ctc33.gif (2017 bytes)

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.

_______________________________________________________________________________

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 PsalmĒ71. 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.

ABOUT CCA | CCA NEWS | PRESS | RESOURCES | HOME

Christian Conference of Asia
96 Pak Tin Village Area 2
Mei Tin Road, Shatin NT
Hong Kong SAR, CHINA
Tel: [852] 26911068 Fax: [852] 26923805
eMail: cca@cca.org.hk
HomePage: www.cca.org.hk