Church leaders in India have condemned as a ”gross injustice” the government’s decision to offer job quotas, usually reserved for more disadvantaged castes, to the relatively wealthy Jat community.

The federal government agreed on 21 Feb. to introduce a Jat quota bill at their March assembly, after violent demonstrations across Haryana state in northern India, when at least 30 died as the dominant Jat agricultural caste protested about job quotas. The decline of farming had led to the Jats demanding a reinstatement of their “backward” status to secure more jobs. They were categorised as Other Backward Caste in 2014, but in 2015 India’s Supreme Court reversed the decision.

The move will give the Jats a bigger share of jobs in the education and government sectors.

Father Anand Muttungal, founder of the National Christian Forum, said Christians are “systematically being sidelined” from benefiting from federal and state government quotas meant for minority communities.

He said that more than 100,000 student scholarships were intended for Christians in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, but Christians received only around 3,000. “And those numbers were acquired with great difficulty,” he added.

The Forum’s national president, Sujit William, said the government has “made such regulations that it is almost impossible for Christians to benefit from them”.

Father Savari Muthu of the Delhi Archdiocese said of the Jat demonstrations: “This proves that with muscle power, you can do anything. Giving reservation to such an influential class is a gross injustice to people who really deserve these special rights.”

Indian 24 million Christians (2.3 per cent of the population) come second to the Muslim minority at 14 per cent and 1.2 billion.

Sources: BBC, UCA