Posts Tagged 'untouchability'

TN government honours swayamsevak for social work


Monday, January 11, 2010
TN government honours swayamsevak for social work

Last month, Shri Chandrasekhar, Collector of Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu, gave away Rs 1 lakh to Shri Muthuraj, panchayat president of B. Chettihalli village, in appreciation of elimination of untouchability in his panchayat under a state government scheme to promote social cohesion. Till 1981, this village had the bad name for ill-treating harijans. With an RSS pracharak, Shri Ramakrishnan, started a shakha in Jogipatti falling under the panchayat that year and things began to change for the better. Shakha naturally attracted youth from all communities. The village youth who became swayamsevaks were imbibed with a sense of social justice as a path to Hindu consolidation. They gave the necessary pep to the harijan families. As a result, harijans began walking along the village streets wearing footwear. They could now ride bicycles inside the village limits, something impossible earlier. Jogipatti blazed the trail for eradication of untouchability in surrounding villages over a period. Muthuraj, a second-year trained swayamsevak, was among the first batch of village youth to attend the shakha. Later, he was elected for the post of panchayat president as an independent candidate. This gave a fillip to the efforts of the Sangh workers striving for samajik samarasata in the neighbourhood. Soon the Chaaki Amman temple festival became an occasion for all castes to express solidarity, a sea change from the conflict-ridden affair that it used to be. All this led the government to select the village for the award.

Bigotry alive for Christian Dalits

Bigotry alive for Christian Dalits
By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Eraiyur
Centuries ago, as their forefathers faced social and economic deprivation, many low-caste Hindus embraced Christianity.
But in one corner of southern India, their hopes for equality remain unfulfilled hundreds of years on. Called “pariahs”, hundreds of Dalit Christians continue to face discrimination – not from Hindus but fellow Christians.
More than 200km (124 miles) from Chennai, the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, is the village of Eraiyur.
Home to about 3,000 Dalit Christians, mostly farm labourers and migrant workers, the area witnessed violence last year when Dalits demanded equal treatment.
The village is dominated by Vanniyar Christians numbering 15,000, who own most of the land and businesses.
They imposed restrictions on Dalits even though they had also converted to Christianity.
Restricted life
A 17th Century church building, Lady of the Rosary Parish, stands tall above the Eraiyur settlement. The village came up around the parish church, with Vanniyar houses closest to it. The Dalits were forced to build their small huts on the fringe of the village.
It did not take long for the divisions within the Hindu social system to be reflected among the new Christians.
The dominant Vanniyars created rules which restricted the movement of the Dalits.
When they visited the parish church they were not allowed to walk on the main street leading to the building. Instead they had to use a side street that led to the church gate.
When Dalits died they were not allowed to be buried in the cemetery. Their burial ground is beyond the village and can only be accessed through a broken path.
In addition, the funeral cart parked inside the church building can be used only by Vanniyars.
“We were told not to touch any upper caste person, not to get too close to them, not to talk to them,” says Mrs Peraiyamaka, 60, a farm labourer who has been visiting the parish church since childhood.
“It is no different now.”
Mr Thomas, a 60-year-old labourer says there is also a fear of violence as young Dalits refuse to be submitted to such humiliation.
He says this fear prompted the Dalits to build an alternative church.
A single-room, white-washed brick structure with an iron grill for the entrance is set in a small open ground.
Called Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Dalit church has a coloured icon of Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus in her arms. She is flanked by plastic flowers and incense sticks burn on the sides.
The Dalits’ demands of recognition for their church were rejected by local Catholic priests on the ground that a village can have only one parish church.
Mr Mathew is a Dalit activist who graduated from Madras University.
Having faced prejudice as a schoolboy, he has now decided to fight for the rights of Dalits.
His efforts to seek justice have created tension in his village, forcing him to move to elsewhere.
He is angry that although the constitution has banned “untouchability” it continues to be practised in different ways.
“My family may get some minimum help or guidance from Christianity. That’s all. There is no big change after we came to Christianity,” says Mr Mathew.
Vanniyars disgruntled
As we walked out of the Dalit quarters towards the well laid-out area where Vanniyar Christians live under the shadow of the whitewashed parish church, we were greeted by a few angry women.
They did not want us to take pictures and asked us to leave.
A few angry residents of Vanniyar quarters gathered around us. They agreed to answer our questions. Emily, 25, was eager to give their version of the story.
“We have allowed them to use the road. They are creating trouble,” she says.
We asked her how in a free country one group could dictate to others on the use of a public road.
“I don’t know. It’s been like this… but we have now allowed them,” Emily replied.
Similar responses came from other Vanniyars we spoke to.
Mr Arukadas, a retired government teacher lives next to the parish church and he shared his unhappiness with the Dalit Christians.
Asked about using a common funeral van and a graveyard where all Christians irrespective of their past Hindu caste identity can be buried, he retorted: “It will take a long time for a common graveyard.”