Dalit Christians, members of the lower caste "untouchables" in India, are planning a countrywide rally in March to demand equal rights and oppose government discrimination they say targets them for their beliefs. The Marathi word "Dalit" has been used since the late 1880s to describe the outcasts who were oppressed and broken by Hindu society.
Dalit Christians are organizing meetings for the rally to be held in New Delhi in protest against a caste order that allows Dalits to receive government benefits, but mainly for those who still identify with their Hindu background, reports the Times of India.
National Council of Dalit Christians advisor E. D. Charles blamed India's Congress and the ruling BJP party for failing to consider recommendations to provide Christian Dalits with equal rights in the country, reports The Christian Post.
"Neither the Congress government when it was in power, nor the present BJP government, has taken any initiative toward this and has put the commission report on the shelf," he said, referring to the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission of 2007.
Charles said it "it is evident the principle of unity in diversity and minority rights on religious and linguistic are followed only for namesake in our country."
International Christian Concern (ICC) noted that both low caste Christians and Muslims were denied government benefits for years, while Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs receive theirs. Christian activists have stated the government excludes Christian and Muslim believers, because Hindu nationalists see such belief systems as anti-Indian.
ICC stated approximately 25 million Christian Dalits during 2014 were forced to choose between their faith and the government benefits. "This choice has significantly affected the constitutional right India's citizens have to freely choose a religion for themselves," stated ICC representatives.
"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 face discrimination and poverty throughout India because of their caste status. Two Dalit children were burned alive in October 2015, emphasizing the need to escape the trappings of the caste system.