NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised to Church leaders for the police beating of protesters – including priests and nuns – during a march to Parliament advocating for rights for low-caste Christians.
Mr Singh apologised on December 12 when a 10-member delegation, led by Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto, called on him to press for the Christian demand for end to discrimination against Christian dalits or members of the low castes.
Archbishop Couto was among six Catholic bishops and about a dozen of different denominations detained with 400 protesters during the march the previous day.
Hundreds of the protesters from across India broke through police barricades and marched to Parliament shouting “We want justice”.
“Dalit”, which means “trampled upon” in Sanskrit, refers to people treated as untouchables under the caste system in India. In 1950 the Indian Government established a quota system in education and government jobs as a type of affirmative action for Hindu dalits.
Though these statutory privileges were later extended to Sikh dalits in 1956 and Buddhist dalits in 1990, the repeated requests of the Christian dalits – who account for two-thirds of 27 million Christians in India – have gone unanswered.