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Top Dalit rights activist to Xavier's NGO: Annihilation of caste "can't be fought" by invoking caste names

By Our Representative
In a controversial commentary on St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, in the eye of storm for a recent “saffron” attack on an NGO run on its campus (click HERE), a well-known Dalit rights activist has recalled how those running the college decades ago were responsible for perpetuating caste discrimination, yet the discriminatory mindset has not disappeared even today.
Goons who attacked the NGO, reportedly associated with organizations of the two main political parties, BJP and the Congress, stoned windows and broke flower plots of the office of the NGO, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), called Behavioral Science Centre (BSC) till recently.
Reason: The NGO had put up an ad saying that those from the unreserved category would be preferred for a cleaner’s post. What provided food to the attackers was, it mentioned names the “preferred” castes – Brahmins, Rajputs, Banias, Pathans, Syeds, Syrian Christians, etc.
Taking strong objection to this, Dalit right activist Martin Macwan says, the BSC was set up for with the idea of “annihilation of caste”, regretting, even today, “45 years after it was founded, it believes through written words that in its own campus segregation of its employees must remain on the basis of ‘caste’.”
Recalling in this context how Gandhi fought caste by cleaning up not just his own toilet, but also “of hundreds others during the first Congress session”, Macwan says, even the pioneer of anti-manual scavenging practices in Gujarat and India was Mama Fadke, a Brahmin from Maharashtra.
An undergraduate student at Xavier’s, Macwan was associated with BSC during the NGO’s formative year after it was founded in 1977. Founder of Gujarat’s premier Dalit rights group Navsarjan Trust, he currently runs Dalit Shakti Kendra, a residential training centre for youth.
Going into the past of St Xavier’s College, Macwan says, it has had “a long association with the caste system.” Thus, on being set up in mid-1950s, “Dalit students, including those converted to Christianity, did not find a place in the college hostel. They would stay on the first floor of the old canteen.”
“Food was brought to them from the mess after ‘others’ had finished their meal. This led to protest by some progressive priests, including one of the founders of BSC”, he says, adding, “Dalit students were finally allotted three rooms in the hostel, exclusively reserved for them.”
“Those orthodox Hindus who blame Christian missionaries for conversion must thank this church institution for supporting and perpetuating caste system”, Macwan observes, adding, one should also not forget that caste discrimination has been a part of India’s established church, too.
Giving the example of ‘Syrian Christian’, which the ad mentions as among those to be preferred, Macwan says, “Historically, ‘Syrian Christians’ uphold that they were the first to be converted, that they were all ‘Brahmins’, that they were converted by none other then St Thomas, an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
“While Hindus did not allow people branded as ‘untouchable’ then (even today at many places) in temples for fear of pollution, the missionaries adopted a ‘progressive’ system in the church”, Macwan says, adding, in churches fathers would tie “a rope in the church to separate ‘touchable’ and ‘untouchable’ Christians!”
“They even maintained separate churches for two set of Christians and, of course, burial grounds”, he says, adding, “I visited a separate church for Dalit Christians in the Communist heartland Kerala, situated just 50 metres away across the road from a church exclusively for non-Dalit Christians.”
Pointing out that this was one of the contributory factors for the progressive ideological discourse, ‘liberation theology’, Macwan says, while there is no caste system in Bible or Quran, converted “untouchables” become victims become victims of caste even after they become Christians and Muslims.

Comments

Unknown said…
Maru nam rathod haresh che hu amreli ni navjivan hospital ma kam ane hu Dalit chu me 1 makan lidhu che pan tya mari cast na lidhe reva javatu nathi cast vishe galu aape ane dhamkave che 2 varsh thi tya jai nathi sakatu

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