A large number of Roman Catholics gathered at St. Mary's Church here on Tuesday to show solidarity with the decision of Indian Catholic Diocese to observe August 10 as Black Day in protest against the Presidential Order of not providing Scheduled Caste status to Dalits who converted to Christianity and Islam.

Rev Fr. Peter Fernando, Archbishop, Madurai Archdiocese, hoisted a black flag at the church in protest against the Order, terming it as discrimination against Dalit Christians and Muslims and demanded amendments to it.

The protestors also insisted that Justice Ranganath Misra's observations in the National Commission for Linguistic and Religious Minorities to “fully repeal” the law in order to completely remove the status of SC from religion and make the system of SC completely neutral with respect to religion, as that of Scheduled Tribes, be implemented.

Two amendments

On August 10, 1950, the then President of India passed Article 3 of the Constitution on Scheduled Castes (SC). The law affords members of the SCs various rights as provided in Article 341 (1) of the Indian Constitution. But the 3rd paragraph of the norm specifies that those “who profess a religion different from Hinduism” are not considered members of these groups.

However, in 1956, Dalit Sikhs demanded inclusion in the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, and got it. They were listed in Presidential SC/ST Order, 1950, by amending Para 3 of Article 341 in 1956.

For Dalit Buddhists, Para 3 of Article 341 was amended in 1990 to include them. Catholic churches and various institutions across the nation are observing this form of black flag protest.

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