The Dalits have been particularly open to Christianity because of its message of love and acceptance and because of the many Christian missionaries that have worked there.
"[The missionaries] went straight into these untouchable villages and they sat with them, they drank with them, they touched them," he said. "And they said, 'You're created in the image of God.' Up until that point all they had heard was the curse of God."
In referencing untouchables, Hindu scriptures actually have said it would be better if these people "had never been born," Gaddapati said.
Even today, 80 percent of converts to Christianity come from the Dalit people, he said. Some outwardly choose Hinduism to get their rights, but inwardly they're Christians, he said.
"Today the Christianity percentage [in India] is around 2.5," he said. "But in reality there are more than that. What they're doing is they're just hiding their Christian identity. There are more underground Christians in India than in any other country in the world today. Because they're untouchables, they just register themselves as Hindus, even though they're Christians in their heart."
Gaddapati is a spokesman for the All India Christian Federation, which was founded by his brother, Vijaya. The organization seeks to empower Dalits and other Indian minorities, regardless of religious affiliation.
He has been meeting with U.S. government officials and recently members of the United Nations, in the hopes that U.S. support will go a long way toward making India change the law.
Still, he knows that won't be easy. The government probably does not want to ruin its relationship with India, he said.
"If they really want human rights, if they really want freedom and all that, [the United States] will speak out and stand up," Gaddapati said. "But this is such a sensitive issue that this could jeopardize the relationship with the country itself."
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.