By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
NEW DELHI (Worthy News)-- Last month, India's minister for social justice said his new government will not grant Dalit Christians and Muslims the same rights afforded to Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.
According to Barnabas Aid, Hindu nationalist organizations have complained that giving Christian Dalits equal rights would encourage Hindu Dalits to leave their religion.
Minister Thavar Chand Gehlot said that Dalit Christians and Muslims who left Hinduism to escape being "untouchables" are no longer oppressed by India's caste system. But India's castes also carry socio-economic stigmas. For example, Dalits --formerly known as "untouchables" because higher castes believed they would defile themselves through any physical contact -- continue to live in poverty due to discrimination in both education and employment.
Although the Indian government classifies some Dalits as "Scheduled Caste" -- making them eligible to receive certain benefits in education and employment -- followers of religions that originated outside of India are deemed ineligible for this classification.
Scheduled Caste Dalits lose their benefits if they convert to Christianity or Islam.