Many Indian Christians Between Rock & Hard Place

Indian Christians from Dalit (untouchable) and other backward castes will have their identities permanently erased and state benefits withdrawn if the registrar general of India, and Census Commissioner Mr. Jayant K. Banthia, have their way. The only religion choices available to a Scheduled Caste or Dalit Indian citizen on the latest census (held Feb. 9-28) is between the Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist faiths. He is not allowed to claim that he belongs to the Christian, Muslim, animist, indigenous, agnostic, or no-faith categories.

Eliminating the Dalit identities of these Christians will mean that they are deprived of economic benefits. A number of Dalits who have accepted the Christian faith are thus reluctant to register themselves as Christians for census purposes. Sixty-five percent of all Christians in India are Dalits.