Focus On Dalit Issues.
Why should the Church in India be concerned about the dalits ,the victims of the hindu upper caste hegemony? Dalits have been the victims of unending persecution for centuries and their condition has not improved half a century after the independence .The recent special reports by the Star News channel was quite shocking . An apratheid so evil in a nation which claims to be the cradle of civilisation and culture. The time has come when the international bodies have taken up the issue of casteism. The national rulers will now be held accountable for the continuation of this evil system.
The church has to identify itself with the poorest of the poor and it is fulfilling that duty to some extend. What has been done for these downtrodden and marginalised is what is being done for Jesus. The issue of Christian persecutions is directly linked to the service of the church in service of the dalits and adivasis .The uppercastes do not want the church to engage in any activity that would empower the dalits and the adivasis. The anti-Christian attacks have been directed against the Christian social workers, educators and their institutions. If we look at the latest episode in Gujarat ,the hindu fascist armies are attacking the Christian NGOs for providing relief work.
The vast majority of Indian Christians are from the dalit, adivasi or backward categories.The Syrian Christian leadership of the church ,which unfortunately has been affected by the uppercaste syndrome to some extent have not been able to dedicate it's full resources to the dalit issue.The UN conference in SouthAfrica from August 31 to September 7, 2001, is organized to focus world attention on racism,xenophobia and other related discriminations. The brahminist lobby of India have been vehemently trying to hide the issue of casteism in India from gaining the attention of the world.
Can the Christians be silent as they here the following stories ?Aren't they their brother's keepers? The stories were shown on the Star News Channel, one of India's most reputed news organisations, complete with visuals ,clippings and interviews. Only extracts are reproduced for lack of space.
Monday, April 9, 2001 (Surendranagar):
This week, on April 14 is B R Ambedkar's 110th birth anniversary. But the man who battled against caste discrimination all his life may well have found himself disappointed today as over half a century later untouchability is still prevalent around India especially in schools.
DALITS HAVE TO SIT OUTSIDE THE CLASS
Half an hour before the primary school at Lakhanmachi in Surendranagar district in Gujarat opens, a few children are already seated outside in what is their classroom. They are Dalits. The upper caste students are yet to arrive and will take their place inside the small building. Two separate spaces for keeping the children apart in a society where the touch of a Dalit is still considered polluting. "My children are outcasts. They are made to sit separately and when they ask the teacher to write the lessons on their slate, he asks them to go away. What can the children hear from the window and what will they learn? In the two years they have been attending school they have learnt nothing," remarked Valji, a parent.
DALIT STUDENTS MUST REMAIN THIRSTY
The scene at other secondary schools of Hingoli, Binavas in Jodhpur, district of Rajasthan are no different. Many of children walk miles in the scorching sun and sand every day to reach school. But not all of them can quench their thirst immediately. Khima, a student informed, "At first I didn't know. So I drew the bucket from the well with my own hands. The boys and the teachers shouted at me. They said, that next time if you want water ask an upper caste student to give it to you and if there is no one around, I have to stay thirsty."
During summer when the wells dry up and water becomes scarce, the wait is endless. In Khima's far-flung village there is a common water tank but the taps for the upper caste Bishnois and the low caste Meghwals are separate. Most schools follow the same practice. Children queue up strictly on caste lines for a drink of water.
DALITS CANNOT EAT ALONG WITH UPPERCASTES
At the primary school at Boden in Nuapada district of Orissa, Janki Jagat does not sit with her closest friends during the mid-day meal. She says, "We are Harijans and they are from the upper caste. If we touch their plate of rice by mistake, they throw it away saying you are untouchables, how can we eat food touched by you? " Janki calls her upper caste playmates bhal lok or good people and even though her teachers say she is the brightest student in school, Janki readily believes that as a dom she is a lesser child.
THE CHURCH SHOULD CONTINUE TO EDUCATE AND EMPOWER
The brahminist lobby would not encourage the education of dalits and adivasis.Their front organisations such as the RSS,Bajrangdal,VHP,Hindu Jagran Manch,Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram etc will raise false alarm about 'conversions' merely to prevent the dalits and adivasis receiving education. The affluent churches must resolve to dedicate a good part wasted on huge church beautification projects on dalit/adivasi empowerment schemes as a practical way of serving the Lord. The children of affluent Christians receive the best education .Should we not be saddened by the following statistics?
Few children from Dalit communities complete even their basic education:-
# In 1980-81, 59 per cent of scheduled caste children dropped out in primary school, 74 per cent in middle school and nearly 86 per cent in the tenth class.
# By 1990-91, the situation had improved slightly only because there were more Dalit children attending school now.
# The drop out rate today is still alarmingly high. In 1998-99 while there were 1.94 crore children from Dalit communities and scheduled tribes enrolled in primary schools across the country.
In the tenth class their number was only 13.38 lakhs.
Economic pressures force a large number of Dalit children to leave school at some stage of their learning process. But it is not the only reason. Memories of humiliation also play an important role in their decision, just a less visible one.
Tuesday, April 10, 2001 (Ahmedabad):
Not far from Gujarat Vidyapith, the university set up by Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad, is a hostel for college students. To get admission here, you don't have to give a donation or get a minister's recommendation, you have to be a Brahmin as no "lower" caste boy can past its gates.
HEAR THE CRIES OF THE DALITS