ABUSE OF THE DALITS IN THE CHRISTIAN MEDIA
Rev. John Duraisamy, an editor of Sarvaviyabi, a Tamil Weekly from the archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore published two cartoons consecutively on 4 & 11th July 1999. He published them deliberately to insult, to humiliate and to degrade the 240 million dalits or the untouchables of India. The editor wanted to take some revenge on the dalit population and therefore he abused his power and authority to degrade the dalits. The editor could be arrested under The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 , Sec. 3,4,5,6,7, The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 , Sec. 2. (1)(x), T he Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 , Sec. 3 (1)(x) for the use of derogatory language against dalits. Humiliating dalits in the form of language or act is an offence which is punishable by a term of six months to five years of imprisonment with a fine. The Government of India enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCR Act) to enforce the abolition of "untouchability" under Article 17 of the Constitution. The PCR Act punishes offences that amount to the observance of "untouchability." Here are the two cartoons that provoked millions of dalits in India and abroad. Many were shocked to witness this kind of apartheid within the church and expressed their deep regrets to the editor and to the archbishop of Pondicherry.
What does the Archbishop of Pondicherry say about this?
The Archbishop belongs to the same caste of the editor. He remains very silent about this remark. He feels that his hands are tied tight. He has no comments when people approached him through letters and phone calls. One's silence in times of injustice is a sin because it encourages the other person to continue the evil things.
Abolition of Untouchability
CBCI Commission for SC/ST/BC has been inspiring, educating the people for the empowerment of Dalit/Tribals and Backward Classes. In spite of condemnation by CBCI and the repeated appeals by the individual Bishops, the Dalit Christians who form the majority of believers in India are discriminated against, humiliated, and even victimised. The message of CBCI General Body meeting held at Varanasi has declared that discrimination on the basis of caste is a sin against God and humanity and the caste system will be removed from the Christian community totally as part of our preparation for Yesu Krist Jayanti 2000 . It has also proposed action plans to be implemented in all Dioceses.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India has appealed several times to their own flock to end the discrimination within the church. The CBCI has repeated her teachings on several occasions. The CBCI Commission for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Caste has strongly condemned all forms of caste discrimination. " The commission has made a powerful statement "The celebration of Jubilee 2000 may be 'postponed' until the true brotherhood and equality is practiced by all the faithful of a parish and religious communities."
Reactions from others
Neethi, Pastoral Theologian, USA,
Let me presently share with you a more recent case of blatant oppression on the Dalit community through the use of the print media. I wish to draw your attention to two cartoons that appeared in a catholic weekly on two successive issues on 4 and 11th July 99. It should be stressed here that the weekly in question (A Tamil Weekly named "Sarvaviyabi", meaning "The All Pervading One.") is the official publication of the Roman Catholic diocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, South India.
The intention of the editor in publishing these cartoons is not hard to understand. With a subtle manipulation of the ancient wisdom sayings, he has insulted the entire Dalit community by casting aspersions on the collective character of Dalits. The cartoons are meant to convey the message that decency and good character can not be expected from Dalits no matter what. The obvious implication is that the Dalits are always low and mean and will remain the scum of the society.
These cartoons have hurt the feelings of not only thousands of Dalit Christians in the diocese of Pondicherry but millions of Dalits all over the world. This is a clear case of psychological oppression of Dalits by the upper caste that has been carried on for centuries. Dalits have been subjected to both physical and psychological oppression for nearly 3500 years. Physical violence is open and direct and is easily discernible whereas psychological oppression is very subtle and indirect. It hides its ugly face behind the mask of culture and inflicts such deep wounds on the personality of dalit that he or she is totally dehumanized. It is this more sophisticated but deadly form of oppression that the editor of Sarvaviyabi employs in his periodical.
The editor, Rev. John Duraisamy, can argue that he has only borrowed these sayings from the rich literary cultural heritage that has been handed down to us. These golden words were born out of the wisdom and experiences of the sages and have stood the test of the time. That is exactly where the problem lies. Whose culture are we talking about? What did this culture do to the Dalit community over the years?
Dalit history reveals that the Dalit community had a rich culture of its own. Here, Dalits who are the children of the soil found ways of expressing their identity through folk arts and classic arts in oral and written forms. But these rich cultural treasures were stolen from them by the Brahmins and upper caste oppressors. Their cultural heritage was desecrated and destroyed and a foreign culture was imposed upon them. The Brahmins and the upper caste oppressors saw to it that the Dalits would never produce a culture of their own. Even while destroying the culture of the Dalits, the Aryans absorbed many Dalit art forms and codified and modified them to suit their evil purposes. Dalits, having been deprived of their glorious culture, which gave them meaning and strength, became a cultural people and consequently a powerless people, ie. No people. They were made to depend on the Aryans to supply them with the signifying system and value-system. The Aryans ingeniously used the art form and the various traits of their culture to oppress and dehumanize the Dalits.
Thus culture which is supposed to give a meaning system and value system to a society was made into an instrument of oppression and domination. This manipulation of culture to dehumanize the Dalits has continued down unabated through the centuries even till today. Just a casual look at those who are at the helm of communications media in India will prove that the manipulation of culture continues and the dominance of the Brahmins and the upper caste is here to stay. The Dalits have neither the money power nor the political clout to make their voices heard. It is the upper caste that determines what the Dalits should think and how he should act and how he should see his status in the society.
By the use of electronic media and the print media, the upper caste society has successfully preserved its dominance and has tried to convince the world that the so-called low caste people are indeed low people. What is even more outrageous is the attempt to make the Dalits themselves believe and accept that they are low and worthless only to be despised and cast out to become the outcastes.
As we analyze the situation in the secular society, the logical question that follows is what is the situation in the church?
The answer is unfortunately not very different. Cultural domination through the clever manipulation of mass media is one area where many a church institution continue to give counter witnesses to the gospel of Jesus. Rev. John Duraisamy is just one of the many upper caste ecclesiastical personnel who use their influence with church hierarchy and the access to the media to perpetuate the crime of oppression and dehumanization. The cartoons cited above may appear at first sight to refer to good and bad people in general. But taken in the context of Eraiyur incident and the aftermath of it about which we carried a written up over the web site, the unmistakable reference is to the Dalit community. If that is not the case, one wonders what then was the good news that the editor wanted to give to the readers of his catholic publications in the present context of the a confrontation between upper caste and the Dalit Christians in the above archdiocese of Pondicherry? Is not this message diametrically opposed to the spirit of Jesus who took a stance of resistance to all that is inhuman to all that violates human right and human dignity. Will Jesus tell his followers today that ones character is determined by the caste in which one is born?
Will Jesus who identified himself with the Dalits of his day (the Samaritans, Publicans, tax-collectors, sinners etc.,) and assured them places of honor in the kingdom have the heart to tell the Dalits of today that they will always remain low-people, despised and derided by one and all? The editor who is a priest for thirty years and who is called to serve and shepherd the poorest of the poor in the footsteps of Jesus, his master will do well to reflect on the above question.
Is there anything that the Dalits can do today in the face of such wide spread cultural domination and cultural imperialism that silences them and renders them powerless? The answer is yes. They not only can but must prepare themselves for a cultural revolution. It is only by creating songs, dances, proverbs, folk arts etc, that expose the lies that are perpetuated by the oppressive culture that they will slowly discover their own self-hood. It is the creation of a counter culture that will enable the Dalits to regain their lost dignity and their stolen identity.
Let me end these few reflections by inviting your comments on both the cartoons and my reflections on them. If you feel that the cartoons do in fact inflict a serious psychological wound on the dalit community, please free to write a note to the editor of the weekly condemning such an oppressive and dehumanizing act. Is it not a disgrace to humanity that such things happen even in the 21st century?
This man takes us back to first century. in stead of taking forward. We are not living in stone age or copper age or industrial age, we are living in space age,,, age of communication, the world has become so small we all become members of one family. The communism , the Marxism has collapsed. The Berlin wall has collapsed, our pope challenged all communist countries and he gives the message 'fear not" are we are living in stone age? we have all passed all these ages now why do we quote a statement which was made someone several centuries ago we cannot use those old sayings which are outdate, they are pessimistic statement which do not give hope, love, which do not inspire us, which never help us to transcend or rise above these miserable condition .... Malice toward none and charity for all ... we must transcend above these kind of low mentality in order to become better people, successful people. Jesus came to give us joy.. Jesus sets us free.... As a priest, are you setting us free or oppresses us... Jesus came to liberate... not to oppress... You are dragging us back to the stone age... Is this message help our young people to into third millennium? What is the function of God's word? to give freedom, we are called to greatness in serving people, following the model of Christ... It is insult to all people, mostly to the educated, Christian people...
It is not the church that commits the sins but it is the people, certain staff working in the institution commit sin... it is a social sin
There is a tremendous gap between what we communicate to our people and what we do. People are more willing to see your preaching than hearing your sermons (Pope Paul IV). What we do is more important than what we preach.
This kind of statements reflect the true nature of a person. He reflects of what he is, his culture, his background
Phil.4:8 As Paul said, we have to do " whether we preach or write, we have to till the minds of the belivers with things that are noble, true, honorable. good, deserves praise.
Keep away from people who try belittle your ambition. Small people always do that. But the really great make you feel that you too can become great. Mark Twin.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton.