Church officials see politics in Modi’s Dalit outreach

July 8, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 6, 2016: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reshuffled his cabinet to include more ministers of lower caste origin that Church officials say has nothing to do with social concerns but is an example of political point scoring.

“If the government was serious about the advancement of Dalits, why did it fail to have them in the ministry in the beginning when it came in power two years ago?” said Father Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ office for Dalits and indigenous people.

Modi expanded his cabinet on July 5 by inducting 19 new ministers from 10 states, five of them Dalits.

The Sanskrit term Dalit means trampled upon and denotes the former untouchable castes within Hindu society. They are often the target of oppression and persecution.

Newcomers to the Hindu-nationalist party-led government also include a Sikh and a Muslim.

Father Ranjit Tigga, head of the Department of Tribal Studies of the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute said both the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the umbrella body of pro-Hindu groups — Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — have been trying to secure the Dalit vote for the party to boost its popularity.

The BJP, for a long time “took Dalits for granted,” he said. “But the election results from Delhi and Bihar states showed that they need to take them seriously.”

He said that the timing of the reshuffle shows that the BJP is targeting Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat states where state elections are due in 2017.

In order to come to power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state of 199 million people, the BJP has to unseat a party that came to power speaking for Dalit welfare. Dalit votes are crucial in the state where some 80 percent people are Hindus, most of them from lower caste origins.

Mukti Prakash Tirkey, editor of a weekly on Dalit and tribal affairs published in New Delhi said, “the exercise shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party is wooing Dalits.”

Dalits have largely voted for the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh in the last two decades.

The federal government now has 16 ministers from Uttar Pradesh, the maximum from any state in an apparent bid to keep voters there content, media reports said.

One new addition to the Indian Cabinet is Ramdas Athawale, who has been made Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment. He told that “I am committed to work for the Dalits and low classes of society.”

Father Raj said that while Athawale is an able Dalit leader he can only hope that these ministers “will become the voice of the voiceless.” He also expressed hope that the Dalit ministers also speak for the rights of Christian Dalits.

Dalits form a third of India’s 25 million Christians but are denied job and educational quotas that are provided to Hindu Dalits on the grounds that Christianity does not recognize the caste system.

– ucan

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One Response to “Church officials see politics in Modi’s Dalit outreach”
  1. fr.s.john peter says:

    What you said against the BJP governnment is true ,it denies rights of the christians and it is trying to supress the christianity in the countryin all way possible.But what we are doing in the country for the Dalith christians to uplift them from their backwardness,Educationally and socially and economically so much disparity is existing as church members we always pointing out to the others but what we supposed to do,we don’t do it.In the name of the Dalit we all live happily.In the first place let all the educational institutions run by the church give admittance to the Dalit christians and educate them and they will in return, will be strengthened and they fight for their rights without our help.If the Dalits christians are educated,will have some job and have money,when they have money they have courage and fight for their rights and finally the holy mother church will strengthened by the people of god.Our institutions are not serving our Dalit christians and our institutions are serving the rich of the every state and district and mandal then how can you exspect the a Hindu government to serve the christains?How many children are being educated in our institutions?Hence all the rich is being educated in our institutions and they are becoming the rulers of the Govt,and our poor people becoming the servants to us and other people. First let our institutions serve our Dalits fully and educate them and all our foreign funds should be spent for our people without any reservation.Then we can say our mission is fulfilled and until then we cannot say and we cannot fight for the rights.Let us first Educate our children and then they will fight for their rights.
    thank you
    Fr.john peter

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