India: Dalit Christians dismayed at inordinate delay in Misra panel report. By Pervez Bari


BHOPAL, June 13: Dr John Dayal, member of National Integration Council, Government of India, has demanded that Justice Ranganath Misra Commission submit its report on Dalit Christians, which is required by the Indian Government to present in the Supreme Court of India, at the earliest. The commission`s term has recently been extended. Dr. Dayal in a Press statement accused the bureaucracy of trying to delay the Misra Commission report. He said that Christian groups and Dalit rights activists are dismayed at the inordinate delay. The report should be submitted at the earliest so that the Christians of Scheduled caste origin are restored their full civil rights which include reservations in education and jobs, and a range of other benefits designed to free the once untouchable castes of social, economic and other disabilities they have suffered over the last 3,000 years, the statement said. The statement said: "It is understood that the report could well have been submitted to the government at least a month ago after the Commission completed it`s tour of many states. However, while members of the Commission wanted an early report on the Dalit Christian issue first, so that the Supreme Court could resume its hearings on a Pubic interest writ, the bureaucracy sought to sabotage the issue". Dr. Dayal said that the bureaucrats want the Commission to submit just one consolidated report - however long it takes - which will cover the Dalit Christian issue as well as the main recommendations on welfare measures for disadvantaged sections among religious and linguistic minorities, the panel`s original charter. The Dalit Christian issue was given to the Commission much later, after a Writ was filed in the Supreme Court by the Federaal Government for Public Interest Litigation headed by former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan. At one stage, the members, who include such luminaries as former National Minorities Commission chairman and eminent jurist Prof. Tahir Mehmood and St. Stephen`s College principal Dr Anil Wilson who chaired the hearings in South Indian centers, and Dr Mohinder Singh, protested the delay. All three members were firm that the report on the Dalit issue be submitted first. Dr. Dayal expressed surprise at media reports that the Misra Commission has again sought public opinion on the demand that Christians of Scheduled Caste origin be given the affirmative action benefits given to Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits. "We are surprised because scores of organizations representing Dalit Christians have already submitted voluminous evidence before the Commission in New Delhi and during its sittings in various major cities in the country. In fact, the All India Christian Council, (AICC), and the All India Catholic Union, (AICU), delegations were in fact the first to meet the full Commission at its offices in New Delhi the same day that the government told the Supreme Court that the matter had been referred to Justice Misra", the statement pointed out. Dr. Dayal said that the Supreme Court reopens in July after its summer vacation. It had last heard the matter earlier this year, and had not listed it, thereafter, pending the report of the Misra Commission. The delay has provided most frustrating for the Christians of Dalit origin and the civil society activists advocating their cause. Vast amount of historic data, documents and records, as well as proceedings of public hearings such as the one called by the AICU-AICC in Madurai in July 2005, are already with the Misra Commission. These documents conclusively show that Christians of Dalit origin suffer the same social infirmities and caste trauma as is experienced by the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who are listed as Scheduled castes. It may be recalled that when the Founding Fathers of free India signed the new Constitution in 1950, they evolved affirmative action for all Dalits who had suffered for 3000 years in caste oppression, irrespective of religions they now professed. Within months, under the influence of religious bigots, the government issued the Presidential Order 1950 limiting reservations and other pro-active measures only to those Dalits who remained Hindus, thus robbing other religionists of these benefits. Sikhs and Buddhists won back their rights after long and protracted struggles. The bureaucracy, which has repeatedly worked against Christians of Dalit origin, should cease its continuing conspiracy against this hapless community, the statement concluded.

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