New Delhi, (Anto Akkara) — The decades of Christian protests for end to the discrimination against Christian dalits witnessed dramatic scenes on December 11 with over 400 protesters including half a dozen Catholic bishops arrested and detained.
The arrests came after the protesters led by over 20 bishops of various denominations, dozens of priests and nuns from across India broke through police barricades and marched to the Parliament shouting ‘we want justice’.
The government introduced 15 percent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs as well as free education for Hindu dalits in 1950 for the social uplift of ‘untouchable’ dalits- while excluding non-Hindu dalits from its purview.
Though these statutory privileges were later extended to Sikh dalits in 1956 and Buddhist dalits in 1990, the repeated cry of the Christian dalits who account for two thirds of 27 million Christians in India have gone unanswered despite frequent protests and rallies across the country.
Scores of Muslims also had joined the march that was jointly organized by the Catholic church, National Council of Churches in India that groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches, Muslim and social action groups.
In desperate bid to stop the marchers, police first lathi-charged and beat up several protesters across the Patel House Metro station.
Even nuns could be seen questioning the police for the brutality even as church leaders confronted the police.
Undeterred, the protesters including priests in cassocks soon regrouped and knelt on the road with crosses in hand even as police truck mounted with water cannons sprayed them with muddy water several times.
It was shocking that police later claimed that they never used dirty water despite photos clearly proving it.
With the protesters including bishops refusing to budge, police arrested more than 400 of them including the bishops led by Delhi archbishop Anil Coutto and detained them.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to meet us tomorrow. So, we are leaving the police station now,” said Franklin Caesar, an outspoken Catholic dalit activist on getting out of the police station after five hours of ‘protest’ in the Parliament Street police station.