Christian Dalits face Intolerance from co religionists .
Casteism supersedes religion
All In the name of the Father
Extracts from a report in Mail Today
IT HAS been simmering under the surface for a long time. And despite repeated pleas from Dalit Christians of Eraiyur, a small hamlet in Northern Tamil Nadu, against discrimination from caste Christians, the Church authorities have always looked the other way and failed to act.
The result: a savage mob attack on Dalit Christians and the death of two caste Christians in police firing. The incident has put the Catholic Church in a quandary. It has also blown the lid off the persisting discrimination of Dalits within the Church. It all began when Eraiyur Dalits protested against the injustice at the hands of their fellow Christians, the Vanniyars who are a higher caste.
Northern Tamil Nadu has been a hotspot of Vanniyar- Dalit conflicts.
The Vanniyars are not only numerically stronger but are also politically the most influential caste in the region. In fact, caste parties like the Pattali Makkal Katchi ( PMK) and the Dalit outfit, Viduthalai Chiruthakakkal Katchi ( VCK), draw their sustenance from this caste divide.
Dalit Christians complain that they face the worst forms of discrimination: segregation in the parish church, a separate cemetery and an unsaid ban on entering the main street to the church, among other things.
Even families of Dalit priests and nuns are not spared discrimination. In 1999, the Archbishop of Puducherry was greeted with abuses and stone throwing, for taking part in the funeral of a Dalit priest’s father.
Dejected with the ostrich- like attitude of the Church leadership, Dalits sought a separate parish, having built a small church in their locality. Despite their countless representations to the Archbishop, their plea has not been conceded. Last week, they launched a protest fast.
Even as the fast was under way and with no response forthcoming from the Church leadership , a poster campaign began calling for the closure of the parish church. In no time, all hell broke loose! Caste Christians felt the Dalits were overreaching themselves and needed to be taught a lesson.
To make matters worse, Dalit Christians are a numerical minority in Eraiyur. Immediately after Sunday Mass last week, a furious mob of 500 caste Christians descended on the Dalit locality. Protestors were attacked and houses ransacked and set on fire.
The situation soon got out of control and the Dalits’ lives were at the mercy of the violent mob. The violence did not stop even after the police intervened.
In fact, the police became the target of attack — police personnel including a senior officer were injured. Finally the police opened fire claiming the lives of two caste Christians. The problem has now spread to other churches in the region.
As many as 25 non- Dalit priests were forced to pack off by Dalit Christians. The churches remain locked and the local Dalits are firm they should not be opened until a solution is found to their problems.
There was no Palm Sunday in many parishes and Dalit Christian forums have called for observing the Holy Week as a Black Week.
Eraiyur echo: Churches in Cuddalore, Villupuram locked
Villupuram, Tamil Nadu, Mar 17: Expressing solidarity with the Dalit Christians of Eraiyur village in the district, many Catholic churches here and in neighbouring Cuddalore district have been closed down, even as churches across the world were preparing to observe holy week and celebrate