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Indian PM apologizes after Christians beaten up



December 13, 2013 - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologized to Church leaders for the police beating of protesters, among whom were priests and nuns, during a peaceful march to the Indian parliament in New Delhi on Wednesdsay advocating for rights for low-caste Christians. Singh apologized on Thursady when a 10-member delegation, led by Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, 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."
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.
During the Dec. 11 march, police with batons charged and beat up several protesters. Undeterred, the protesters, including Catholic priests in cassocks, knelt on the road with crosses in hand, and a police truck mounted with water cannons sprayed them with muddy water several times. Church leaders courted arrest and were released. "We are not going to tolerate this injustice (to the dalits) any longer, said Father Devasagayraj Zakarias, secretary of the Dalit Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India. "We have made our stand clear, and the prime minister has promised to try to build consensus on our demand." The priest said Catholic leaders were happy that the prime minister apologized. "Even nuns were beaten up," said the dalit priest, who had his cassock muddied by spray from the water cannons. (Source: CNS)




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