Indian Catholic bishops highlight plight of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities

By staff writers
December 14, 2006

Catholic Bishops in India have appealed for justice for the country's Muslim population as it faces increasing pressure from nationalists, alongside Christians. They have also highlighted the plight of Dalits (formerly known as 'untouchables') and other minority communities.

Muslims in India number around 130 million people - around 10% of the whole population. In recent years they been targeted by Hindutva militants in various states of the federation, Gujarat in particular.

In a press statement issued earlier this week, the Catholic Bishops welcome the Justice Sachar Committee Report recently tabled in India's parliament. This called for proper research into the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim minority community of India.

The report says that existing evidence shows that the Muslim Community is relatively poor, more illiterate, has lower access to education, lower representation in public and private sector jobs, and lower availability of bank credit for self employment than other Indian citizens from different backgrounds.

The Sachar Report also examines the socio-economic conditions of other minorities communities in India, particularly Christians of Dalit origin who have been asking for their legitimate right to be treated on par with Dalits of other religious groups.

However persistent calls for action from Dalit communities have been been neglected by successive governments at both national and state level, in spite of internationally-backed campaigns.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has also appealed to the Indian Government for speedy completion of the Mishra Commission work on the socio-economic deprivation of other minority communities in India, so that the country can move forward in its oft-stated aspirations toward democracy, pluralism, tolerance and respect for human rights.

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