Wednesday, September 19, 2007
India, Racism and Christianity...
Almost all Christians in India hail from the so-called Dalit community, the former "untouchables" relegated to the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy. Under India's constitution, Dalits are entitled to affirmative-action benefits including 15% of all federal government jobs and admissions in government-funded universities. The government however didn't require outsourcing firms to step up and do their part to right this historical wrong.
Any Dalit caught abandoning Hinduism for Christianity loses these priveleges and can be fired from jobs gained under the quota. The rules are enforced by vigilant local officials who keep a close eye on comings and goings.
India's Dalits have tried over the centuries to escape their low status, which Hindu scriptures teach is a punishment for sins in a previous life, by embracing caste-less religions. Dalits are now turning to Christianity, attracted by benefits such as education and health care that are sometimes offered by Western funded congregations.
While discrimination against Dalits is illegal, it is in practice widespread where people from higher castes often won't touch a Dalit or share food or water. Many people of higher castes object to any action such as quotas which seek to right past wrongs and prefer to talk as if they are the victims of systemic discrimination while others who are employed by outsourcing firms will simply pretend that this problem doesn't exist and exercise their right to remain silent on this matter.
My take is that India is one of the most diverse countries on the planet only if you choose to change the meaning of diversity. If you see diversity through the lens of caste, gender, ethnic origin or religion, you may see something other than diversity, but who am I to challenge a nation of Billions to stand for the poor...
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