreme Court announced that it will hold a hearing on the law in August. The court notified the federal government that it would rule on extending the benefits to Christians.

Proponents of the current practice defend it on the grounds that those who convert to Christianity have left Hinduism and are no longer Dalits and part of the caste system. Christians say politically powerful Hindu radicals fear many more Dalits would likely become Christians.

Christians seek to emulate the political success of Dalits of Sikh and Buddhist backgrounds, who lobbied successfully for their rights in 1956 and 1990, respectively.

"Why, when a Hindu Dalit starts praying to Jesus Christ, should his rights be taken away?" Richard Howell, general secretary of Evangelical Fellowship of India, asked CT.

Tehmina Arora, secretary of the Christian Legal Association, said the association's attorneys "are very well respected and qualified."

The All India Christian Council has taken a pro-Dalit stand in recent years. "We have strong faith in [the] Indian judiciary Quotation Marks and have great hopes," John Dayal, AICC secretary general, told CT. "Now all we need to do is to convince the judiciary."



Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today's past coverage of India includes several articles on Dalit ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Dying Smart
Why your living will may not be good enough.
RecommendedEgypt's First 'Official' Christian Convert Quits, Returns to Islam
Egypt's First 'Official' Christian Convert Quits, Returns to Islam
After years of harassment and imprisonment, Mohamed Hegazy abandons his unprecedented legal quest.
TrendingWhy Most Pastors Aren’t Answering Your Phone Calls
Why Most Pastors Aren’t Answering Your Phone Calls
It's one the great mysteries of ministry. Why do pastors have such a bad reputation for answering or returning phone calls? Here are 9 reasons.
Editor's PickThe Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
The Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
‘Christian colleges are as strong as they’ve been since the 1920s,’ says historian William Ringenberg. But there are challenges on the horizon.
Christianity Today
Christian Dalits Fight Bias
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.