The National Commission of Minorities in India issued a report in January 2008 that strongly recommends that Muslim Dalits and Christian Dalits be awarded “Scheduled castes” status. Currently the Scheduled Castes status brings with it benefits such as reservation schemes in public employment and higher education.

The report looks into the material well being and social status of the two distinct groups and how they compare with non-Dalits in their respective religious communities. The 151 page report concludes that in terms of poverty the Dalits Muslims are the worst off, and Dalit Christians only doing slightly better. Likewise, the Dalit Muslims are the most disadvantaged in terms of education, but are closely matched by Hindu Dalits in both the rural and urban sector. Irregardless of their religion Dalits are much worse off than non-Dalits.

Considerable discrimination takes place against Dalits in their respective religious communities. Regarded as “socially inferior” Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are Dalits first and Muslims and Christian second. The report identifies forms of discrimination and exclusion practiced across religious communities. They include social and cultural segregation such as separate churches, priests and burial grounds and prohibition of inter-caste marriage. Occupational segregation and economic exploitation is also common and related practices.

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