Indian Christian leaders and secular parties have opposed a protest rally planned on Christmas Day by a hardline Hindu organization, which is seeking to end welfare benefits for tribal people who have embraced Christianity or Islam.
The organization, whose name means forum to protect tribal people’s religion and culture — Janajati Dharma Sanskriti Suraksha Manch (JSM) — announced last week it will hold the rally on Dec. 25 at Agartala, the state capital of Tripura in northeast India.
An affiliate of the pro-Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the JSM says Christianity and Islam are foreign-origin religions, and hence tribal people converted to these faiths should be removed from the official Scheduled Tribes (STs) list to deny them education and job quotas, besides other welfare benefits, under India’s affirmative action programs.
Father Ivan D’Silva, secretary for social communication at Agartala diocese, which covers the entire Tripura state, said he wasn’t sure about “the motive behind the planned rally on Christmas Day, the holiest and most sacred festival for Christians across the world.”
“It looks like it is being done deliberately. We called a meeting of all Church denominations in the state and have decided to oppose the rally” on Christmas day, he told UCA News on Nov. 29.
The Divine Word priest said they have also launched a campaign to make tribal people in the state aware of their constitutional rights. More than 50 percent of Tripura’s population belongs to various indigenous tribes.
Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Office for Tribal Affairs, said the planned rally appeared to be part of “a political program ahead of the national elections to be held next year.”
This story was originally published in ucanews.com. Read the full story here .