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Sunday, May 28, 2023

‘Dalit’ Christians protest appointment of ‘non-Dalit’ as new Archbishop

The ‘Dalit’ Christian liberation movement, an organisation working against the discrimination of ‘Dalits’ in the Catholic church hierarchy, has strongly criticised the appointment of a ‘non-Dalit’ as the Archbishop of Puducherry and Cuddalore.

Francis Kallat, Archbishop of Meerut, was recently appointed by the Pope as the Archbishop of the two regions.

Mary John state president of ‘Dalit’ Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) said that even though Archbishop Francis Kallat was born in Kanniyakumari district, it was rare for a Bishop serving in North India to be moved into this region. He said that the move was to prevent the appointment of a ‘Dalit’ Archbishop.

The organisation has been spearheading the appointment of a ‘Dalit’ as Archbishop in the two regions of Puducherry and Cuddalore and the post was lying vacant for the past year.

The DCLM leader while speaking to IANS said: “Even though the Dalit population is three-fourth of the Catholic population in the region, never in the history of the diocese since its formation in 1955 has a Dalit been made the Archbishop of the region.”

He said that only one of the 17 Catholic dioceses in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry had a ‘Dalit’ as Archbishop even though the ‘Dalit’ community accounts for 75 per cent of the Catholic population of the state.

Mary John said: “The Dalit population constitutes 64 per cent of the total Catholic population in the country and still the percentage of Dalit Bishops in the country is less than 10 per cent of the total strength.”

He said that the office-bearers of DCLM had met the Vatican representative in India, Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli last month to highlight the issue. Notably, the Apostolic Nunciature had following the meeting of the DCLM leaders in a statement said: “The Apostolic Nuncio does not discriminate in the episcopal selection of candidates and in the appointment of Bishops. The responsibility of the Apostolic Nuncio is to verify the priestly integrity of the candidates in order to establish their suitability for the office of the Arch Bishop and makes no distinction based on ethnicity, caste, language or social status.”

‘Dalit Chrisitian’ is an illegal misnomer

The term ‘Dalit’ has been popularized by leftist academics as a substitute for the official term of Scheduled Caste (SC) which refers to historically underprivileged classes who suffered the most among all native peoples during foreign colonial rule.

Many people were pushed into such dehumanizing poverty by foreign colonial loot and man-made famines, that they suffered a corresponding loss of social status from which they have only now begun to recover. Yet others were labelled ‘criminal tribes’ at birth by the British to punish them for their participation in the 1857 war of Independence. Many still carry that associated stigma.

As per the Constitution, only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists can be classified as Scheduled Caste, i.e. SC. Hence, the use of the term ‘Dalit Christian’, to refer to SCs who converted to Christianity is not just a misnomer, its manifestly illegal.

This term is being popularized by Christian organizations campaigning for these converts to be granted SC status, so that they too can avail SC reservation benefits. In states like Andhra Pradesh, most of these converts have illegally held on to their SC caste certificates and are crypto-Christians (officially Hindu, but practicing Christians) who abuse govt. benefits meant for poor SC Hindus, while also garnering sops distributed to minorities by Andhra’s Christian CM Jagan Reddy.

In fact, the Union social justice ministry has issued an advisory that the constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ should be used and not ‘Dalit’. Yet, the usage of the word remains rampant among academics and activists who have weaponized it against Hindu Dharma and Hindu society, while masking the central role of colonialism in the oppression and economic deprivation of this class of people. SCs are an integral part of Hindu society and some of them have their own proud sampradayas like Ravidassi that are respected by all Hindus.

The discrimination and ill-treatment faced by underprivileged Christian converts (former SCs) at the hands of the Church hierarchy and Vatican (there is yet to be a Black or dark-skinned Pope), is a reflection of two social phenomenon – 1.) Racism towards non-Europeans, which Westernized fairer-skinned Asians have internalized towards darker-skinned fellow Asians (the house slave vs field slave mindset) 2.) The feudal mindset that persists in our subcontinent, mostly in rural areas, due to scarcity and destruction wreaked by colonization that hampered natural evolution of society.

It is better for ‘Dalit Christians’ to come back to the Dharmic fold and proudly uphold the unique religious and cultural practices of their ancestors, rather than plead for equal treatment from a Church that is rooted in obsequiousness towards Europe.

(With IANS inputs)

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