Christian activist: Caned and cannoned
On 11 December, Christians and Muslims in India joined together for a dharna [protest fast] and rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, demanding equal treatment by the government for Dalit Christians and Muslims. It was organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Dalit Christians, National Council of Churches in India and the Church of North India. It included archbishops, bishops, nuns, lay leaders, leaders of Dalit Christian organisations and Muslim leaders.
We were silently marching from Jantar Mantar towards Parliament House, when, suddenly, the police intervened and brutally cane-charged us. To disperse the peaceful protestors, the police used water cannons firing cold, dirty water at unbearable pressure. As a result, a number of protestors were injured. When, despite this, the protestors refused to leave, senior police officers declared that all the protestors were under arrest. They took us in buses to Parliament Street police station, and put us into custody. Those arrested included the Archbishop of Delhi, many bishops, pastors, organisation leaders, women and youths.
Despite having been badly beaten and soaked, the protestors kept shouting slogans demanding Scheduled Caste rights for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, and asked for the intervention of the prime minister of India. That evening, we were told the prime minister had agreed to meet 15 Christian and Muslim leaders at Parliament House, and receive a memorandum from them. Then we were released.
This is an extract from the March 2014 edition of Reform.