Let Us Remember Revolutionary Jesus
An article "Gospel and the Dalit Struggle for a new identity" by M. Deenabandhu, who teaches at Gurukul Theological College in Chennai, published in "International Review of Mission", vol. LXXXIV No. 334, writing that the Dalits are the most exploited people in this "text book like" picture of social hierarchical society. He avers that the Indian Church comprises mostly of such people, and accuses the Church of "denying them participation", specially by the "wealthy and powerful institutional Church", and appeals the Indian Churches to stand behind them and the World Churches to have a new opportunity in Indian Churches for conversion of these dalits..
Dr. Ambedkar and Dalits
This is not the proper place to narrate how Dr. Ambedkar explained the History of Untouchabilty, suffice it to say that his analysis of "Broken Men" becoming Buddhists takes us farther into the past of Indian society through clearer paths than the work of any writer, Eastern or Western in this field. He started a struggle against the root cause of Caste. His followers, in trying to complete the mission started by him, are pursuing to such an extent that the enemy - the Brahmanical Social Order (BSO) - finds "Ambedkar Dead more formidable than Ambedkar Alive". It is a pity Mr. Deenbandhu seems to be ignorant about his work. Dr. Ambedkar quoted two causes for untouchability. One was general atmosphere of scorn and contempt for Buddhists, and other was habit of beef eating kept on by the broken men, while the Brahmins gave it up and became staunch vegetarians in order to regain their lost prestige and supremacy. It must be noted that, contrary to Deenabandhu's assertion, Manusmruti was not because of a struggle of Brahmins against Dalits but against Buddhists. Untouchabilty came much later than Manu. This should be enough to clear Deenabandhu's idea of origin of Untouchables.
Why Christianity failed in India
In spite of spending millions and millions of rupees, there is appallingly low results, as explained by Dr. Ambedkar, who gives the main reason for it being that they approached Brahmins for disputations, and tried to woo them by opening hospitals and schools for them. The missionaries ignored the fact that Chaturvarnya, is the crucial matter for BSO, and to accept Christianity meant surrender of their power and prestige. Later missionaries realized this mistake and whatever now is seen is the result of this realization and winning over the lower castes, as Dr. Ambedkar observes:
"... The number of Christians we see in India today is due to the fact that some Christian missionaries saw the futility of this (wooing of Brahmins). If they had not realized this error and started to win over the lower classes, there would have been no Christians in India at all. ..." [W&S vol. 5, p.444]
The study of Ancient Indian history reveals a struggle between the so called upper caste "savarnas" on one side and the rest of population on the other. It had assumed different names, shapes and forms during the course of different periods of history, and the history of India is nothing but the history of conflict between these two ideologies. The present day protagonists of these are Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar on one side and Tilak, Gandhi and Golwalkar on the other. All the leaders of Christians and Muslims need to understand this point and explain it to the gullible ignorant and illiterate Christian and Muslim masses, that these are the only two ideologies in present day India, and sooner the people understand this, earlier they will be freed from their slavery.
Unchristian side of the Indian Church
V. T. Rajshekhar, editor of "Dalit Voice", had commented that the missionaries are educating the children of oppressors, who tomorrow will come to power and see that these very schools, where they obtained first lessons of alphabets, be closed. It is like feeding milk to the serpents' offsprings. His prophesy seems to be coming true now. He had also suggested that at least 50% of seats in all Christian convents must be given only to SCs and STs at no charge, and the deficit be made good by charging double fees from the children of oppressors. I do not think that article made any dent on missionaries, they are following their own ways.
Ambedkar's Advice to Christians
Dr. Ambedkar, during the period of active consideration of choice of religion to adopt, delivered a speech to Indian Christians of Sholapur, (published in 'Janata' of 5.2.1938), when he said that he considered only two - Buddha and Christ - for conversion. He wanted a religion for his followers which will teach equality, freedom and moral ethics. He criticized that the Missionaries feel they have done their duty when they convert an untouchable to Christianity. They do not look after their political rights. It is a big fault that they have not entered into politics. It is difficult for any institution to survive without political support. If they were in politics, things would have been different. Hundreds of boys and girls are educated, but these people have not agitated against injustice unlike the uneducated untouchables, and because of neglect towards politics, there is nobody to talk of and fight for your rights. (M. F. Ganjare's vol. III. p.142 ff.)
What is the present status
The situation does not seem to be different even today. While the Dalits have understood that the cause of their misery is Brahmanical Social order, and they are struggling to fight against it, the Christians have found pleasure in appeasing the rulers. They are happy celebrating the birth of Jesus. They are not bothered why He was crucified, the question, they conveniently ignore. They ignore the revolutionary side of Jesus. Did you hear any missionary preaching that Jesus was such a revolutionary that His death was preferred by the rulers of those times, whose interests were threatened by His preachings, than that of a criminal? Do they teach you the revolutionary side of Jesus? On the occasion of Ester, let us remember Jesus as a revolutionary.
Revolutionary side of Jesus
Whether one agrees or not, with his presumption that Jesus survived the Crucification and migrated to India, where he preached till his death in ripe old age, the revolutionary Jesus as depicted by Holger Kersten, in his "Jesus lived in India", (Elements Books Ltd., 1994, Reprint 1997, USA), is worth remembering. He has explained the revolutionary side of Jesus's life. The political situation in Judea at the time of Jesus, was extremely turbulent, he says. Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.) had to deal with persistent civil unrest by guerrilla army of nationalist fanatics - men of strong religious convictions - trying to undermine Roman rule. Sadducees and Pharisees eventually compromised with Herod's successors and Rechabites continued to live in tents outside towns. Essenes and Nazarenes (to which Jesus belonged), returned from exile in Alexandria, perhaps after AD 6, when Herod's son was deposed, and started the struggle, which is described as:
"Essenes and Nazarenes were actively and bravely taking on the full strength of the mighty Roman overlord even while the conformists Pharisees and Sadducees were becoming integrated into the overlord's political system." [p.131]
The local Jew population was lurching from crisis to crisis and hoping for the Messiah. The activities of Jesus continued only for two or three years. He used to cross borders from one province to another of Palestine. Why he should go to Jerusalem and by so doing give himself up, remains a mystery, Kerston feels. On his entry into Jerusalem he was jubilantly feted as king who would bring the promised "Kingdom of God". This concept of "Kingdom of God" appears to be a spiritual one for Christian tradition, but the masses of Jerusalem wanted something more worldly like a military commander and statesman like King David of the past, to free the land of Roman yoke. About a week before the festival of Passover, Jesus decided to leave his place of hiding in mountain of Ephraim (John 11:54) and along with his followers journeyed to the Capital. What happened next, is described as:
"Five days before the great festival, they reached Jerusalem. Entering through the city gates, Jesus was noisily acclaimed by the crowds. But although Jesus was riding a donkey as a gesture of humility, meekness and peaceful intent, the acclamation was later to be tragically misunderstood, `The whole city was in turmoil' (Matthew 21:10, Jerusalem Bible version). Jesus' strongly worded statements, and the equally forthright, not to say violent, methods he used in driving the traders out of the Temple, might perhaps in a different atmosphere have been understood as being allegorical to the people to rise up. Some of Jesus' words were the very opposite of conciliatory: 'Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword' (Matthew 10:34) And `I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?' (Luke 12:49)."
"The very first thing Jesus did in Jerusalem was to mount an attack against the authorities, an attack such as no one had dared to attempt before. With unmistakable directness Jesus remonstrated and barbed denunciations (Matthew 23) were a public settling of accounts with his antagonists in front of a great number of enthusiastic pilgrims. According to the Gospels, he even went so far as to drive the traders and money changers out to the place of worship. Of course, such an attack on the authority of the Temple officials could not be allowed to pass unchallenged - but care was required, for in such a tense situation any untoward action was liable to trigger a mass uprising. 'And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine'( Mark 11:18)
"There was always the possibility of riots and other forms of civil unrest during the holy days of the festival, and Pilate (the Governor, as representative of the Emperor in Rome) hand marched in form Caesarea with his cohorts (each of 500 legionaries) to be ready to intervene if necessary. Such disturbances are only briefly alluded to in the Gospels. According to Mark, a certain Barabbas was taken prisoner together with 'them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection' (Mark 15:7). Mark also says that the chief priests and scribes 'sought how they might take [Jesus] by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people' (Mark 14: 1-2) If Jesus was to be liquidated, both great speed and great caution were called for.
"The Pharisees first tried to get Jesus to incriminate himself in a public discussion. They asked him whether it was right to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. If Jesus had replied in the negative, he would have been open to the charge of high treason, had he replied positively, he would have lost all the support and most of the interest of the people. Instead, he got out of the predicament by a stroke of genius (Mark 12:14-27). The Sadducees then attempted to ridicule his doctrine of reincarnation. "This attack too he parried skillfully (Mark 12:19-27)." [p.133]
Crucification and after effects
What happened next, and how He was crucified is a common knowledge. Such were the revolutionary actions of Jesus. Of course, the Jews had to pay the price as did Hindus for abandoning the Buddha. Swami Dharmatirtha has observed nearly sixty years ago:
"The Jews of Palestine gave birth to a Jesus Christ; but they crucified him and rejected his religion; and their country passed into the hands of the Muslims where Britain now holds the balance between the Jews and the Muslims. India produced a Buddha, but when she rejected his religion of righteousness, she passed into the hands of the Muslims and Britain now holds the balance between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Jews became the kingless people of the world and the Hindus the only civilized nation that is not master of its own country. The two great religions, Buddhism and Christianity, rejected in the land of their birth, spread far and wide, and now sustain the religious life of the greatest nations of the East and the West, whereas the Hindus and the Jews rank as the orphans of humanity." [Swami Dharmatirtha, "The Menace of Hindu Imperialism", p. 110]
Present Christian Leadership
Present day Christian Leadership in India seems to have forgotten the Revolutionary Jesus. Not only that, they seem to have forgotten a compassionate Jesus, who worked for the poor and the destitute. Now they are no more egalitarian preachers. There is hardly any difference in a Brahmanic caste system and Christian priestly caste system. Even untouchability is practiced not only in the Churches but also in Christian grave yards. A Brahmin talks of Philosophy, a Christian talks of Theosophy, but a Dalitbahujan Ambedkarite talks of Sociology. Christians have never taken to agitational politics in the past, they always tried to favour the oppressors, and stand by them, except since last years atrocities.
Christians and Muslims are being made "Untouchables"
For those, who forget history, history repeats itself. Remember how Buddhists were made "untouchables" by BSO through contempt and atrocities and denial of human rights. All those tricks and all those factors are in operation even today. They are not only directed against dalits today, they are also directed against Muslims and Christians. They all are being gradually segregated and boycotted. Those who can not see the writing on the wall are doomed to perish. So let us all be awake and identify our enemy. The enemy of Christians and Muslims is not Communism or Buddhism, it is Brahmanical Social Order.
Social service and social transformation
This is the important point which one must understand. Medical ethics says, prevention is better than cure. Instead of curing a disease give more attention to its prevention. To mend a fracture is social service, to create environment so that fractures do not take place is social transformation. To give vitamin pills to malnourished Adivasi children is social service, to give their parents employment so that they can buy wholesome food for their children is social transformation. To give charity to a beggar is social service, to create social atmosphere so that nobody has to beg is social change. To give rice at Rs. two per kilo when market price is Rs.7/- is social service, to raise the income of the person so that he can buy the rice at market price is social change. To feed the hungry is social service, to create situation where nobody remains hungry is social change. To teach an illiterate is social service, to destroy the social structure which made him illiterate is social change. To open a new school in thee vicinity of an illiterate poor colony of zopadpatti could be social service, to motivate the poor hungry and illiterate man to send his child to school walking five kilometers away even on an empty stomach is social transformation. To protect a weak person by giving him weapons is social service, to make him strong enough to let him manufacture and use his own weapons is social change. To teach an egalitarian prayer to a school child may be social service, to dynamite the scriptures spreading inequality among human beings is a social change. To assure protection to scared minorities may be social justice, to give them power so that they can defend themselves is social transformation.
I have great respect for those missionaries who did a tremendous amount of good work in the past. If there were no such missionaries, there would have been no Phule, no Shahu and no Ambedkar, let alone Kanshiram and Mayavati. In my humble opinion, missionaries in India are doing social service, and are the very best at that, but still it is not social transformation. I think here lies the importance of Ambedkarism, which is not a political movement alone. It stands for not social service or social justice alone but for social transformation and economic emancipation.
While we remember Revolutionary Jesus, we may not forget that we cannot progress by merely "Dalit Unity", or by only "Dalit Muslim Unity", or by only "Dalit Christian Unity", we have to build a Bahujan Samaj, which is not an easy task. One has to understand the mechanics of Bahujan Samaj. Let us forget, for the time being at least, the international tensions between Christians and Muslims, between Christians and Buddhists and such similar tensions. Today in India, the dragon BSO is facing us and trying to devour us one by one. Under such circumstances, the Unity of all the dalitbahujans can be jeopardized if one talks of proselytizing. We are aiming at only a political unity of sufferers of the system. Let everybody stick to his or her own religion. There is no other choice - either unite or perish.