Written by Aleena
For as long as I can remember, We and They were always different. “I knew I would lose my umbrella when these Pulaya women were standing here… what a bad omen they are,” exclaimed someone in church.
I was in Grade VIII when I heard this. It was all a pompous lie, the tale of the Holy Blood of Christ “healing” our discrimination. It was into deaf ears of the churches that the voice of Poykayil Yohannan made his point about this years ago. Our church has a striking majority of Dalits. The earnings of Protestant church priests are just a tenth of what their believers make in my church. But they can’t ever imagine a Syrian Christian priest living off the offerings of the majority Pulaya and Paraya members of this diocese. No way. That is how strong caste works within the community.
They are liars, as there is no text or manuscript that endorse or validates any racial or caste discrimination in the Bible as in the Manusmriti or cultural history of Hinduism. They lie that they are free of such inhumane practices. They lie that their theological texts are epitomes of equality. All Dalit Christians who came into the fold in the whole of the 20th century were fooled by this fake promise of a spiritual Achha Din. Yes, the sense of caste or notion of caste was absent from the minds of the Dalits, but never had the Syrian Christians given up their pride over their Brahmin and Roman ancestry or their claim of purity of blood.
Just fact check how the Church shamed Dalits for their open support to the Dalit hartal that happened. They forgot that we were the same as how we were when we left the Hindu fold. We were always silenced from speaking up, all our rebellions inside the religion crushed. But not a pinch of this Church wrath was towards the pure blood theories and claims of pride of the Syrians, all that was was perfectly Christian. Their pride in their Namboothiri (Hindu) origins were a thing of constant celebration, both for the Syrian Christians and for the Church. No theologist or good Samaritan would raise even a question against this pure blood and royal claims of these great families of the Syrian Christians.
There is discrimination and exclusion right from the choir to the Holy Chairs of the Church. There are even separate prayer services and functions that would even put Apartheid to shame. Even in death we are apart, away and outcaste.
Very recently a reputed college in Kerala University, which was under the Christian management, rejected a thesis on Poykayil Appachan who was a great Dalit poet and philosopher reformist. They forced the student to edit out the attacks Appachan had launched on the Church. They were too weak to address the truth that he spoke out. The liberal ones who always spoke about caste in Hinduism were also rendered silent. Even Dalit organisations seldom addressed our needs as such.
Kerala government has included the Dalit Christians under Other Eligible Communities (OEC) category which excludes us from the direct benefits of the SC/ST reservation, rendering the whole community into social and economic backwardness. Dalits who constitute the majority of about 70 per cent of the Indian Christian population is given only less than seven per cent in the seats of power at the Church. My mother always wanted to be a nun, but when someone who became one told her about the bad treatment and discrimination one would face, she backed off. But even now she says that she should have been a nun and she adds: “It will always be dreadful thing… aren’t our people already in a dreadful state anyway.”