3 Indian Bishops Arrested


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CHENNAI, India, MARCH 10, 2010 ( Numerous religious, including three bishops, were arrested for taking part in a demonstration near Chennai in defense of the rights of Christian and Muslim "untouchables."

The police detained hundreds of people on Friday including priests, nuns, Archbishop Malayappan Chinnappa of Madras and Mylapore, Archbishop Peter Fernando of Madurai, and bishop Anthonisamy Neethinathan of Chinglepet, UCANews reported.

Friday's manifestation was the culmination of a month-long demonstration in favor of the lowest social caste, known as the dalits or untouchables.

The objective was to make the population and the state authorities more aware of the marginalization suffered by members of this class of society.

Thousands of people participated in a march that spanned some 310 miles, beginning a month earlier in the southern city of Kanyakumari.

Christian leaders joined to call for aid to the poor dalits, in keeping with the Ranganath Misra Report submitted in 2007.

Archbishop Chinnappa, president of the Council of Bishops of Tamil Nadu, said that the Christian and Muslim dalits are suffering from the delay in implementing the report.

This document from the Misra Commission clearly states that to exclude Christians and Muslims in the list of beneficiaries of this aid implies discrimination for reasons of religion, which goes against India's Constitution.

Members of the untouchable caste have traditionally been given only the lowest employment, but since 1950 the Indian government has been backing programs of social promotion and inclusion that give preference to the education and public employment of members of this group.

However, those programs, initially directed to Hindu dalits and subsequently opened to those of the Sikh and Buddhist religion, continue to exclude Muslims and Christians, who represent the majority of the "untouchables."

Those arrested in Friday's manifestation were detained for several hours and then released.