The Office for SC/BC is the official body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of
India formed for the overall development of the Dalits, Tribals and Backward Classes.
Dalits mean broken people referring to the untouchables who suffer the stigma of
untouchability. Realizing its responsibility to uplift the downtrodden, the CBCI
General Body meeting held inGoa in 1986 established the Commission for SC/ST/BC.
The Standing Committee in April 2006 constituted a separate ‘Committee for Scheduled
NATURE AND SCOPE
- To empower Dalits
- To organize and to build inclusive communities.
- To lobby and to do advocacy with the policy makers for empowering Dalits and Dalit
- To network with other churches, NGOs and peoples’ movements
- The specific task would be to get equal rights for the Dalit Christians. Though
their social and economic development is the concern of the Office, specific development
works are done by the Caritas India and other CBCI Offices.
To coordinate, to inspire and to animate the regional commissions.
The Indian society is structured according to the hierarchical caste system that
has pushed the Dalits to the lowest level down the centuries with the denial of
right to education, property, development and participation. Caste is the most flagrant
attempt in the history of humankind to institutionalize inequality with religious
and philosophical foundations. Driven by acute poverty, unemployment and illiteracy,
the vast majority of Dalits are engaged in menial jobs, undergo extreme exploitation,
inhuman treatment and atrocities. The term ‘Scheduled Castes’ is an administrative
concept introduced by the British administration.
In the case of the Dalits an important problem is to break through the barrier of
untouchability, not simply in its formal legal sense but in its wider social application.
The Dalits suffer the crucial problems of displacement and land alienation due to
the process of globalization. According to the Census of India 2011, 16.2%, i.e
166millions are the Dalits.
They belong to the backward castes but do not suffer the stigma of untouchability.
They are economically poor.
THE DALIT CHRISTIANS
Of the 24 million Christian population, the Dalits constitute about 16 millions.
Together they form 18 millions. Majority of these Dalit Christians are in the southern
states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Dalit Christians are thrice discriminated people within the church, within the society
and by the State. Dalits embraced Christianity seeking a better life with dignity.
But they experience discrimination within the church. The dominant caste converts
do not accept the people of lower castes as their equals. Unchristian and discriminatory
practices are being continued within the church. Whether Christians or Hindus, the
dominant caste people treat the Dalit Christians with the same contempt and subject
them to the same ill treatment as their Hindu counterparts.
DISCRIMINATION BY THE GOVERNMENT
The third paragraph of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, popularly
known as the Presidential Order, stipulates that "no person who professes a religion
different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste." Even
a cursory reading of the Order reveals its discriminatory nature. By restricting
the benefits to a particular religion, the Order has divided the entire Dalit community
on the basis of religion. Instead of caste and socio-economic backwardness being
the criterion for reservation, the linkage of caste and religion is treated as the
crux of the problem.
The Order violates the letter and spirit of many articles of our Constitution. Article
15 says: "The State shall not discriminate against any citizen only on grounds of
religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them." But here we see the
state itself discriminating the Dalit Christians on the basis of religion
CHURCH’S RESPONSE TO CASTE DISCRIMINATION AND UNTOUCHABLE PRACTICES
The Church leaders have accepted that caste discrimination and untouchable practices
exist within the church and exhorted the people to move towards greater equality.
Pope John Paul II on 17 November, 2003 in his address to a group of Bishops from
Tamil Nadustated: “They (Christians of SC origin) should never be segregated from
other members of society. Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations
between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine
spirituality and a serious hindrance to the church’s mission of evangelization.
Therefore, customs or traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should
be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of solidarity of the
whole Christian community.”
The Statement of the CBCI (Mangalore January 1978) says: “The dignity of man confers
certain inalienable rights upon him, whatever be the accident of his birth. Any
curtailment or, what is worse, denial of these rights is an act of injustice. Hence,
discrimination of any type must be part of our Christian concern. When, unfortunately,
it is practiced within the Church itself, it becomes a counter-sign to the Gospel
values we profess.” The Statements of the CBCI in Kottayam (1988), Varanasi, (1998)
and other statements have called caste discrimination not only a denial of human
dignity and equality, but also against the fundamental teachings of Christ.
- Lobbying, Advocacy and Struggle for equal rights to Dalit Christians.
- Meeting the political party leaders, Prime Minister, President, Ministers, Members
of the Parliament
- Conducting rallies, demonstrations, signature campaign in the international level
and national level.
- Animation work at the regional level in order to establish commissions at the regional
and diocesan level.
- Intensive Coaching for Employment with a special emphasis on the coaching for Union
Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams.
- Support the Public Interest Litigation Case in the Supreme Court by providing the
relevant materials and books.
- Collaborate with a Dalit Lay movement called National Council of Dalit Christians
- Work jointly and collaboration with the National Council of Churches (NCCI) under
the banner of National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians(NCCDC)