Indian society is divided into different castes. At the bottom of the social hierarchy are the Dalits, traditionally considered unclean and untouchable. That’s why many of them convert from Hinduism to Christianity, now making up an estimated70 percent of the Church in India.
Who are India’s Dalits?
“Dalit”. Hundreds of Dalits who joined Christianity to escape grinding poverty, exploitation and humiliation, are estimated to number some 30 percent of India’s 27 million Christians. Together with tribal people, who also form about 30 percent , these socially and economically poor groups constitute the majority of Indian Christians.
Do Dalits who convert to Christianity get the respect they were denied?
While Telangana CM claims Dalits who convert to Christianity get ‘respect they were denied’, the ground reality is different. Here is how Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in a media interaction claimed that Dalits convert to Christianity to get the respect that they were denied (in Hinduism).
Why do Dalits prefer to live in cities?
In urban areas the Dalits are slightly more aware. There is better policing, there is more equality due to anonymously, so they may escape. And the city offers its own opportunities. Children can go to school in the cities, they can get more jobs, they can have slightly better housing.
Why Do Indian Christians Become Dalits?
Because this is seen as a betrayal, that new Christian is shunned, and seen as an impure Dalit, leading to extreme persecution.
What Does This Mean for Their Day-To-Day Life?
Becoming a Christian Dalit means double the persecution and oppression. First, as an Untouchable they are considered impure from birth, performing jobs that are traditionally considered unclean, menial, or degrading for very little pay. This treatment as a class, combined with the tradition to practice a religion other than what is historically culturally acceptable, leads to even more persecution.
What is caste system?
The caste system is defined as “one of the hereditary social classes of Hinduism that restricts the occupation of their members and their association with the members of other castes sanctioned by custom, law or religion.” More so, the caste system is so deeply embedded in Indian culture, it often surpasses the boundaries of religious affiliation. So, when someone of a higher class decides to become a Christian and profess their faith publicly, even though they do not practice Hinduism, the religious customs will still affect them. The upper castes around them will view them as complete outcasts – vile, and unclean.
Why do Dalits convert to Christianity?
Because Christianity is especially attractive to the Dalits, Hindus view this conversion as a bribery from Christian leaders. It is widely the belief that any religion outside of Hinduism is alien and counteractive to Hindu practices such as the caste-system.
Why are Dalits shunned?
The Dalits are completely shunned from society. They are viewed as having less value than a cow. They live their lives in constant fear of being beaten, raped, or lynched for walking down the wrong street, drinking from the wrong fountain, etc. This caste of people is born into this position with no hope of escape.
Do you remember your decision to follow Christ?
Do you remember your decision to follow Christ? For many of us, we can pinpoint a time in our lives or even a day that we made the choice to become a Christian. It’s often marked by a realization that there is hope and grace through Christ – not only that, but there is the promise of eternal life . But, for Indian Christians, the decision weighs heavier than ever. For those that are of a higher caste, they must be prepared to trade their upper-caste standing and become a Dalit or Untouchable, shunned from society. We want to tell you exactly what this means in Indian culture. The stakes are high for Indian Christians, and their faith is to be commended.
What is the Ranganath Mishra Commission?
The Ranganath Mishra Commission constituted by the Government of India on October 29, 2004, to look into the various issues of the linguistic and religious minorities of India inter alia recommended –10% quotas for Muslims and 5% for other minorities in government jobs and educational institutions; reserves 8.4% out of Other Backward Class (OBC) quotas of 27% for the minorities and Dalit Converts.
What was the Rajinder Sachar Committee?
Moreover, the Rajinder Sachar Committee that was appointed by the Manmohan Singh Government in 2005 almost echoed the voice of the Ranganath Commission. It looked into the plight of the Muslim community of India and expressed deep concern over their backwardness and felt that their condition was worse than that of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). It further recommended the formation of an Equal Opportunity Commission to uplift the marginalized Muslims in India.
Is the reservation of Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists a humanitarian act?
True, the extension of reservation facilities to the Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhists is a humanitarian act of the Government of India but seems paradoxical as it denies the same to the Dalit Christians on the plea of religion. This Constitutional Order certainly goes against Nehru’s clarification of Indianness in his book “The Discovery of India”.
Who recommended the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Reservation Policy of India?
Late A.R. Antulay, the Union Minister of Minority Affairs in the Manmohan Singh Government of 14 Lok Sabha (2004- 2009) strongly recommended the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Reservation Policy of India that was being followed in employment. However, there were no takers for his suggestion. Dr. B R Ambedkar had submitted a memorandum titled “States and Minorities” to the Constituent Assembly in 1946 in which he had demanded adequate safeguards for the SCs and religious minorities against the tyranny and discrimination of the majority. Moreover, the demand for reservation for religious minorities in Parliament and State Assemblies as well as in jobs was rejected by the Constituent Assembly.
Do Dalit Christians have rights in India?
The Dalit Christians in India, the descendants of the Hindu Dalits of yore are not foreign migrants. So, they have a moral right to avail of all those privileges that are usually given to the Hindu Dalits. In India, reservation facilities have been extended to Dalit Sikhs in 1956 and to Neo-Buddhists in 1990 by amending the Para (3) of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order,1950 or The Presidential Order,1950. This Constitutional Order has come as a surprise for the Dalit Christians who have been waging a long battle for the fulfillment of their goals, that is, reservation in jobs in particular and reservation of seats in state and Central legislatures in general.
What is the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front?
The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front in 2018 had submitted a report and registered a protest on the discrimination against Dalits and rampant practice of the caste system within the Church.
What is the Dalit report?
The report divided the plight of Dalit Christians into segments such as – denial of priesthood to Dalit Christians and discrimination against Dalit Christians with special emphasis on the reported atrocities, including untouchability, committed against Dalit Christians in the Sivaganga diocese.
What did the Dalit Catholic leaders threaten to do?
Raising a strong voice demanding an end to casteism and discrimination against Dalits in the Catholic Church, the Dalit Catholic leaders across India had threatened to start a new church if their demand is not met.
What was the practice of constructing separate chapels in the same village for Dalits?
The report talked about the practice of constructing separate chapels in the same village for Dalits, the practice of caste in the formation of parishes, denial of the share for the Dalit Christians in the administration of the parish. To add to it, the Dalit Christians were denied employment opportunities, caste considerations while providing facilities and denied priesthood for Pallar Dalit Christians.
Why did Telangana convert to Christianity?
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in a media interaction claimed that Dalits convert to Christianity to get the respect that they were denied (in Hinduism).
Did Dalit Christians have a separate burial space?
BBC had earlier reported on how Dalit Christians were allocated a separate space for burial by building a wall, with the upper-caste converts being buried on the other side. Father Lourdunathan Yesumariyan, a Jesuit, practising lawyer and Dalit-Christian activist had remarked, “The failure to remove the wall only helps cement caste feelings.”
Who is the coordinator of the National Council of Dalit Christians?
Franklin Caesar Thomas , coordinator of the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) had said, “If the Vatican does not immediately remove the discriminatory process of bishop selection that neglects qualified Dalit priests, we could announce our own Indian Dalit Catholic Church or the Indian Dalit Catholic Rite.”
What party is supporting Dalit Christians?
In 2019, the Telugu Desam Party government passed a similar assembly resolution in support of Dalit Christians. Experts told IndiaSpend that government institutions, including the office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, can handle the collection of disaggregated caste data but it needs political will.
What is the exclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims from Scheduled Caste?
New Delhi: The exclusion of Dalit Christians and Muslims from the Scheduled Caste category, and the lack of reliable government data on them, deprives these communities of the constitutional benefits extended to Dalits from other religious backgrounds , say experts.
When did Buddhists get SC status?
In 1990, converted Buddhists too were provided SC status. In 1996, taking note of the 1983 panel recommendation, the Centre had planned to make the law recognising SCs religion-neutral through a Constitutional amendment but received a divided opinion from state governments.
When did the backward classes commission start?
As early as 1955, the First Backward Classes Commission under Kaka Kalelkar had recommended that “before the disease of caste is destroyed all facts about it have to be noted and classified in a scientific manner as in a clinical record”, adding that this may be done in 1961 Census if not earlier in 1957.
Which states have recognized Dalit and backward groups among Muslims and Christians as Other Backward Classes?
Some states such as Kerala and Karnataka have recognized Dalit and backward groups among Muslims and Christians as Other Backward Classes, offering them reservation benefits in jobs and education. But the enumeration of caste data could be “tricky”, experts say. Here is why. One in six or 201 million Indians are categorized as SCs …
Is reservation based on economics?
But reservations are not based on economic grounds and are not an anti-poverty measure, said Ashwini Deshpande. “That is not the intended effect of reservations,” said Ashwini Deshpande. “Hence it would be unfair to the policy to expect an outcome that it was not designed for.”.
Did the government release caste data?
While the raw data was handed over to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the government did not release the data on caste in the Socio Economic and Caste Census, without explaining why. Instead, it published socioeconomic data for the broad groups of SCs, STs and other castes. The Socio Economic and Caste Census was reported …
Why is it important to understand the cultural history of the Dalits in the context of Hindu theological beliefs and social practices?
It is important to understand the cultural history of the Dalits in the context of Hindu theological beliefs and social practices endorsed by religious law. The Hindu faith is structured on a complex caste structure , believed to be divinely ordained , in which situation and social status are derived by birth , as are occupations.
How many members does the Catholic Church have in India?
With 17 million members, Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination in India. The Catholic Church has three Rites in India – the universal Latin Rite which dominates with over 10 million, the Syro Malabar Rite with a claimed 6 million, and the Syro Malankara, with a million. With 2 million, the Church of South India is the largest protestant church.
What article of the Constitution says that Hindus are not eligible for affirmative action?
Official conversion to Christianity would make them ineligible under Article 341 (iii) of the Constitution, which holds such affirmative action only for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. This law has been challenged twice in the Supreme Court, which upheld it the first time, but five years ago reopened hearings on public interest litigation by Dalit Christians.
How many Christians are there in India?
Statisticians Todd Johnson and Kenneth Ross estimate that India’s Christians constitute 4.8 per cent of the population at 58 million, a figure accepted by some academicians such as Chad Bauman, Vice President of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies in the United States. Jason Mandryk puts the figure even higher, at 71 million, or 5.84 per cent of the population, and reports that others estimate it as high as 9 per cent.
What were the two major groups that spread Christianity in India?
The first flush was of the Portuguese and Spanish, in 1498, the French, and the Dutch. The second was of the British , with the East India Company , the Church of England and the British Missionary Society and the many others who followed in their footsteps. The Portuguese presence is perhaps the well-documented chapter in India’s political and religious history, and it left an indelible mark on the ancient nation. Their missionary activity was carried out under the Padroado system, the patronage of the colonial power.
What was the Hindu growth rate in 1947?
The Hindu growth rate had fallen to 20 per cent from 23 per cent in the same corresponding period. This paranoia, and the continuing rift between religious communities created by the partition of India in 1947, has led to repeated confrontation and violence. Over 30,000 major incidents of religious violence have been recorded in more than 65 years of independence. [Based on data disclosed in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, and civil society surveys.]
When did the Hindutva violence peak?
The violence peaked in 2007 and 2008. Orissa and 14 other states have been affected, seven seriously. Between 24 August and October 2008, Hindutva mobs burned down 5,600 houses in 300 villages, destroyed over 250 churches, killed about 100 people, and forced over 54,000 Christians to flee their homes. Many have been told they have to become Hindus if they want to return.
What is SC/ST Act?
SC/ST Act, the hierarchy of the religions should be prosecuted. But the National Commission of Scheduled Castes tells that it is only the Hindu religion that motivates untouchability. Isn’t this a paradox?29” By denying the Muslim and Christian Dalits those benefits, the state is violating its own laws that are meant to safeguard the equality of all people, irrespective of caste and creed distinctions.30But that’s not all. Shiri Godwin found out that Christian Dalits not only get this treatment when they plead for Scheduled Castes benefits, but also when they make a request for ordinary state benefits, meant for Other Backward Classes and for economic weaker sections.31In this way the state does not only discriminate on the basis of religion and thus a denial of religious liberty, but they also punish those Dalits who have had the courage to exercise their religious liberty and convert to Christianity or Islam.32Not surprisingly many Christian Dalits conceal and deny that they are Christian, in order to get the benefits of reservation.33This was also confirmed by the interview I had with CARDS: “In our education we don’t say that we are Christians, because then you don’t get a scholarship. That’s why in school we say we are from the Scheduled Caste. Like that we are getting a scholarship for our study.34” The implications of the earlier mentioned presidential order reaches farther than the deprivation of Christian Dalits from the reservations. It also negates them the protection to which they are entitled when they would belong to the Scheduled Castes. Hence, they cannot claim protection under the Untouchability Offences Act of 1979 or the Civil Rights Act of 1955 or the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989. So, if Christian Dalits are assaulted, they cannot call upon any provision of the Constitution or Act.35 36
How many Dalits are there in India?
The number of Dalits of all religions lies around the 200 million. Most people in India are of the Hindu religion; they seem to cover eighty percent of the population.13In a country that has one billion inhabitants, this means there are approximately 800 million Hindus. Overall, these figures should tell us that 200 million people in India are still downtrodden and discriminated against. Furthermore, all religions other than Hinduism are minorities. What does this mean for the Christian Dalit? First of all, this depends on where one lives. In the north of India there are very few caste Christians; roughly seventy percent of the Church members are Dalit.14Consequently, the Christian Dalits in this part of India do not suffer as
Do Dalits suffer daily?
All of the sources studied for this research seem to agree on the point that the Christian Dalits still suffer on a daily basis. In this way they are not any different from other Dalits. John Webster writes in his book ‘Religion and Dalit Liberation’: “Although they form a majority of the Christian Community, they have been an oppressed majority.” Farther onward he adds: “Like other Dalits, Christian Dalits live in a caste-based society and their conversion has not been able to change that fact.16” This last thought is shared by the bulk of the authors investigating the lives of the Christian Dalits. The reason that one will not lose his Dalit-status when converting to Christianity, is well formulated by M.R. Arulraja in his book ‘Jesus the Dalit’: “Those who commit atrocities against Dalits do not differentiate between Christian Dalits and non-Christian Dalits. For an Indian, a Dalit is a Dalit, whether Christian or not.17” So, being a Christian or becoming a Christian doesn’t change the status of a Dalit, let alone will it change his life in terms of his well-being: for an Indian he is still a Dalit. Earlier on I mentioned that the number of Christian Dalits is an estimated seventy, some would even say eighty or ninety, percent of the total number of Christians. Together with the fact that in India Christianity is seen as an foreign, western religion and converting to it is almost seen as betrayal, this has some serious consequences for the daily life of the Christian Dalits: the suppression intensifies. This is illustrated by the Orissa violence, in December 2008. While these events testify about extreme violence towards Christian Dalits, the suppression also becomes visible in other forms, namely, in the ways they are discriminated against.
Who is Kasta Dip?
Kasta Dip: I am the Coordinator for Dalits & Tribal Concerns of Church of North India and also the Coordinator for South Asia Christian Youth Network. I am a Dalit and my work is to sensitize the congregations in socio-economic and political concerns, particularly about the struggles of the oppressed and marginalized such as dalits, indigenous communities in their self-development, dignity and wholesome life.
Is Dalit a Christian?
First of all, theDalit Christian does not exist. Being a Christian may involve very different practices of marriage or worship in different regions.6This means that ‘Dalit Christians’ represent a wide, multi-dimensional spectrum which should be held in mind when thinking about Dalit Christians. The second consideration has to do with the naming of Dalits who are Christian. So far I called them ‘Dalit Christians’. But, as the attentive reader may have noticed, I titled this chapter: ‘Christian Dalits’. This has a reason. The most common phrase to use is Dalit Christian, so that is why I began with using this term. However, along the way I realised that this term is not correct. It is in fact a matter of which word is the noun and which is the adjective modifying it. As will become clear later on, Dalits constitute for almost the entire Christian population in India. Moreover, Christian Dalits are more stipulated by being a Dalit than by being a Christian. The main reason for this is that once converted to another religion, the discrimination continues. Also, as became clear in the various interviews, the identity of Christian Dalits has far more to do with them being a Dalit than by them being a Christian. The third reason, of why it should be ‘Christian Dalits’, is formulated by John Webster, namely, that ‘Christian Dalit’ conveys a greater sense of solidarity with other Dalits, than does ‘Dalit Christian’.7All in all, reason enough to choose ‘Dalit’ as the noun and ‘Christian’ as the modifying adjective. The first sentence of the introduction states that Christian Dalits are officially non-existent in India, but why this is, is still not answered. It has got to do everything with the third consideration, that is, the difficulty of knowing the number of Christian Dalits in India. Christian Dalits are not recognised by the government. The first phrases about not being a Dalit when you are a Christian, is a logic used by the government to exclude Christian Dalits from the Reservation System.8Later on in this rapport, the discriminatory consequences this
Do Dalits seek liberation?
that, Christian or not, Dalits seek liberation. So, helping the Dalits is to be in solidarity with them and support them in their struggle for liberation. In the conclusion an overview of the main findings is given and the core question is answered by giving a number of recommendations, meant for the mission department of ICCO/KiA.
When was Cards 34 interview?
34Interview with the women in the theatre group CARDS, 04-06-2009.
What does Father Ponniah call double identity?
In response to this state policy, there has been a rise in what Father Ponniah describes as “double identity,” those who accept the teachings of Christianity and worship as Christians but do not register as such.
How do Dalit Christians respond to violence?
Father Ponniah’s research has revealed that Dalit Christians have responded to violence and harassment not by withdrawing from the larger society but rather by coming out of “their little world” and becoming “a lot more engaged in the civil society.”
What is the purpose of the secular constitution?
Its secular constitution, ratified in 1949, sought to eradicate discrimination and level the playing field for all citizens.
Do Dalit Christians need to convert to Hinduism?
But even as Dalit Christians suffer, Father Ponniah said, Christians worldwide can take inspiration from their brothers and sisters in India’s Dalit community, who need only re-convert to Hinduism to improve their social standing but steadfastly refuse to deny Christ.
Do Dalits get seats in Indian schools?
For instance, a certain percentage of seats in Indian schools and jobs in state government are set aside for Dalits, Father Ponniah said. But, as a result of their conversion, Dalit Christians are no longer eligible for either.
Is a Dalit Christian a Dalit?
That means that a Dalit Christian is “not a Dalit according to the constitution of India,” he explained. “He or she can be harassed, he or she can be ridiculed or humiliated, and the state will not come to protect them.”
Is Hinduism a global minority?
He added that the Hindu majority sees itself as a global minority and, feeling responsible for supporting Hinduism in its country of origin, does not wish to do anything that would encourage Dalits to convert to non-Hindu religions.