|Dated: January 4, 2008An Open Letter of the Dalit Christians to Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Indian Parliamentarians and Indian Church Authorities
The Hon'ble Prime Minister,
152, South Block,
New Delhi -110 011
Wish you Happy Christmas and New Year.
For the last several decades, the Indian Church Authorities and its Leaders at National and International level have been subtly pressurizing the Indian Government to make suitable amendments in the Constitution to include converted Dalit Christians in the list of Schedule Castes. Our Constitution founders and framers had seen the validity of assuring equality and respect to Dalit Hindus in their Hindu fold, while they were not clear as to the implications of the same with Dalit Christians.Hence they formulated the provision for Hindu Dalit reservation for Schedule Caste in the Constitution. The Hindu community as a majority of peoples accepted reservations as a just and fair provision. Thus the Indian constitution gave equal right to the Dalit Hindus because they suffered ill treatment and were oppressed in the society over the centuries. It was a fair and just compensation to the Dalit Hindus for the exploitation done to them.
While Dalit Hindus- who were converted to Christianity- lost their privilege of reservation policy and thus they were not included in the list of Schedule Caste. The Converted Dalit Christians had 'an historic option' to decide whether to accept their original religion-Hinduism and return to their community and thus avail the facility of Schedule Caste but most of the Dalit Christians forsook the reservation policy and they decided to remain Dalit Christians (DC) mainly because DCs fondly recalled the words of Jesus Christ: "Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt Ch. 11:28)
Over the decades, the Church Authorities and Leaders belittled the faith of DCs., Besides, the Lords of Christendom- the Bishops, had already condescendingly accepted and treated the DCs as low grade Christians- reminiscent of their 'original stigma'-untouchables. This subtly implied that DCs should never forget who they were and that it is thanks to valiant, foreign missionaries efforts that they still can be treated as second class followers of Christianity. Thus Church Authorities maintained a clear distinction between 'those of the earlier accepted the Christian faith and thus possessed a superior grade/class and a superior faith' and those traits should be preserved till reward day of the Master. Keeping this as a background check, the Indian Church Authorities deemed it fit that Dalit Christians remain uneducated lot, and they were not given proper and equal right for gainful employment least they be filled with a false pride of being true Christians. Notice the subtle distinction and statements of Church authorities when it comes to the game of numbers. DCs who form over 70% of the Christians population should be a' feather in the cap' of the numerous foreign missionaries who descended in hordes triumphantly dreaming that one day the whole of India would be Christianized.
Further, the line of thinking of Church Authorities can be described thus: DCs ought to get proper compensation in lieu of governmental benefits they lost is 'an unchristian consideration'- this would spoil 'their Christian motivation'. Thus, it was clear to the Bishops and Church Authorities that any such talk of compensation made to DCs is unheard of biblical remedy. Hence DCs should remain poor and despicable to as proof of their newly accepted 'superior faith'. Moreover, the secular Indian Government should be taught a lesson or two -especially the lesson that it is the 'duty and responsibility' of the Indian Government to make appropriate provisions for DCs? And that 'we the Bishops' if needed, are ready to fight tooth and nail to see that the Indian Government implements and practices what is enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Government should be blamed squarely because they care two hoots for the plight of the DC while they are pampering the other Dalits with innumerable concessions all for political gain. And why should Church Authorities and leaders make suitable provisions for their own least brethren was beyond the comprehension of the great Lords of Christendom.
In just four hundred years the Christian population grew in leaps and bounds, the Indian Church's with the selfless efforts of foreign missionaries added millions to the zero percentage of Christians in India. But no Church Authority ever even noticed that the plight of those numerous DCs remained the same. Nay over the decades it worsened. Hence what was and is the primary intention of the pious missionaries becomes clear. Indian Church Authorities and Leaders merely used DCs in a game of numbers and scarcely gave a passing thought to improve the living conditions of DC. The DCs were never or rather deliberately kept out mainstream Christianity and thus they were unable to experience progress and growth in their Christian living even though they had full membership in the various Churches.
Notice this fact, when it came to the 'battle of equal rights for all Dalits' the Indian Church Authorities deemed it fit to wage a battle with the mind of Constitution founders and framers. And the battle did begin as early as or as soon as India gained independence. In their heart of hearts the Church Authorities and Leaders wanted that DCs to be loyal Christians and remain faithful members of their respective Churches and yet when it came to the matter of improvement in the standard of living, all their sound reasoning and superior faith failed them. Even an 'ordinary statements of the assets' of the Indian Churches- like enumerating the thousands of Christians Schools , Colleges and large compounds, and thousands of other allied majestic institutions like Hospitals and other social work Institutes will show the might of Indian Church wealth. It is well known that Indian Church Authorities have wealth 'second to none' in terms of immovable assets and finances. And note - this second to none is in comparison with the Government of India.
Besides, in the name of DCs and poor, the Church gets flooded with funds both from within country and from abroad. And most ironical- the condition of DCs remains as poor as the proverbial Church mouse. Do all these the funds instantaneously disappear into the incredible mouth of Bishop Pip? (Please view the Documentary-'In search of self respect', produced by PSBT and Prasar Bharti. www.syncline films.com). The Mighty Indian Churches have conveniently divided India and with the magical wand of the Pope and other Church Authorities, have created around 250 to 300 dioceses in the country in order to smoothly run and manage their vast properties and institutions. A diocese may have average around fifty thousand followers. Based on their own methods of mission management: aren't the Indian Church Authorities and Leaders responsible for the sorry state of affair of DCs? Why is the Indian Church constantly harping on the same old tune that Indian secularism is at stake when they themselves like Pilate constantly wash off their hands regarding a sound and just policy of justice for their least brethren- the Dalit Christians( DC)?.
Why are the Church Authorities forcing our Parliamentarians to debate on the scheduled caste status of DCs? It is for all to see who has a hidden agenda. It is for the Church Authorities to honestly provide a 'white paper' on their fabulous wealth and what have they done to alleviate the sufferings of the least of their brethren- the Dalit Christians.
To all Indian Bishops
The open letter is now addressed to the Presidents of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India, of the National Council for Churches in India, Church of South India, Anglicans, Methodists, CNI, and all Bishops of all Christian Denominations.
Most Rt. Rev. Bishops,
Happy Christmas and New Year,
Over the last several decades, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, National Council for Churches in India, all the Protestant Churches and all the Christian foreign funding agencies were and are trying their best to amend the legislation of inclusion in Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians. You had several ' high level meetings and conferences at National and International level; and you were seen frantically appointing the best legal luminaries to see that DC are included in the list of scheduled caste thus securing a new heaven and a new earth for DCs.
It was reported in the newspapers that your Grace and Lordship have graciously come down to the earth in New Delhi- the National Capital on November 29th 2007. You staged a Dharna for inclusion of DCs into Scheduled Caste status. When your Grace and Lordship, and predecessors converted Dalits from the Hindu society, the main attractions offered to them was that there was no caste discrimination in the Christian society and that they would be treated equally as brothers in Christ. It was with this hope of an 'egalitarian status' within the Christian community that the poor Dalits converted themselves to Christianity. If they are still Dalits the question is who has been oppressing them of late, it is true that when they were in the Hindu society they were oppressed by caste system that existed in that society. But was it not a solemn pledge before God and man that these converted Christians would be looked after without any discrimination and with Christian love and sharing?
There is an answer to this question. Obviously, it is the Church Authorities and Leaders who are exploiting the DCs. If only the Church Authorities can spend twenty five per cent of the Church income for the welfare of DCs, surely there will be a great change in the lives of DCs. If only the Church Authorities can give fifty percent of employment in their institutions to the DCs we believe that within ten years, all the DCs will have employment. But alas- the Church Authorities only gives all employment to and give important posts to the priests, nuns etc. Notice that you are creating fatted calves and bestowing on them privileges upon privileges to merely a small class of clergy and superior Christians.
You are seeing the speck in the eyes of Constitution founders and framers but fail to see the mote in your own eyes? For centuries the Church Authorities are merely filling up the barns for a minuscular clergy and pampering them into a parasitical life, while you ignore the cries and agonies of the discriminated DCs. For these very poor, Jesus has said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive's recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the year of remission, reward and restoration. Confer, Luke Chapter 4; 16-19."
Poor Christian Liberation Movement appeals to the Church Authorities and solemnly asks these questions. Why after converting DCs into the Christian fold you have constantly denied and deprived them of proper education facilities, of just employment, and generous financial support? And why do you not give proper Christian respect for DCs? Why do you not offer equal rights to DCs in the Church life? Why are you constantly using DCs as pawns to show the might of your own Empire and missionary prowess? Why hasn't the Christian sense of giving compensation to DCs never even once crossed the minds of the all powerful and wealthy Church Authorities? Why are you playing the role of going around the devils ring by leaving DCs to the mercy of Indian Government? Why are you not fulfilling your responsibility toward DCs? You must remember the solemn words spoken to Peter Simon. Jesus said to Peter Simon: "If you love me then take care of my lambs and sheep (St John 21:15-17) .And even St. Paul emphatically said this of himself: that he was imprisoned, that he was beaten many times, faced difficulties, was in odd situations, worked hard, spent sleepless nights, many times without food and water, and besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the congregations. Who is weak and I am not weak? (2 Corinthians Ch 11: 23-29). Can all the Bishops honestly say that they have fulfilled their responsibility towards Dalit Christians?
May the all the respected Bishop dare to say- YES. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
And all Executive Members of PCLM
Image: Dr. Manmohan Singh, Courtesy of the Government of India