Demanding Scheduled Caste status for their community, a large number of Dalit Christians gathered at Jantar Mantar here on Wednesday.
The demonstration was organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the National Council of Churches in India and the National Council of Dalit Christians.
Many bishops, priests and nuns were among the protesters. They alleged that the police resorted to lathi-charge and used water cannons to restrict their march from Jantar Mantar to Ashoka Road.
“The police beat up priests and nuns who were peacefully marching,” said a statement issued by Father Dominic Emmanuel, the spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.
The police denied resorting to lathi-charge but said the protesters had blocked parts of Ashoka Road, leading to a chaotic traffic situation. The protesters were detained and taken to the Parliament Street police station.
Among those detained were Archbishop Anil J.T. Couto and several other bishops. They were let off after a few hours. The statement added that the key demand of the protesters was the repeal of the 1950 Presidential Order. “Christians have been demanding through various means, including taking recourse to law, to strike down the Presidential Order of 1950, which denies equal rights to Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin,” it said.
“The law itself is unconstitutional. While government after government have been turning a deaf ear to the demand of Christians, they are now going to the extent of brutally beating up our priests and nuns and arresting us too,” said Archbishop Couto.