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Not in favour to give SC reservation to Christian and Muslim Dalits: Government

Tuesday, 9 December 2014 - 1:26am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The Government on Monday said it is not in favour of bringing Dalits of Christian and Muslim communities under the ambit of reservation for the Scheduled Castes.

Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said this during a discussion on a Bill to include more castes under SC category in four states and exclude one from it in Sikkim which was passed by the Parliament on Monday. "We are not agreeable to it," Gehlot said referring to a demand by some members in the Upper House to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in reservation for SCs.

 

Citing a case in the Supreme Court in this regard, the Minister said that discussions can happen based on its outcome. Responding to demands from several parties on extending reservation in the private sector, Gehlot said this demand has been there for the last 15 years and it would be looked into.

Gehlot was replying to matters raised by members during the discussion on the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2014 which has been passed by the Lok Sabha earlier. Rajya Sabha also passed the Bill by a voice vote with most parties supporting it. The Bill was first tabled in 2012 but lapsed after the previous Lok Sabha was dissolved and the BJP government introduced it August in Lok Sabha. 

Gehlot sought to address members' concerns, saying that diversion of funds from Scheduled Castes Special Component Plan is an important issue and such a practice is not desirable. Earlier, in the discussion over the Bill, P L Punia (Congress) supported the legislation and said that the population of those in the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) has increased and the percentage of reservation should also be increased in the same proportion.

Punia advocated extending reservations for these sections in private sector as well as the judiciary. AIADMK member K Arjunan sought to highlight the demand to include Dalit Christians in the list of Scheduled Castes. Husain Dalwai (Congress) sought reservation benefits for Dalit-Muslims saying discrimination on the basis of caste is not confined to only one religion.

Tarun Vijay (BJP) and D Bandyopadhyay (TMC) supported the Bill. Bandyopadhyay said that the Centre should bring out a comprehensive plan for the development of weaker sections adding that at present efforts only constitute disjointed schemes. Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (SP) and Anil Kumar Sahani (JD-U) also participated in the debate.

BJP member Nanda Kumar Sai demanded strict regulations to eliminate fake community certificates and recording the names of communities in officials records in Hindi and regional languages as well to avoid spelling mistakes. Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD), D Raja (CPI), Ambeth Rajan (BSP), Chaudhary Munavvar Saleem (SP) were among those who shared their views.



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Conversion And Reservation: Christian Dalits And The Obstacles To Social Mobility

I. Knowing Christian Dalits
Christian Dalits or the Dalit Christians? How a person is identified? There are many ways of identifying a person living in a society by name, age, class, caste or religion. As soon as we meet a person we identify him by his name and from his name we identify his religion and from his surname we try or successfully identify his caste. His age and class are secondary aspects, which can be identified anytime.

The saint and great philosopher Swami Vivekananda said:
Religion as it is generally taught all over the world is said to be based upon faith and belief and in most cases consists only of different sets of theories and that is the reason why we find all religions quarrelling with one another. These theories are again based upon faith and belief.

The religion of a person in India has or bears a greater significance than any other aspects of the social realm. This significance can be understood as, a person is most commonly identified by his religion. The society in the present scenario is divided on the basis of religion. Religion of a person is the first thing which determines whether or not a person can be a member of the a particular group. What would be his status in that group is determined on the basis of what position he holds in that religion, i.e. caste.

This stratification of society based on caste holds a very negative or demeaning impact on those members of society who are standing at a lowest place in this hierarchy. To avoid this stand of being lowest in the hierarchy some people began to find a escape route and thus emerged a new caste or social group in society, known as Christian Dalits.

These are the persons who were earlier at the lowest strata when they were professing Hindu religion and were known as Dalits. In an attempt to forego their standing of the lowest strata, these Dalits renounced Hindu religion and started looking forward to a new religion Christianity.

The Bull or letter of Pope Gregory XV, “Bulla Romanae Sedis Antistitis”, dated 31 January 1623, accedes to the requests of the missionaries to accommodate themselves to certain caste practices and usages of the new converts. The Bull agreed to tolerate the continuance of certain traditional customs and usages. Taking into account the difficulties encountered by the Brahmin converts if they were obliged to abandon certain external signs (such as sacred thread, sandals, ablutions), and considering that these external rites could be interpreted as meaning signs of nobility and function and to show some empathy for human sensibilities, the Bull agreed to tolerate those usages, provided all danger of superstition was avoided and the convert showed charity and respect towards people of obscure condition, this presumably being a reference to Dalits.

The Christianity had no stratification all were considered equal in Christianity. But contributing to the troubles of the Dalits they were not successful in their attempt to forego their position of being the lowest in hierarchy. The new social group which was brought into existence, brought in with it a new practice a practice of caste system or hierarchy being followed among Christians.

Their religion placed no effect on their social or dalit status, earlier they were Hindu Dalits now they are Christian Dalits. Apart from their identity there has been no change in their social or economic status. Their status has been a matter of concern for quite a long time now.

Commissions appointed by Government of India

The Government of India appointed many commissions to study the real situation of the Christian Dalits. The Commissions focused at the social, educational and economical condition of Christian Dalits and came out with these disturbing reports. The Commissions reported accurately and authentically that the change of religion to Christianity had not significantly changed the lives of Christian Dalits. They observed that Christian Dalits are exposed to all sorts of misery both in the Church and in the society, such as violence and exclusion from the use of ordinary facilities like wells, roads, restaurants, schools:

i. Report of Kaka Kalelkar, Chairman of the Backward Classes Commission, Jan 3rd, 1955 
(This report was based on study based on the Christian Dalits' situation in Kerala). “We discovered with deep pain and sorrow that untouchability did obtain in the extreme south among Indian Christians, and Indian Christians were prepared in many places to assert that they were still guided by caste, not only in the matter of untouchability, but in social hierarchy of high and low. While the harijans amongst the Hindus, classified as scheduled castes, stand a fair chance of bettering their condition under the Indian Government's reservation policy, their Christian counterparts stand twice discriminated.”

ii. The Chidambaram report in 1975 admitted "That casteism is practiced widely among the members of the Christian fold as judged by the characteristic of the caste system and going by the economic status of the Harijan Christians. It is evident that they are a poverty stricken lot."

iii. Report of Mandal Commission, Commission of Backward Classes under the Chairmanship of B.P.Mandal, 1980. The Mandal Commission Report has accepted the reality of caste among Indian Christians, as in any other community. It has taken the example of the Christian community in Kerala, which, according to the Mandal Commission Report, is not only divided into various denominations on the basis of beliefs and rituals, but also 'into various ethnic groups on the basis of their caste background."

Even after conversion the lower caste converts continue to be treated as Harijans by all sections of society, including the Syrian Christians. In the presence of rich Syrian Christians the Harijan Christians had to remove their headdress, it was found that the Syrian and Pulaya members of the same Church conduct religious rituals separately in separate buildings. Thus lower caste converts to a very egalitarian religion like Christianity, ever anxious to expand its membership, even after generations were not able to efface the effect of their caste background.

The Mandal Commission Report took note of an important suggestion made by Prof. Madhu Dandavate and reflected his views:

Prof. Madhu Dandavate stated that conversion from one faith to another did not change the socio-economic status of a person. It was, therefore, desirable that converts from Scheduled Castes to Buddhism, Christianity etc, should be treated as Scheduled Castes. But until this change was brought about by legislation, all such converts should be listed as OBCs (Other Backward Classes).

The Mandal Commission Report has concluded without any doubt that among Indian Christians caste is a reality. According to the report "social and educational backwardness among" the Christian community is more or less the same as among Hindu communities. Though the caste system is peculiar to Hindu society, in actual practice, it also pervades Christian society. The Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin (Christian Dalits) suffer the same disabilities as their counterparts belonging to other religions.

In view of this, Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism etc., should not be denied the benefits extended to Scheduled Castes and the same should hold good in respect of other backward classes. In some places, it was also contended that all Muslims and all Christians should be included in the list of other backward classes as these communities were indeed backward.

II. Evolution / Origin of Conversion
For ages together in India there was only one religion prevalent or professed, it was Hinduism. With the invasion of foreign rulers a new religion was brought in and among them one was Christianity. When there was only one religion known to the people conversion to any other religion / belief was never brought into picture, but with introduction to a new religion or a new way of reaching to God became known to people, the people who were at the lower / lowest level in the religion were attracted to this foreign religion as they found there was no caste divide in this religion; so they will no longer be in the lowest level of the caste.

This attraction towards a new religion or belief has led many of Dalits to convert their religion to this new belief and thus letting forego their earlier belief. The conversion from Hinduism was not only limited to the Christianity, much before conversion to Christianity many Hindu Dalits converted to Buddhism also. Buddhism is not considered as unique religion it forms part of or is included in the Hinduism thus conversion to this belief is not considered as conversion to any other religion, still its status is recognized. But when the issue of reservation comes into picture Buddhist Dalit do share a place. If a religion is not recognized as separate religion than why the dalit sect of that religion be provided reservation separately.

In Chandra Shekharan v. Kulundurivalu, Supreme Court held, if a person converts from Hindu religion to Sikh, Buddhism or Jainism he does not cease to be Hindu since all these religions do not fall beyond the definition of ‘Hindu’ in the relevant section of Hindu Marriage Act. He ceases to be Hindu if he converts into Islam, Christianity or Jews or Zoroastrian.

Major Events Of Conversion
Major events of conversion are not reported unless, they are highlighted by media or a hue and cry is made by Hindu Organization. Following are the major incidents of religious conversion in post independence.

i. Nagpur (Maharashtra): - The First and the biggest mass conversion, which the country has ever witnessed, took placed on the 14th day of October 1956. Place Nagpur, Maharashtra, the city where the Headquarter of Rastriya Swayamsewak Sangh is situated. About a half a million Dalits said good-bye to Hinduism from their life and embraced Buddhism under the leadership of the greatest social reformer, the great visionary and the prophet of Dalit emancipation Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

ii. Dulina (Haryana): - Another significant event of religious conversion which created a lot of hue and cry in the society took place at Gurgaon, Haryana 2002. This all had happened after a very pathetic incident of burning Five Dalits alive by a mob of upper caste people in a police station at Dulina in Jhajjar District in Haryana. The Police remained a silent spectator. Now nothing was left for the families of these massacred Dalits to remain in such a violent and hatred preaching system of faith, where in Dalit have no place. All the five families of massacred Dalits got converted in to Buddhism at Rabidas Mandir, Gurgaon, Haryana on 28th October 2002 under the banner of All India Confederation of Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe organization and the Lord Buddha club in the presence of famous film director, All India Christian Council, Jamait Ulma-I Hind and in the presence of Media Persons.

Another dimension of this event of conversion is that after this event all the Saffron Hindu Organizations rushed to these families and threatened them to face dire consequences on account of the above said conversion. Due to assaults and threats and under the pressure of these Hindu Organization, ultimately, these sacred Dalit families broke down and had to make a public statement that we did not leave Hindu religion, we did not convert.

iii. Guntur (Andhra Pradesh):-In July 2002 another incident of religious conversion took place in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh where 70 Dalits converted into Christianity.

iv. Delhi: - In the year 2002 Udit Raj the Chairman of All India Confederation of Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe Organizations and the Lord Buddha Club give a national wide call for conversion. This conversion ceremony was supposed to be performed at Ram Leela Maidan of Delhi. Around one million Dalits were supposed to get convert into Buddhism.

The preparations regarding this massive conversion were on. This nation wide call for the conversion got an unprecedented coverage in national and international media. Dehydration to saffron Hindu organization regarding such a massive programme of conversion was oblivious. These organizations resorted all means to shut of the mouth of media, so that this call may not reach the public at large. The Ram Leela Maidan, where the programme was supposed to be organized, declared as prohibited area and Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in and around the area, all borders of Delhi where from an arrival of large number Dalits to take Diksha, was possible were sealed. The Government was determined to ensure by hook or by crook let the event might not be organized. Finally, the organizer had to change the spot for the proposed event. The Government could not succeed to curb the enthusiasm of dalits and ultimately more than 10,000 Dalits succeeded to say good bye to Hinduism and embraced Buddhism.

Anti-Conversion Laws
The Freedom of Religion Laws inadvertently called the Anti-Conversion Laws were enacted to provide freedom of religion by prohibiting the practice conversion by means of force or fraud or inducement or allurement. The genesis of these laws has always been in question, as an individuals definition of freedom or religion, might not match with government version of freedom of religion. The Act prohibits conversion by force or fraud or inducement or allurement, but what amounts to these acts has not been expressly provided in the laws all the decisions regarding forced conversion are left on the authorities to decide, and these are the authorities who enacted these laws and are thereby causing prejudice to the person who is propagating his religion.

According to government, they are keeping intact the individuals right of freedom of religion while preventing forced conversion. But on the other hand if an individual wants to convert willingly he has to follow the procedure provided under the Act, under which he has to notify his conversion to the Magistrate, provide his reason for conversion and if authorities are satisfied only then he can convert his religion.

These Anti-Conversion Laws have been in force for time immemorial now. The first such Act came into being in Rajgarh State in 1936, than came Patna Freedom of Religion Act 1942, Surguza State Apostasy Act 1945, Udaipur State Anti Conversion Act 1946. Following the footsteps of these states Bikaner, Jodhpur, Kalahandi and Kota also enacted similar laws.

Starting in the 1950s, various States in India began to create tensions between Hindus and Christians through the enactment of “freedom of religion” legislation. These laws have not only restricted the practice of Christianity and other non-Hindu religions, but have also led to an upsurge of violence against such minority religions in India. In effect, the Freedom of Religion Acts are direct Hindu attempts to use state power to prevent conversion; thus, they violate the freedom of religion espoused by the Constitutionof India. The Indian government has enacted such laws for six decades for the ostensible purpose of protecting minority religions from violence and censure and to ensure religious freedom for all. However, these “anti conversion” laws are at the heart of a power struggle within the caste system in India, and the prohibition on conversion helps to keep the most maligned and powerless members of Indian society—the Dalits, or “untouchables”—performing the most menial, degrading, and dangerous jobs in India, with no prospect of upward mobility.

Below is a list of the various States with anti-conversion laws, their demographics, and a brief explanation of the violence occurring in those States against minority religions:

i. Orissa: Dalits and Tribal’s make up forty percent of the population in Orissa. Hindu extremists attacked Christian villagers and Churches over the Christmas holidays. They damaged about 100 Christian Churches and institutions, destroyed 700 Christian homes—causing villagers to flee—and disrupted Christian-owned businesses.

ii. Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh: Madhya Pradesh accounts for the highest percentage of Dalit and Tribal population to total “outcast” population of the country—14.5 percent. This State saw the third highest attack rate. Hindu extremists “disrupted prayer meetings, destroyed or damaged places of worship, vandalized property, assaulted pastors and lay persons, confiscated and destroyed religious material, and attempted to intimidate Christians from attending religious services.” The police, however, arrested the victims—not their attackers—and then further victimized the Christians. Christians were also subject to false allegations of violating the anti-conversion laws.

September 22, 1998 - In a most shocking incident in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, four of our Religious Sisters were assaulted and gang-raped in the early hours.

iii. Himachal Pradesh: The Freedom of Religion Act was passed in 2006 without any reports of forced conversions, and for assuredly entirely political reasons. Dalits comprise 24.7 percent of the population in this state. Attacks and beatings at Christian places of worship increased immediately upon passage of the anti-conversion law.

iv. Gujarat: Dalits, Tribal’s, and Muslims together account for more than half of Gujarat’s population. There were reports of attacks on Christians, disruption of worship services, death threats against pastors and parishioners, police refusal to prosecute, and continued refusal to prosecute any person for the communal violence and rioting of 2002.

In Umerpada village, 24 Christians were harassed by the police inspector G. M. Damor of Dangs Police station on November 13, 1997 on a false complaint allegedly made by a local VHP activist Kalu Chhibadia of Ghadavi village.

In Kudkas village, on November 25 1997, evangelist Premchand was going home on a cycle at 11 p.m. after finishing a prayer meeting when he was beaten by the police. Christian convention at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium was disturbed in November 1997 when during the evening session, alleged VHP volunteers came up to the stage and snatched the mike, while the preacher was singing devotional songs. They shouted Hindu slogans through the mike. Cables were cut and a Matador van parked on the ground was damaged

In Dagadpada village, on December 26 1997, a day after Christmas, adivasis celebrating the festival were stoned and harassed the entire night by CPI Damor and others and were put in jail for no reason at the height of their festival celebrations.

On December 25, 1997, Pipalwada, Vyara taluka, Surat district, one group of 2,000 people of Hindu fundamentalists came to demolish Churches and disrupt the Christmas celebrations, arranged in the Churches there. Series of attacks on Christian tribals allegedly by Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad.

v. Rajasthan: After repeated refusals by the governor to sign the original act, the assembly passed the Freedom of Religion Bill of 2008. News media reported acts of violence against Christians, and police arrested people accused of forcible conversion and interrogated various Christian leaders accused of human trafficking and prostitution. A May 2008 terrorist attack killed 100 and injured 400 more.

vi. Uttar Pradesh: September 23, 1998 - A crowd led by the BJP MLA Shailendra Pradhan attacked the parish house of Fr. Edward Sarel, about 10 km from Jhabua.

4 September '98 - a Clarist Convent in Baghpat (U.P.) was attacked.

September 23 - Nuns in a Clarist Convent were attacked in Bhagpat.

September 26 - The sub divisional magistrate, Mr. Yadav, along with the Police Station Officer, Mr. R. D. Rai and Sub-inspectors Mr. Girija Singh and Mr. Shri Ram Mishra along with seven policemen forced their way into the Jiwan Jyoti Christian Hospital Campus in Robertsganj. They threatened a group of about 32 seekers and misbehaved with the medical superintendent, Dr. (Mrs.) Monica Benjamin.

September 26 - Activists of Hindu Jagran Manch, Bajrang Dal and Rana Tharu Parishad broke into the Union Church in Amaun, two kilometers east of Khatima, in Udham Singh Nagar District. They put up an idol of Shiva in the Church and worshipped it for about two hours.

October 30, 1998 - The BJP dominated council of Ayodhya last week passed a resolution banning burial of the bodies within the municipal limits of this historic town.

vii. Karnataka: July 17, Bajrang Dal conducts simultaneous raids all over Karnataka, forcing their way into Christian schools and Convents. Cluny convent, Bangalore; the Sacred Heart Convent, Keshwapur, Hubli; the St. Mary's Convent School, Christ the King Convent School, Nirmala Convent School, St. Joseph's Convent School and Carmel Convent School, all in Mysore; the St. Joseph's Convent School and St. John's Convent School in Mandya and the St. Joseph's Girl's High School in Bellary reported such raids.

July, Bajrang Dal activists forced their way into St. Mary's Convent School while the Assembly was on and spat on the face of a nun who protested.

viii. New Delhi: July 16, Hindu politicians prepare bill harmful to Christian education. The bill calls for all schools to conform to the concept that India should be a Hindu nation. It calls for the rewriting of India's history books and the closure of non-Hindu religious schools.

July 23, Delhi Government attempts to close down Churches because the serving of sacramental wine violates liquor laws.

September 5, Bajrang Dal launches "Quit India" campaign against Christian missionaries.

ix. Bihar: Sept. 2, 1997, Dumka, RC Father Christudas assaulted, paraded naked.

Oct. 27, '97, Hazaribagh, Father A.T. Thomas murdered brutally

In view of this, Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism etc., should not be denied the benefits extended to Scheduled Castes and the same should hold good in respect of other backward classes. In some places, it was also contended that all Muslims and all Christians should be included in the list of other backward classes as these communities were indeed backward.

Another important issue with which these laws deal while dealing with conversion is Propagation of ones religion. TheConstitution has guaranteed every individual to propagate ones religion. Propagation or to propagate ones religion means to cause (something) to increase in number or amount or to spread and promote (an idea, theory, knowledge, etc.) widely. It is being dealt with conversion as for some people propagation is closely associated with the issue of forced conversion.

Propagation in itself does not deals with conversion of religion, but it certainly guarantees the freedom of choice of religion. As there will be no freedom of choice unless a person is aware what options he has. The concept of propagating ones religion is most commonly conceived as proselytizing. Proselytizing on the other hand means to convert or attempt to convert someone from one religion, belief or opinion to another.

Proselytizing can be very easily associated with the Anti-Conversion Laws that in force in various States, as they have a misconception that all Acts relating to propagation of ones religion end up in proselytizing others, i.e., forcing them to convert. Another misconceived notion of propagation is that, propagating ones religion means causing disgrace to another religion, which these authorities fail to ponder.

According to some of the authorities which came forward with Anti-Conversion Laws or so called Freedom of Religion Laws, propagation of ones religion per-se carries ill will and it should be made punishable. This view of these authorities received consent of the judiciary.

In Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the Supreme Court refused to read the freedom to convert within the right to propagate ones religion and held that:

‘What the article grants is not the right to convert another person to ones own religion, but to transmit or spread ones religion by an exposition of its tenets.’

One more aspect or facet of conversion is Reconversion. The practice of reconversion is common in the states who witness massive conversion or incidents of violence after such conversion. The accounts of some converts who reconverted or are pondering over the issue of reconversion are as follows:

“I converted to Christianity about 8-10 years ago because I was offered Rs. 750 every month by the missionaries for which I only had to attend Church on Sundays,” said Bisraba Digal, 37, of Minia village. “Now, I want to come back to Hinduism because I want to live in peace in my village and not at some refugee camp,” said the father of two after collecting his share of blankets, buckets and plastic sheets from the government relief truck parked nearby.

Dinakaran Digal and Pramod Digal, also of the same village, have similar stories to tell. While Dinakaran was born a Christian because his father embraced the religion, Pramod turned to the Church a few years ago for a monthly stipend of Rs. 400. “Even that they did not pay in full or on time,” said a disenchanted Pramod, who has decided to come back to Hinduism. They all say they have submitted applications to the local VHP volunteers to arrange a pratyavartan, or homecoming ceremony. According to Sharma, reconversion is an official process. “They make a written application to the sub-collector...with all their family details, which is then forwarded to us,” he said. “We then fix a date and ask them to come to the place where we hold...rituals.” They are given a talk about Hindu dharma, garlanded, gifted new clothes and sometimes, also shave their heads in penance.

If it’s not material lure and the dreams of a better lifestyle to those living in grinding poverty, it is the need to avoid social ostracizing that drives conversion and reconversion in these parts.

III. Obstacles
A. Presidential Order
When the Indian Constitution was drafted some special rights and privileges were extended to the social category, which was known as Schedule Caste in a bid to ensure equality and dignity. It was a compensation for the historical injustices and discrimination that the Schedule Caste were subjected to for many centuries. Further, it was seen as a way of equalizing opportunities to those who were denied such opportunities. By making reservation available for them it was hoped by the framers of the Constitution that such provisions would improve their lives and that the Schedule Caste would gain both, social and economic status.

This status has been provided to them in respect of the Article 341 of the Constitution which states that President may specify the castes as Schedule Caste after consultation with Governor, which can be further amended by the Parliament.

Pursuant to this The Constitution (Schedule Caste) Order, 1950 was enacted it provided a list of castes which shall be deemed to be schedule caste in respect of State to which it relates, which can further be altered by that State. It also expressly provides that any person who is not a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist shall not be deemed to be the member of the Schedule Caste, thereby excluding the Christian Dalits. Since then on various occasions Government has been approached to amend the present structure of the 1950 Order.

B. The Persistence of Caste
A caste is a closed, ascriptive group whose membership is decided by birth and is hereditary (i.e., one inherits the caste of one’s parents); mandatory (i.e., it is not a matter of choice); and unalterable (i.e. caste identity cannot be changed).

Castes are part of a system in which they are both strictly separated and closely integrated in a hierarchy determined, in the original Hindu case, by notions of graded ritual purity or pollution. This hierarchy is supposed to be authorized by Hindu religious scriptures, though the precise nature and extent of this authority are matters of debate. Thus, taken as components of a system, castes are non-competing, interdependent but strictly hierarchized groups.

It is generally agreed that caste tends to survive the process of conversion, so that Christian communities reproduce the caste structure prevalent in Hindu society, at least in its broad features if not in exact detail.

Caste based discrimination is a contemporary reality when it comes to Christian Dalits. For instance, in 1993, in a non-descript village, Chunduru of Andhra Pradesh, 12 Christian Dalits were massacred by the Reddys allegedly because a Dalit Christian youth sat with his feet up in the local cinema hall and accidentally touched an upper caste youth sitting in the seat in front of him. This massacre took place just because the ‘offender’ was a Dalit Christian and not a Kamma Christian or Reddy Christian. If the youth belonged to a Kamma or Reddy Christian community the offended would not have dared to create a ruckus since the Kamma or Reddy Christians would also retaliate. Thus, the prevalence of Brahmin Christian, Kamma or Reddy Christian, Syrian Christian and caste Christian in itself is an indication of the continuance of caste system even after a person has given up Hinduism and adapted another religion. With the continuation of caste, caste based discrimination is also a reality. Undoubtedly, the sufferers are Dalits including those who got converted to Christianity or Islam.

Supreme Court on Persistence of Caste
In S. Anbalagan v. B. Devarajan & Ors, Supreme Court held: The practice of caste however irrational it may appear to our reason and however repugnant it may appear to our moral and social science, is so deep-rooted in the Indian people that its mark does not seem to disappear only conversion to a different religion. If it disappears, only to reappear on reconversion. The mark of caste does not seem to really disappear even after some generations after conversion. In Andhra Pradesh and in Tamil Nadu, there are several thousands of Christian families whose forefathers became Christians and who, though they profess the Christian religion, nonetheless observe the practice of Caste. There are Christian Reddies, Christian Kammas, Ceristian Nadars, Christian Adi-Andhras, Christian Adi Dravidas and so on. The practice of their caste is so rigorous that there are intermarriages with Hindus of the same caste but not with Christians of another caste.

In Soosai Etc v. Union Of India And Others, Supreme Court held: To establish that paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 discriminates against Christian members of the enumerated castes it must be shown that they suffer from a comparable depth of social and economic disabilities and cultural and educational backwardness and similar levels of degradation within the Christian community necessitating intervention by the State under provisions of the Constitution. It is not sufficient to show that the same caste continues after conversion. It is necessary to establish further that the disabilities and handicaps suffered from such caste membership in the social order of its origin - Hinduism continue in their oppressive severity in the new environment of a different religious community. No authoritative or detailed study dealing with the present conditions of Christian society have been placed on the record in this case.

C. Alienation and Stereotyping
Another significant social fact that needs to be explored is that the group that gets converted to another religion gets isolated from its parent body or from the other members of the caste group. This is all the more true of the lower caste segment. Though, conversion from Hinduism to Christianity provides an avenue to escape from caste oppression, it ultimately, leads to cultural alienation of Dalits and they are subjected to atrocities.

Christian Dalits constitute about 75 per cent in the Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu, but only about 6 per cent among the priests and nuns are Dalits. Similar situation exists in the whole of India. Similarly, there are not even about 8 (just about 5 per cent) Dalit Bishops among the nearly 155 Catholic Bishops in India.

Problems of the Church in India
The Church’s biggest problem is their unwillingness to meet the needs of the Christian Dalits. There are some who acknowledge the plight of the Dalits and who want to do something about it, but as a whole, the Church is incapable of doing just that. This was also acknowledged at the conference on justice for Dalits in Bangkok: “We were reminded in challenging and sometimes emotional terms of the continuing prevalence of caste in the Church and the silence of the Church in addressing caste both inside and outside the Church.”

The reason for this is that the governing of the Church is in the hands of the upper castes. So, although the Indian Church is a Church of the Dalits, it projects an ‘elitist’ image. This has some serious consequences for the Church in India and the Christian Dalits in particular. First of all, despite many promises, their situation is not getting better because they are with the Christian community: “When we converted, the Church had promised us equality and promised to protect our interests and undertake measures for us. But what we got is more discrimination.” This is what is seen in the Christian educational institutions, which are almost inaccessible for Christian Dalits. And then it is just a matter of time that Christian Dalits begin to doubt their conversion: they have lost any right to reservation and they realize that they are not getting anything from the Church. This disappointment can then eventually lead to Dalits reconverting to Hinduism, as was seen for example in Chennai, where last April about thousand Christian Dalits reconverted to Hinduism.

At the moment, the Church is far from what, Dalits really need. They want for example education, economic assistance and pastoral care, things the Church is not offering. The Church in India should know that millions of Dalits in general, and about 1.5 million Dalit Christians, are still waiting to receive the whole of salvation, because so far they have only been offered the half of salvation which speaks of ‘saving their souls’.

The Church personnel in their conversations when they want to say anything derogatory or negative about Christian Dalits, they instead of referring to their caste would use abbreviations. For instance, in Tamil Nadu they would say ‘pl’ to refer to Pallar and ‘pr’ to refer to Paraiya. It is significant to note that such usage is not just limited to south India, but practiced in north India as well. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, when the Church personnel want to refer to Christian Dalits they use the word ‘ch’ implying Chamars. These kinds of references are disapproved by Christian Dalits. But since they are dependent upon the caste Christians, they do not openly oppose such practices. But now they are resisting these kinds of practices.

The old Christians are known as Syrian Christians whereas Harijan converts are known as Putu Christians (Neo-Christians), Chermar Christians, Pulaya Christians etc. During the course of the field work, it was found that only Syrian Christians were referred to as ‘Christians’, and Pulaya Christians were referred to as ‘Pulayas’ by all, including the Pulaya Christians themselves. The Pulaya Christians addressed the Syrian Christians by honorific titles such as Tampuran (Lord), Panikke (Master), whereas Syrian Christians added the suffix ‘Pulaya’ while addressing a Pulaya Christian. For example, a Thoma is called Thoma Pulayan, a Chacko as Chacko Pulayan, and so on, as is done in the case of Hindu Pulayas.

In the presence of rich Syrian Christians, the Harijan Christians had to remove their head-dress. While speaking with their Syrian Christian masters, they had to keep their mouth closed with a hand. Pulaya Christians are not given food inside the house of a Syrian Christian or in a good dish, but only outside the house in some broken dish. After taking food, they have to wash it.

Even though neither the Mar Thoma Church nor the Church of South India officially approves of the segregation of their Syrian and Pulaya members, such segregation is actually prevalent. It was found that the Syrian and Pulaya members of the same Church conduct religious rituals separately in separate buildings. The Syrian Christian priests who conduct the ritual at the Syrian Christian Churches do not go to or perform rituals in the Church of the Pulayas, but there are separate persons specially appointed for this purpose. There is no positive ban on the Pulayas attending the rituals at the Syrian Christian Churches, but few Pulayas ever do so. In the organization of the Church also, the Pulayas are not given proper representation. For example, in the Mar Thoma Church, every Syrian Christian parish is entitled to send representatives to the representative body called Mandalam, but the Pulaya Churches are not entitled to this right. A Pulaya has yet to be made a priest in the Mar Thoma Church.

In the Jacobite Church, the number of lower caste converts are relatively few, and usually they attend the services at the Syrian Churches. However, they usually occupy only back seats in the Church.

Table 1
Incidence of Crime against SCs during 1998 to 2001


Crime Head 1998 1999 2000 2001
Murder 516 506 526 763
Rape 923 1,000 1,083 1,136
Kidnapping & Abduction 253 228 268 400
Dacoity 49 3638 41
Robbery 150 109 108 133
Arson 346 337 290 354
Hurt 3,809 3,241 3,497 4,547
Crimes Against Protection
Of Civil Rights 724 678 672 633
Crimes under POA Act 7,443 7,301 7,386 13,113
Others 11,425 11,657 11,587 12,201
Total 25,638 25,093 25,455 33,501

Source: Crime Record India, National Crime Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs,
Government of India, New Delhi, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Christian Dalits are severely marginalized in the vocations of priests and nuns and in the appointments for any higher authority or positions. Even though Christian Dalits constitute about 75 per cent in the Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu, only about 6 per cent among the priests and nuns are Dalits. Similar situation exists in the whole of India. Similarly, there are not even about 8 (just about 5 per cent) Dalit Bishops among the nearly 155 Catholic Bishops in India. This is again a serious exclusion of Christian Dalits from the mainstream of the Church even though they form a big majority in the Catholic population. It is a clear that the caste domination is operating at all levels of making the choice, recommendations and decisions for the appointment of Bishops. Representations have been also sent to Rome to rectify such anomalies.

III. The path ahead - Reservation

Reservation is an affirmative action taken by the State to remove the persistent or present and continuing effects of past discrimination on particular segments of the Society to:
(i) lift the ‘limitation on access to equal opportunities’;
(ii) grant opportunity for full participation in the governance of the society;
(iii) overcome substantial chronic underrepresentation of a social group; and
(iv) serve/achieve the important constitutional/ governmental objectives.

The history of reservations in India can be traced back to the cases of State of Madras v. Srimathi Champakam Dorairajan and Venkatraman v. State of Madras. In these cases the Indian Supreme Court held that any legislation and/or executive order prescribing reservations on the basis of caste were unconstitutional. Soon after the said two decisions the Parliament intervened and in exercise of its constituent power amended Article 15 by inserting Clause (4) which states that “Nothing in this article or in Clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”

In the course of time, judicial view underwent considerable change and more importance was given to ‘caste’ as a factor to assess backwardness. In P. Rajendran v. State of Madras it was held that though ‘caste’ cannot be the sole criteria, it should not be forgotten that caste is also a class of citizens and if the caste as a whole is socially and educationally backward, reservation can be made in favor of such caste.

Opposition to the demand of the Christian Dalits for reservation could come from the following quarters –
a. Dalits who are following Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism will oppose this move since they feel that they will have to share reservation with this additional group. Instead of exploring the possibility of how to bring in all Dalits into one banner and find greater solidarity to fight for their rights, these people are playing on the stipulated 15.5 per cent reservation. This stipulation of 15.5 per cent for the SCs or the 49 per cent reservation for all the weaker sections is not a holy cow that cannot be reexamined;

b. Caste Christians will oppose such a move fearing the equalization of Dalits with them. All along history, caste Christians have opposed any move to bring in change in the discriminated state of Christian Dalits. They opposed the Church when it tried to introduce change in the lives of Christian Dalits and they will do the same when the Government is made to adhere to the principles of the Constitution;

c. The bureaucracy will also oppose this move fearing backlash from Dalits who are following Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism and caste Hindus and caste Christians. Especially, they will feign ignorance regarding this demand since they do not want to be on the wrong side of the Hindutva forces. Since most of the officials are known for maintaining status quo, it is less possible they will support this move.

Table 2
Estimated Caste Composition of Religions Rural India, 2004-05
Religious Scheduled Scheduled Other ‘Upper’ All
Communities Tribes Castes Backward Castes Castes

Classes
Hindu 11.2 23.4 44.6 20.9 100.0
Muslim 0.5 0.6 39.7 59.2 100.0
Christian 38.9 9.4 20.9 30.8 100.0
Sikh 1.2 34.8 24.3 39.8 100.0
Buddhist 11.4 85.0 0.6 3.1 100.0
Others 72.9 2.0 4.2 20.9 100.0
All Religions 10.6 20.9 42.8 25.7 100.0

Source: NSSO 61st Round Unit level Data

The number of DCs could be at least five times of what the NSSO estimates show it to be.

Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 1996
In a Note for Cabinet dated 6.3.1996, The Ministry of Welfare had proposed to include SC converts to Christianity as SCs in theConstitutional (Scheduled Caste) Orders so as to make them eligible for all statutory safeguards and benefits accruing to the members of SCs. The Cabinet approved this proposal at its meeting held on 07.03.1996. In pursuance of this decision, theConstitutional (Scheduled Caste) Orders (Amendment) Bill 1996, (Bill No. 17 of 1996) was prepared. The Bill sought to amend the earlier Constitutional (Scheduled Caste) Orders so as to remove the bar in Christians converted from the SCs being deemed to be members of the SCs. Although, the Bill was listed for introduction as a supplementary item in the Lok Sabha on 12.03.1996, it could not be introduced. Following the adjournment of Parliament, the Cabinet decided on 14.03.1996, that an Ordinance be issued for the purpose. An Ordinance was proposed to the President, but was not promulgated.

Thus, at last the researcher will like to conclude that the researcher supports the quest of Christians Dalits for the reservation or the grant of Schedule Caste status, whichever of the two helps them to achieve a status of equality in the society.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ARTICLES
1. Government of India, Conversion/ Reconversion to another religion - mode of proof.
2. Prakash Louis, Caste-based Discrimination & Atrocities on Dalit Christians and the Need for Reservation.
3. Reports of Commissions.
4. Deepak Miglani and Dinesh Miglani, Right to freedom of religion vs. Religious conversion.
5. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACTS: ANTI-CONVERSION LAWS IN INDIA.
6. A List of Atrocities Committed against Christians across India.
7. Raj deep Datta Roy, Hindus use Christian Conversion methods to reconvert villagers.
8. Satish Deshpande, Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge.
9. Elze Sietzema-Riemer, Christian Dalits: A research on Christians Dalits in India.
10. Rashmin Khandekar and Sunny Shah, The History, Rationale and Critical Analysis of Reservations under the Constitution of India.

# Government of India, Conversion/ Reconversion to another religion - mode of proof, Report No. 235, Dec, 2010, available at . (viewed on 08/24/2012)
# Prakash Louis, “Caste-based Discrimination & Atrocities on Dalit Christians and the Need for Reservation”, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi, Working Paper Series, Vol. II, Number 04, 2007, available at . (viewed on 08/22/2012)
# “Reports of Commissions”, available at <http://www.dalitchristians.com/Html/commission.htm>. (viewed on 09/11/12)
# AIR 1963 SC 185.
# Deepak Miglani and Dinesh Miglani, “Right to freedom of religion vs. Religious conversion”, available at <http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/rel_rel.htm>. (viewed on 08/24/2012)
# “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACTS”: ANTI-CONVERSION LAWS IN INDIA”, American Center for Law & Justice, Published on June 26, 2009, 
# “A List of Atrocities Committed against Christians across India”, available at .(viewed on 08/27/2012)
# New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.0.2.
# 1977 (1) SCC 677.
# Raj deep Datta Roy, “Hindus use Christian Conversion methods to reconvert villagers”,
# Supra, n. 2.
# Satish Deshpande, “Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge”, available at . (viewed on 22/08/2012)
# Supra, n. 2.
# AIR 1984 SC 411, 1984 SCR (1) 973.
# AIR 1986 SC 733, 1985 SCR Supl. (3) 242.
# Supra, n. 2.
# Elze Sietzema-Riemer, “Christian Dalits: A research on Christians Dalits in India”, Taal- en Cultuurstudies
# Religie en Cultuur Geesteswetenschappen Universiteit Utrecht30-07-2009, Zwolle, available at . (viewed on 08/22/2012)
# Supra, n. 2.
# Supra, n. 14.
# Supra, n. 2.
# AIR 1951 SC 226, 1951 SCR 525.
# AIR 1966 SC 1089, 1966 SCR (2) 229.
# Rashmin Khandekar and Sunny Shah, “The History, Rationale and Critical Analysis of Reservations under the Constitution of India”, available at 
# AIR 1968 SC 1012, 1968 SCR (2) 786.
# Supra, n. 27.
# Supra, n. 14.
# Supra, n. 2.



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Dalit Christians file complaint with UN against the Vatican

 
 

Accuse Church of rampant caste-based discrimination. Posted on June 30, 2015, 5:19 PM

1435665052.jpg
 
Indian Dalit Christians and Muslims sit in the rain during a 2012 protest in Delhi

New Delhi: 

Christian Dalits in India filed a complaint on Tuesday with the United Nations accusing the Holy See of not doing enough to curb discrimination faced by “untouchables” within the Catholic Church.

A delegation of 22 people from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) and Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi (a collective of human rights activists) submitted the complaint at the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan in Delhi.

“We have submitted seven copies of the complaint to Rajeev Chandran, assistant director of the UN Centre in New Delhi addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and different human rights organizations,” Mary John, president of the DCLM, told ucanews.com.

The complaint accuses the Vatican and the Indian Catholic Church leadership of caste-based discrimination “by way of allowing it directly and indirectly in their spiritual, educational and administrative places”.

The delegation asked the UN and other organizations to urge the Holy See to eradicate the caste discriminatory practices and to withdraw the Permanent Observer position of the Holy See in the UN if the Vatican does not take the necessary steps.

Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers of Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.

“The discrimination against Dalit Christians in the Catholic Church is a human rights issue and it would be right if we approach the UN to find a solution to it,” John said.

Kudanthai Arasan, president of the Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi, said Dalit Christians routinely face discrimination in their daily life.

“There are separate cemeteries for Dalit Christians. Even in the church there are separate seating arrangements for those from the Dalit community and others. The festival choir processions do not enter the streets where Dalit Christians live,” he said, adding that in some churches even the dead body of a Dalit Christian is not allowed inside for funeral Mass.

While Dalit Christians form 70 percent of the total Catholic population in India, said John, their representation in the Church leadership is only 4-5 percent.

He added that Dalits are not recruited for the priesthood and are rarely permitted to be appointed as bishops.

Out of about 200 active bishops in India, only nine are from the Dalit community.

“We have raised our voice time and again to end this practice in the Indian Church, but our pleas have been falling on deaf ears,” he added.

The Dalit Christians also blamed the top bishops’ body in India — the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) — for not pursuing the issue with the Holy See.

“They do not take our case seriously to the Vatican. The CBCI has come out with declarations terming caste-ism as [a] sin but they themselves are practicing it,” John said.

However, Fr Joseph Chinnayyan, CBCI deputy secretary general, told ucanews.com that the organization has never received any complaint of discrimination against Dalits in the Catholic Church in the past.

He said that as far as the Dalit Christians’ complaint about the issue to the UN is concerned, “we are not aware of any such complaint and will only respond once we receive any communication about it”.



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Dalit Christian discrimination rocks minority commission meeting 

Minorities Commission meeting (Courtesy: The Hindu)

Dindigul: A meeting of the Tamil Nadu Minorities Commission on Tuesday heard several people accusing the Churches in India of discriminating their Dalit members.

Dalit Christians are denied even basic rights and the upper caste Christians ill treat or totally ignore them, according to representatives of various Dalit Christian organizations who attended the meeting at the Dindigul Collectorate.

They urged the government to intervene and protect the Dalit Christians’ basic rights.

The groups claimed that their people formed more than 70 percent of Christians in Tamil Nadu but upper caste Christians dominate churches. This dominant group treats Dalits Christians as minority, they alleged.

Minorities Commission chairperson Bishop M Prakash of the Independent Church, who chaired the meeting, admitted that discrimination against Dalit Christians existed in churches across the state.

But neither the commission nor the government could interfere in it as it was like a fight among members of a family. They should sort out these issues among themselves.

The government could advise both sides to find an amicable solution, he added.

The Dalit Christians questioned how long the suppressed class could negotiate without any solution.

Around 80 percent of Dalit Christians suffer from caste discrimination in the Church especially in some dioceses with a group of persons enjoying foreign funds, alleged Christopher of Dalit Viduthalai Iyakkam (Dalit Liberation Movement).

He also said that schools managed by Christian Missions did not admit Dalit Christian students and refused to follow 17 percent reservation for Dalits prescribed by the government in minority schools. The Commission should inspect minority schools. Recognition of erring schools should be cancelled and funds from the government should be stopped, he demanded.

A group of Christians from Reddiyarchatram complained that revenue officials had sealed a worship center and denied permission to conduct prayer there. Revenue officials assured the chairperson to open the center for prayer quickly.

Commission members Sardar Manjit Singh Nayar, Justin Selvaraj, A.M. James and K. Kalamani and Collector T.N. Hariharan were present.

Drawing the commission’s attention to the closure of the Kuralampatti church by the Tahsildar, Fr Ramesh sought adequate security for the minority community. Responding, Murugesan, Tahsildar, Dindigul West, said permission would be given for holding prayer service in the church if it did not disturb locals.

The groups also demanded community certificate to those who had converted to Buddhism.

Bishop Prakash said computerized community certificates for Buddhism could not be given at present and steps would be taken to give hand-written community certificates.

He said people could approach the district minority welfare office and avail the benefits given by the government.

Giving statistics, he said scholarships worth 21.4 million rupees were given to minority students in 2014-2015. Financial assistance of `608,000 rupees was offered to 15 members of Muslim Mahalir Uthavum Sangam.



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Indian churches speak against discrimination faced by Dalits

 
 
Indian churches speak against discrimination faced by Dalits

NCCI meeting with Heiner Bielefeldt on issues of Christian and Muslim Dalit communities in India. © NCCI

26 February 2014

Member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in India have expressed deep concern over discrimination faced by Christian and Muslim Dalit communities there, demanding protection of the right to freedom of religion in a meeting with Prof. Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The meeting attended by a number of church leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, leaders of the Muslim community and representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, was organized by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI).

Bielefeldt is currently visiting India until 27 February on invitation from the civil society organizations including the Indian Social Institute and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

According to a news report of the NCCI, Dr Ramesh Nathan from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights spoke about numerous forms of “untouchability” resulting from the caste system practiced in India. Nathan added that Dalit Christians are most vulnerable to caste-based violence but are not protected by the Prevention of Atrocities Act in the Indian constitution, which is meant to prevent atrocities against the scheduled castes.

The Indian constitution includes Dalits in the list of scheduled castes as the most marginalized communities who need protection. However when converted to Christianity or Islam, these individuals and communities are excluded from these protective and affirmative measures offered by the Indian government.

Haji Hafeez Ahmad Hawari, a representative of Muslim community shared at the NCCI meeting that his nomination to the national elections under the category of “caste with reserved constituency” was rejected because he is a follower of Islam.

Hawari said that he experienced discrimination within the Muslim community as well as in the larger society because he is a Dalit; and yet because of his religion affiliation he could not seek the position reserved in the Indian constitution for scheduled castes.

“Both Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslim are not considered Dalits by our government, and hence, they are denied affirmative action programmes that empower marginalized communities,” said Samuel Jayakumar, the NCCI’s executive secretary for the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness, who chaired the meeting.

“We see this as religion based discrimination against Christian and Muslim Dalits in India,” he said.

Leila Passah, general secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of India also brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur the “inhumane treatment meted out to the Dalit community by the Indian police, when they organized a peaceful protest in Delhi.”

She said “the police beat up protestors with sticks as Christian and Muslim leaders marched towards the Parliament House to hand over to the prime minster of India a memorandum of demands.”

Around 30 people were injured in this incident and several protestors including church leaders were detained in the police station on 11 December 2013, according to media reports.

Bielefeldt recognized issues of discrimination against Dalits in India, calling religious conversion a test case for freedom of religion. He added that the right to equality has been denied to the Dalit community in India and they cannot be forced to follow a particular religion.

Bielefeldt assured participants in the meeting that the UN human rights mechanism will continue to raise these issues at their forums.

NCCI news release on Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in India

Solidarity with Dalits for justice and dignity

WCC member churches in India



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DALITS OF TAMILNADU 
AND THE EMERGENCE OF DALIT THEOLOGY

Dalit Daniel Gnanasekaran
is an ordained pastor of the ALC Church. He is a full time activist and helps Theological Students of TTS, Madurai to do Dalit theology in his spare time.

Introduction

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share some of the Indian Dalit concerns with you. First of all I would like to emphasize that whatever I am going to share with you is my personal experience in India and the experience of our Dalit Liberation Movement (DLM) for which I am working. I am not sharing anything with you which has appeared in Indian volumes of books, or periodicals, or newspapers.

Very recently the problems of Dalits in India have become known worldwide. But, for the last so many decades their problems were not considered very seriously. Why? The answer is very simple. They were unnoticed all these years. When the word India is pronounced, the first name that would come to our mind is Shri Mohandhas Karamchand Gandhi, the man who got independence to India by way of Ahimsa. The world praises him for his achievement of winning Independence without any revolution and even without 

shedding a drop of blood. But the world does not know that 27% of the total population of India which consists of Dalits have been refused their rights, their culture destroyed and their history buried after independence came to India. They are still living a life of deaf, dumb and disabled. The Dalits' feelings were also hushed up by the Churches in India. The National Christian Council of India and larger ecumenical bodies like CCA and WCC have only been expressing some concern. The main reason for this is due to the fact that the Indian Churches are ruled by Caste Christians. When a Dalit Christian from India put forward the problems that are being faced by them in India in a WCC meet, a caste Christian who was then working there told the gathering that the Dalit problem is very simple and this should not be brought to WCC level. It proves that except the Dalits no other can understand or will try to understand a Dalit's problem. The wounded person only knows the pain. Even today Indian Dalits are treated worse than animals. Their rights are denied to them.

If I have to put before you the statistics, it is like this:

In 1986, 563 Dalits were murdered, 726 Dalit women raped, 1032 arson took place and 1406 Dalits were seriously hurt. In 1987, 495 Dalits were murdered, 674 Dalit women raped, 812 arson took place and 1503 Dalits were seriously hurt. In 1988, 579 Dalits were murdered, 779 Dalit women raped, 745 arson took place and 1733 Dalits were seriously hurt. In 1989, 533 Dalits were murdered, 829 Dalit women raped, 699 arson took place and 1926 Dalits were seriously hurt. In 1990, 553 Dalits were murdered, 788 raped, 553 arson took place and 1570 Dalits were seriously hurt.

Till May 1993 this year, 31 Dalits were murdered, 67 Dalit women raped, 12 arson took place and 121 Dalits seriously hurt.

You would have noted from these statistics the cruelty being faced by Dalits each year. Why I am sharing all these with you? Not to gain sympathy! But your attention should be drawn to the Dalits and you should tell the people of the world that the fight for the human rights of the Dalits is a justified one. Dalits alone cannot fight with the caste Hindus in India for achieving fruitful results. Those who are ready to come out to join hands with the Dalits, they should do so without any hesitation.

Dalits

The word "Dalit" comes from Sanskrit. The meaning - distressed, crushed and downtrodden people. Various people have given various names to Dalits. For example, Mahatma Gandhi named them "Harijans". Britishers called them "Scheduled Caste". In Vedas, they are described as "Panjamar", "Sandalan" and "Avvarna". But these most unfortunate people who were called by various names have named themselves as "Dalits". Today the name Dalit has united all the people of various segments, (deemed untouchable and severely oppressed with religious legitimation) together. In India there are about 468 segments of Dalit people. Although these groups have different culture, they are all united in one banner - "Dalit". They have now started functioning with speed and consciousness.

The History of Dalits

Dalits are the ancient people. We can say that they only introduced culture in India. In the recently concluded "World Human Rights Conference" at Vienna, our Central Minister Shri Manmohan Singh said that we do not have Adhivasis in India. But this is not true. Dalits are the Adhivasis of India. The Indus Valley Civilization and Mesapotomia Civilization are in fact the civilization of Dalits. Only after the Dalits the Aryans and Dravidians settled in India. But today the Dalits are landless laborers. More than 3000 years ago Dalits ruled India. They were the owners of all property. If a King wins a battle in the neighboring country, he makes the loser King and his people as slaves and snatches all their properties. Here also, the Aryans and Dravidians snatched away all properties of the Dalits and made them slaves. Aryans after snatching of all the properties of the Dalits, kept them aside branding them as out-caste. Now Dalit's problem is not simply caste-oriented but it is race-oriented. This is a problem like that of "Whites and Blacks".

_______________________________________________________________________________

Glossary: Panjamar (The Fifth i.e. outside the accepted four castes which are supposed to have been evolved from God - Prajapati); Sandalan (coicked man); Avarna (those who are colorless - without anyone of the four colors Varna).

To legitimise the oppression, the Aryans have used their Vedas. The Brahmins of India have all along been telling that "Brahma" is God of Creation and those born from his head are Brahmins, from his hands are "Shatriyas", from his stomach are "Vaisyas" and from his legs are "Sutras". This way they have created castes. And, those born apart from the above are "Panjamars" and "Avvarnas". This way they have separated the Dalits. Hence, Dr Ambedkar said that unless and until Hinduism is destroyed, casteism cannot be eradicated. He further said that as long as the Hindu religion is not willing to abolish caste segregation untouchability will be there and as long as one is a Hindu, one will also support untouchability. In India every man and every woman is born with a caste. Without a caste nobody is born. You will understand the extent of casteism that has taken roots in India. Only this casteism sustains Hindu Religion. Few inter-caste marriages or re-marriage of widows take place. In 1900s there was a system called "Sathi". "Sathi" means the wife will also get into the funeral pyres of her husband will be burnt. This method was observed to save casteism by Hindus. These are some of the reasons for the entrenchment of casteism in India.

Yuwan-Suwan, a 12th century Chinese traveller to India has mentioned in his tour diary that Dalits have been subjected to many cruelties by Hindus. In those days Dalits were not permitted even to walk through the main streets where Hindus lived. In case they have to walk through the streets of higher caste people, they should have a bell tied to them so the bell rings while walking warning caste Hindus to protect themselves from being polluted. While walking, the Dalits should have a pot tied to their neck. In case they have to spit then they should spit in the pot tied around their necks. Besides all these, the Dalits had to tie a branch of leaves on their backside of hips touching the street. This is because that the road after his walk should be simultaneously cleaned by the leaves he has tied on his hips. You will understand how cheaply Dalits were treated in those days. Even today we see such kind of hardships being faced by Dalits. Till now in many villages the Dalits are prohibited from wearing footwear. They should not take water from the public wells. They should not ride bicycles. In tea shops, separate glasses are kept for Dalits for taking their tea. Last year we conducted a bicycle yatra (tour) from October 2-10 in Anna District demanding eradication of untouchability. This was conducted by our Dalit Liberation Movement and we submitted a Memorandum to the District Collector (The top bureaucrat who has powers above the top police official) indicating elaborately the kind of atrocities that are taking place in each of the villages of the said District. Do you know what kind of an action was taken by the authorities? I was arrested on the mid night of October 12, 1992 for instigating people for the riots. You will see from this that untouchability has the full support of higher authorities and it has become a legalized one, although laws have been enacted to abolish untouchability and to make the practice as a crime!

The main backbone for growing casteism in India is Hindu religion. Dr Ambedkar who opposed casteism was never considered a National leader, and in fact he was branded as an enemy by Gandhi and other leaders. December 6, is celebrated as Dr Ambedkar's Remembrance Day in most parts of India. To make people forget that day, Babri masjid was demolished on December 6 by Hindus.


The Problems Being Faced by Dalits

Land - As I explained to you earlier, Dalits are the Adhivasis (i.e. the real natives) of India. They were the owners of all lands. Because of Aryan entry into India they were made landless laborers. They were treated as slaves. Therefore, 99.9% of the Dalits are till today leading their lives as landless laborers. You can easily identify and divide a village in two parts - Land owners and landless laborers. All landless laborers are Dalits. Therefore, the Dalits have to live with the meager income from land owners. Whatever the land owners expect from Dalits, they are compelled to do. Therefore, all sorts of menial work is given to the Dalits. The work includes conveying death message of a Hindu family member to surrounding villages by shouting in the streets, removal of dead cattle, sheep and chickens, to lift night soil from the dry latrines on their heads, digging graves in graveyards and watching over the funeral pyres for the dead until cremation is completed..... Untouchability becomes more effective because of all these jobs are considered as polluting. Dalits cannot cultivate in the lands given to them by the Government and they cannot take lands on lease from the temple. Because, if they do so, they are likely to be killed and the police will take no action.

In June 1992, two Dalit youths namely Ammavasai and Velu were killed because they took on lease a piece of land from a temple in Chennakarampatti. They were stabbed in a running bus while they were travelling and their intestines were taken out in front of a few policemen also travelling in the same bus. Therefore, the Dalits cannot even think of owning lands in India. With regard to their wages for the labor, it is quite painful for me to point out that they are paid the lowest wages which cannot even be considered enough for mere survival. If they ask for hike in wages, they will be brutally attacked or killed. In the year 1968 when the Dalits asked for a slight increase in their wages in a village called Keelvenmani in Tanjore District, about 48 Dalits were forcibly kept in a small house and it was set fire to. You will be surprised to hear about how much increase they demanded. It was half-a-litre paddy increase for each which would cost around Re.1 in those days. The pitiest part of this incident was when a Dalit woman who could not withstand to see her 6 months old baby being burned along with her threw the baby outside and the caste Hindus instead of showing mercy for the baby again threw it back into the fire. The Dalits of India can never forget this incident in their life time.

The problem being faced by Dalit women land laborers are even more pathetic. They are subjected to sexual abuse by the land owners. In case they refuse such favors, they will not be allowed to stay in the villages. In Tamil Nadu, the most sufferers of this kind of sexual abuse are still living in Anna District, Erode and Kamarajar District, yielding without option to the best of the land owners. Because of their total incapacity to resist a myth of willing immorality has been created.

The liberation of Dalits is therefore closely linked with their landlessness and imposed dependency co-related to the land problems.

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A District is an administrative unit comprising around 20 townships and about a 1000 villages - total population approx 5 million. 


The Political Conspiracy Against the Dalits

In 1932, Dr Ambedkar had an agreement with the British Government. It was that the Dalits will have their rights to choose their leaders for the State Assembly and Parliament. For then only the Dalits would be saved from the political oppression of caste Hindus and by selecting leaders on their own. For only then they can depend upon them to voice their demands and rights in the Assembly and Parliament. In the Round Table Conference, Dr Ambedkar argued that for the upliftment of the Dalits and to liberate them from caste Hindus a "Two Vote System" should be allowed. On this, the British Government agreed to the Dalit demand for a "Two Vote System". But, Gandhi intervened and told the public that the "Two Vote System" will separate Dalits from Hindus and in case this system is brought into force, he will go on indefinite fast until his death. Then Gandhi was in Airvada Jail. After 5 days of his fast Gandhi's health condition deteriorated and leaders like Rajaji, Nehru and Rajendra Prasad approached Dr Ambedkar and told him that if Gandhi is dead, the Dalits will be more affected and they will not be able to live in India. They requested Dr Ambedkar to take back his demand for a "Two Vote System". Dr Ambedkar signed Pune Agreement on 24th September 1932 giving up his demand for the "Two Vote System". According to this agreement certain constituencies are denoted as Reserved Constituencies' in which only a Dalit by origin can contest but the entire population entitled for 70% caste Hindu votes will vote for one of them. This means only docile Dalits willing to abide by the untouchability custom will ever be voted in. Because of this agreement, the Dalits' voices are not raised in Parliament and State Assemblies even today. According to political atmosphere prevailing in India today, only those with money power, high caste backing and higher education can enter the parliament or Assembly as its members. A person is elected according to the wishes of the majority caste in that particular area. Till today no Dalit bold enough to press for the total abolition of untouchability has been elected.

In Tamil Nadu, 44 MLAs were elected from the Reserved Constituencies. Even then when many Dalits were killed in various parts of Tamil Nadu because of caste atrocities not a single MLA of the "Reserved Constituency" raised his/her voice in the Assembly on any of the above deaths. A further problem is that the Dalit MLAs belong to various political parties. They are not supposed to talk anything which is not authorized by the party. If the Dalits approach the MLA of their constituency, he will say that he has not been elected only for them as he has to represent the whole constituency. But caste Hindus will never give up their political power. Number power and money power are the main elements which are ruling India currently. When Dalits raise their voices, they are arrested under TADA Act (A preventive Detention Act under which one can be put in prison for up to 12 months without recourse to court) and put into jails. This is how Dalit's rights are crushed politically.

In India certain political parties prove their strength to the general public by gathering its supporters in huge numbers (in lacs and lacs) and conducting long processions. During these processions, usually Dalit huts are burnt, Dalit women were raped and many of them murdered. In 1987, the "Vanniyar" caste in Tamil Nadu indulged in "Rasta Roko" (in front of protest through blockade of roads) demonstration demanding 30% reservation for their caste in all places (work place and study centers). This agitation prolonged for more than 10 days but, the Government did not accede to their request. But they proved their strength by setting fire to 12,000 Dalit huts, killing 28 Dalit youths and sexually assaulting a few hundreds of Dalit women. In fact "Vanniyars" and Dalits did not have any link at all. But, when the violence was increasing, the Government finally agreed for the reservations asked for by the "Vanniyars". Hence, to gain their political demands, the parties and caste based forums take into task the innocent Dalits.

The Dalits do not have any power within any of the political parties in India. In Tamil Nadu there are 4 popular political parties viz ADMK, DMK, Congress and Communist. In all the 24 Districts of Tamil Nadu not even a single Dalit is given at least a post of District Secretary in any of these parties.

For all the above reasons, Dr Ambedkar wanted the "Two Vote" system for the Dalits which he had to give up for saving Gandhi's life. Because he could not achieve the "Two Vote" demand the Dalits are suffering even today.

Social Suppression of the Dalit People

In India, most of the people live in villages. A village is divided in two parts - "Seri" where the Dalits live and Village where the caste Hindus live. Right from childhood of a Dalit (he/she) is kept away from caste Hindus. In village courts (not recognized courts under India Act) Dalits are not permitted to sit equally to caste Hindus. Dalit are prohibited from entering caste Hindu House. They cannot walk in the street wearing footwear. They are not permitted to take water from village public wells. In towns, if a Dalit goes looking for a house to rent for he will not be given a house as he is a Dalit. Even today in India villages, the Dalit students are made to sit separately in class rooms. They are not permitted to take water from the common pot kept in schools to quench their thirst. When the young generation of the Dalits subjected to this kind of humiliations, the inferiority complex in them grows inevitably. The brahmins of India have been repeatedly saying that they are the highest human beings in God's creation and that all others are unclean creatures. They are born as Brahmins because of their Karmas in the pervious Janma (birth) and others due to their bad karmas are born in lower castes. Dalits do not even have a caste. They are out castes because of great evil they must have done in their previous life. And that is the main reason they say for not allowing Dalits into temples. With concrete plans by caste Hindus, the 27% population of Dalits are always kept separate in India. In India, life is always linked to religion. Therefore, the first enemy to Dalit is Hindu religion. Dr Ambedkar once commented that "I was born as Hindu but never would like to die as a Hindu." In the year 1956, Dr Ambedkar entered the Buddhist religion along with 5,00,000 Dalit people and even today it is felt that if Dalits have to regain their lost dignity and other rights they have to convert themselves to some other religion.

Dalit Women

Dalit women are the most oppressed. Sexual assaults and rape of Dalit women are increasing more and more. In 1989, a total of 829 Dalit women were raped followed by 799 in 1990. It is to be noted that these are the cases reported. For every case reported many go unreported. In Kamarajar District of Tamil Nadu, if a Dalit girl reaches puberty, she is subjected to sexual abuse by caste Hindus, which, according to Hindus, is an achievement in their life. These are the Dalits who work full day in caste Hindu's lands for their (Hindus) prosperity with meager wages and undergoing sexual abuse. If it is a news of rape case then we can take it for granted that the affected female must be a Dalit girl or woman.

Hindus worship a God named "Murugan" whose temple is always situated on mountain tops. In 1993, a Dalit girl named Shanthi also went along with her family members by walking a long distance to worship Lord "Murugan" at Palani. On the mid-night on her way to temple, while she went to a road side place for attending to call of nature, 3 Hindu boys took her away and gang raped her throughout the night and left her on the road side the next morning in an unconscious state. When the villagers found Shanthi, they reported the matter to the nearby Police Station. The inspector of the concerned Police Station visited the spot, told the village people to pay some money to Shanthi and ask her to go to her native village. He never bothered to enquire on the happenings and register a case. Then, our Movement entered the scene and gheraoed (i.e. besieged) the Police Station demanding registration of the case and medical check-up of Shanthi by Government doctors. Seeing our solidarity, the inspector half-heartedly accepted for the medical check-up and admitted Shanthi in a nearby Government Hospital where the doctors did not care for her. Without even examining Shanthi, the doctors gave first-aids to her and sent her out of hospital. We got infuriated over this and our Movement along with 1000 youths entered into "Rasta Roko" (Road Block) agitation. Only then did the concerned RDO and DSP come to us assuring strict action against the culprits and the medical people responsible. You will now understand how we had to fight for getting justice. And, you will be surprised to note that hundreds of thousands of Hindu females went for the Darshan of the same God and it was only a Dalit girl who had to became a rape victim. Dalit women are subjected to sexual harassment by caste Hindus right in front of their husbands. The husband cannot even dare to ask questions regarding this.

In Chidambaram, Nandagopal, a Dalit man was taken into custody by policeman. His wife, Padmini, after waiting for his return from the police station for 3/4 days went to the Police Station only to see her husband brutally beaten by the policemen. When she asked why they were doing this, she was made to undress in front of her husband and half-a-dozen policemen gang raped her in his presence. I can surely say that this kind of a thing has never happened to any caste Hindu woman. Because, with their number, power political and money, the Hindus would have themselves settled scores against the vile policemen.

Though India became independent 46 years back, even today the Dalits have not got their independence. Until today they continue to be treated as mere objects for use and throw away.

Cultural Suppression

The original culture of Dalits has been discarded by caste Hindus. A section of Dalits called "Parayars" used to beat small drums tied to their neck in ancient times, to inform people regarding their King's plan for a battle with other King i.e. they were the official heralds. But, nowadays they are compelled to beat drums in processions carrying dead bodies. And doing this job today is considered as a low caste job.

Indian Church and Caste

Even Indian Churches are built around and function based on casteism. The Lutheran Churches, for instance, are examples for this. In 1706, when Ziegenbalg came to India for spreading the Gospel, he was given a brief account of the prevailing casteism in India by Thiru Ganesan, who taught Ziegenbalg Tamil language. Ziegenbalg, instead of fighting against casteism, spread the Gospel saying, "Let's worship Jesus as we are." According to the caste customs prevailing at that time, he gave a third rate place for the Dalits in the Church. The Dalits were made to enter the Church by separate Gates. Even for Communion, the Dalits were allowed to come at the last. But, he did have some concern for the atrocities on Dalits and thought mass conversion of Dalits will save them from caste atrocities. Such a kind of mass conversions took place in Erode and Dharapuram areas of Tamil Nadu. But, what they hoped for when becoming Christians has not been achieved. For even today the Churches are in the hands of caste Hindu converts and they do not give proper attention towards the Dalit cause.

In 1864, Ohks, a German Missionary visited India and said that the people of LELM (Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission) have planted casteism in Churches. He further said that we should oppose casteism in churches and should not build churches on caste basis. For this, he was ousted from LELM. He then built a Church without giving importance to casteism on behalf of the Danish Missionary Society. This Church is now called as Arcot Lutheran Church and I am proud to say here that I am a member of the above distinguished Church. On those days whoever dared to oppose caste-based Church, they were all made members of this Church. So the many who joined as members were Dalits. When nobody was in the mood to think of Dalits, Rev Ohks thought of them and founded a Church for them. After Rev Ohks left for Denmark, LELM people wanted to break the efforts of Rev Ohks. In 1900, many members of St Peters Church at Thanjavur joined LELM since they could not be part of a Church without accepting caste. This shows, even in those days how people were fond of caste based churches.

The so well started Church without any importance for the caste was then joined by the pastors of Tirunelveli district and the basic principle of "No Caste" was thrown away by them. There are now only a few members in this church. The growth of the Church was curtailed. Casteism only made the Dalits to convert themselves into Christianity. But the Churches did not take it so seriously. Instead, the Churches brought some changes in the Communion. The usage of two cups for Communion - one for caste Christians and the other for the Dalits was changed into one cup for both but the cup had long nose so that the Communion was given without touching the lips - we can say it was poured. This kind of communion is followed even in these days.

Moreover, no inter-caste marriages took place all these days to eradicate casteism. Firstly the caste Hindus objected for inter-caste marriages to save Hinduism which was followed by Christians also so as to enable casteism continue in Churches also. Instead of our main Gospel that "In Christ we are one", it has been conveyed that "On caste basis we are separate". Therefore, Dr Ambedkar quoted that even if a Dalits are converted to Christianity, they are being treated there as a second rate person. This only made him to move along with 5 lacs of Dalits to Bhuddism. But he maintained that if Dalits want relief from casteism, then they should come out of Hindu Religion. Therefore, it has been established that for relief measures, the Dalits need to be converted. In these days, because of the importance being given to casteism by Churches, many of the Dalits get converted to Islam.

Today's Indian Churches

Today's general outlook of the Churches will appear as if there is no casteism at all. But only when we see the Church very deeply, then we will be able to understand that casteism plays an important role in the day-to-day functioning of the Churches. Till 1991, in a cemetery at Trichy there was a habit of burrying high caste Hindus and Dalits separately by constructing a wall in between. To protest against this, the Dalits broke the wall which was re-built by caste Christians within 3 days from the date of demolition of the wall. Same kind of an effort by Rev Jacob Belly at Salem did not yield any fruitful result. Nowadays in Madurai you can know a Christian's original caste by simply asking him "To which Church you are going for worship?" since separate Churches are for separate castes. At Trichy, for Church elections, the candidates are not chosen on merit basis but, on caste basis.

In Ecumenical Institutions abroad and in Indian Churches, only caste Christians can hold responsible posts. Dalit Christians assuming position of leadership is still very elusive. In today's total Christian population of India, 80% are Dalits. But, so far no member of Dalit Community has ever had the chance of such leadership in WCC or CCA. This shows how the caste Christians of India overpower the Dalits.

Besides caste Christians, Indian Government also treats the Christian Dalits very badly. There is no difference in the society as such whether a Dalit is a Christian or Hindu. Dalits are untouchable creatures whatever be their faith. In the year 1991, eight Dalit Christians were brutally killed and 6 were buried alive at Sundoor in Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, if Dalits convert themselves into Christianity it does not guarantee them safety. In a Republican country like India Dalits even lose certain facilities when they convert themselves. The law also changes for them. The law called "Protection of Civil Rights" does not protect the converted Christians. Therefore, Dalit Christians have became even more vulnerable compared to other Dalits who remain Hindu.

Dalit Theology

Many scholars in India have Indianised the Christian theology. Some of the notable persons are Bishop Appasamy, Thiru V Sarkarai, Thiru Upadyaya, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Thiru H A Krishnapillai and Thiru V Chenchiah, Dr P D Devanaudan..... These scholars were caste Christians. They don't show any awareness about the cruelty of casteism. Therefore, they could not create theology for the affected Dalits. Therefore they Indianised the Christian Theology keeping in accordance with brahmanical thought. Because of this, the worst affected are the Dalit Christians. Even Mr M M Thomas could not do theology on the basis of Dalit hardships. The theology created by the above were not for liberation of Dalits. But, nowadays, Dalit theology is beginning to establish itself. Dalit Theology is done by Dalits themselves. Jesus has been shown to us by different teachers on their own view. So many theologians have added color to the Bible and have expressed these in their worship services. But, one can understand about Jesus's involvement in people's Liberation only when a person involves himself in such an act. The world appears to us according to the color of the glass we wear. But when we see the world without glasses, then only we are able to see the real world. When we see Jesus according to Bible we will see him as one sided. But when we see him as "Dalit Christ", he looks like as if he is there to liberate people. When a Dalit is killed, we feel as if Jesus is killed. Jesus experiences the pain and shame of a Dalit woman. He gets burned when Dalits are burnt. Thus, he links himself with the Dalits in their liberation also.

Once a Dalit lady's sheep entered into a caste Hindu's house in search of its food. The caste Hindu took charge of the law into his hands by beating her with chapels and breaking her teeth. When the lady complained the matter to the police, she was put behind the bars for allowing her sheep to trespass. I went along with my friend to the Police Station and asked the person-in-charge for his behavior towards the downtrodden Dalit woman. There, the police made my friend strip and beat us both badly and put us also into the cell. Then I wondered about the words of the Bible which says that God is always with you in your sufferings. I asked myself, "If God is with me, then why this injustice?" To get peace, I read out Psalmª71. It was a very nice prayer. All of a sudden I heard many voices outside the Police Station. About 500 Dalit women were there, broomsticks in their hands demanding release of their leader (me) and the other arrested persons. When the situation took an unexpected turn like this, which was never anticipated by the police personnel, they contacted the District Collector and Superintendent of Police who rushed to the spot immediately, took apology from me and released all of us. I was really surprised over this. Time was when the Dalits used to run away on seeing the police. They have now become united themselves with courage and fought for justice. This remind me of Ezekiel-37 in which the vision of "Dried Bones" is narrated. The "Dried Bones" got into life and formed a "Big Force". Same way the Dalits united themselves and gheraoed the Police Station. This shows the truth of God's very word - "I am always with you in your sufferings". Therefore, we could see "Dalit Jesus" in Dalit people's struggles. We could feel that the Church for 

which it has been started has now only geared up into functioning. God created the world with the hope that his creation (Men and Women) will do the good things which God is always doing. But, God's creation has forgotten everything and have indulged in disgracing the same. Jesus was born to set right all this. In today's world men have made people slaves. All are created by God. To get his rights back (the slaves), Dalit Theology is needed. Jesus worked for the removal of untouchability, of Samaritans and for the restoration of full dignity for Galileans when Jesus rose from the dead, he said that He will be seen in Galilee. His examples of lost sheep is noteworthy. It shows his work among his people. Out of 100 sheeps 99 were very safe in their place. But the one lost was wandering without any safety. The danger would have been in any form - wolf, tiger and thieves. Hence Jesus was worried and was looking for that lonely sheep. The same condition applies for Dalits in India. The caste people are safe with the backing of Police, Army, Government and Politicians. But Dalits are unsafe like the lost sheep. To save them Jesus is born as Dalit Jesus.

Conclusion

Indian Churches should link themselves in Dalit struggles. A church will not be considered as a Church unless and until it has connections with all its members. The Church should always function in accordance with Matt 10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword".

About three years back, Dalit women living in a village called "Mandavadi" in Tamil Nadu were continuously subjected to sexual exploitation by the caste Hindus of the same village. Hindus used to enter the houses of Dalits and the women and girls were 

subjected to sexual exploitation. If the Male Dalit returns home at that time and if he sees the chapal of the Hindu outside his house, he cannot enter his house. He can do so only after the Hindu comes out of his house. Our Movement united all Dalits of this village and we all together fought against the behavior of Hindus. The Hindus brought social boycott against Dalits of the village. Provisions were stopped for Dalits. They were not allowed to walk in village streets. They were refused jobs in the fields. The District Collector, when informed about this social boycott visited the village and arranged for peace meeting. The Hindus said that the village was ONE and all lived as a FAMILY. But all was spoiled by Gnanasekaran's (me) visit and now the village is divided into TWO and all live WITHOUT PEACE. But for this, a Dalit said that though the village is divided into TWO now and TENSION is alive, we the Dalits have experienced REAL PEACE only now. Here again the words of Matt 10:34 has come alive. If the Dalits had continued to put up with all excesses by caste Hindus then they could not have achieved real peace. Even according to Bible Jesus never liked FALSE PEACE. But the Churches in India today does not like to face problems and likes the FALSE PEACE.

Matt 3:11 - "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mighter than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with Fire".

Today's Gospel work is not opening up Schools and Hospitals. The real Gospel work is to fight for Dalits with courage and wisdom and this should be done by Churches only since in the total population of Indian Christians, 80% are Dalits. In fact, the word Christian means - "live for other", whereas we see that we live for ourselves. This should be changed. The Churches should come forward to carry the Cross. As a Dalit I feel that the Churches should be prepared to do the following:

1.  Many caste Christians might have joined hands with caste Hindus for the success of casteism. They should realise their mistakes and join hands with Dalits to fight against the excesses on Dalits. For caste Christians this message should be given as Gospel on every morning in the Church.

2.  The Indian Churches have so many schools and Hospitals under their control. Through these they should convey to the caste Hindus and Christians about the hardships the Dalits are facing through the cruelty of caste people. This way they should bring awareness in them and thus the level of atrocities will come down to the great extent.

3.  Till the eradication of caste based Forums in the society at large the Church should plan their activities based on Dalit's problems.

4.  Dalits problems could not be solved with internal agitations only. Organizations like World Human Rights Forum, UNO, etc. should come forward to fight for the rights of the Indian Dalits. Hence the Indian Churches should function to get the support of International organizations.

5.  The Social reforms of the Churches does not bring any fruitful results in Dalit's upliftment. In some ways it helps Brahmanism. So, the Churches should be more careful in future while announcing social reform measures.

6.  Foreign funds - Churches and Action Groups in India get lots of money from Missions abroad. These are received for Dalit cause. But, usually such kind of funds are not used for the purpose for which it is sought. The Dalits are considered to be a blank "White Paper" and all think that anybody can write on them. Money received for Dalit upliftment should be used strictly for the very purpose. Funding organizations should enable only those organizations which are genuinely committed.

7.   Schools and Colleges run by Churches should admit Dalit boys and girls and provide them education free of cost. They should also come forward to give immediate jobs to Dalits after completion of their education.

8. Churches should get Dr Ambedkar's books printed and distributed among Dalits at a lower price affordable by Dalits.

9. The efforts to Indianise the Churches should be stopped with immediate effect as it allows a kind of Brahmin culture to take roots in the Churches. Because while Indianising the Churches, Dalit culture and spirituality are totally ignored. Jesus should be seen in a Christian perspective only.

Until now I have given you some idea about the Dalits' conditions in India. Though it is not complete yet. I hope by this time you must have got a clear picture of the magnitude of the suffering of the Dalits. I solicit the prayers and support in our efforts, of all the readers of this article.



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