Hundreds of thousands of Christians in India, who primarily belong to the country’s lowest caste known as Dalit, are being compelled to choose between their religion and government aid that is meant to be allocated among “untouchables” only. As many as 25 million Dalits in India have converted to Christianity over the years but now they are being pressured to identifying themselves as Hindus if they wish to avail themselves of certain government aids.
“This choice has significantly affected the constitutional right India's citizens have to freely choose a religion for themselves,” reported International Christian Concern (ICC), a non-government Christian watchdog group based in Washington DC. “It also has left millions of Dalits to have to decide between choosing to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior and receiving government benefits that have the ability to take their families out of poverty. All added up, this discrimination has affected the official appearance of India's religious landscape.”
Dalits, who are also referred to as “untouchables,” constitute the lowest caste in India. The government aid program in question is one that concerns the Scheduled Caste Order of 1950, which determines who is privy to the listed benefits and who is not.
Reverend Madhu Chandra Singh, a senior member from a Baptist Church, said despite the Supreme Court denying the worsening situation, Christians from the Dalit caste frequently suffer oppression before as well as after conversion.
“After their conversion, Dalit Christians begin to suffer religious persecution from religious fanatics but also a denial of Scheduled Caste benefits because of the Schedule Caste Order of 1950, which I term a double discrimination of Dalit Christians,” Singh said.
According to ICC’s report, several Christians in India have come out with the troubles they have had to face, saying the government is compelling them to lie about their identity in order to receive aid that exists in the first place for their consumption and nothing else.
Franklin Caesar, a Christian rights activists, said, “This system is against the fundamental rights provided to all India's citizens in the Constitution. The Presidential Order of 1950 has destroyed fundamental and constitutional rights of Dalits from Christian and Muslim backgrounds; the benefits must be delink from religion.”
The report also stated that many more Dalits consider themselves Christians at heart but they do not speak of it in public, in order to hold on to their government aid.
Christians and other minorities in India have recently been victim to a lot of discrimination and religious persecution. The trend may have long existed but it has come to surface only after the conservative right wing Bhartiya Janta Party came to power mid last year.
Photo Credits: Indian Defence Forum