Skip to main content

Racism persists in many forms, caste stigma runs deep among Pak Christians, Muslims

Saldanha with Canadian community of Precious Blood Church in Canada
Counterview Desk 
Lawrence John Saldanha, an 84 year old retired archbishop from Pakistan, originally from Mangalore, currently living in Canada helping persecuted Pakistani Christians who seek asylum in Canada, in an email alert to some of his community colleagues has expressed concern over casteism among Christians and Muslims in Pakistan. Appointed Archbishop of Lahore by Pope John Paul II in 2001, his family was among those who had opted to remain in Pakistan after Partition.
This is what he says in the email alert, which he signed as “Lawrence J Saldanha, Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Pakistan, Toronto, Canada” titled “Caste bias persists in Pakistan”:
***
I would like to relate my own experiences about the discussion on the caste system. I was born by accident in Mangalore to my parents, Lawrence and Lillian Saldanha, but I spent much of my life in Lahore, Punjab in what is now Pakistan.
In my childhood days in Lahore, caste was not a big deal. We led a privileged life as part the ruling class of British India. We had a Westernised education and egalitarian outlook. Our parents taught us to accept and respect every human person and be kind to the poor.
But then came Partition in 1947 and we opted to remain in Pakistan. It was then that the identity of Christians in Pakistan became a burning issue. Islam became all-important. Non-Muslims were considered outsiders.
Although Islam does not adhere to a rigid caste system yet there exists a division of upper and lower castes. Those who claim to belong to the clan of the Prophet Muhammad like the Qureishis or the Sayyids are considered to be upper class. Indeed, Indian Muslims have their own special caste system inherited from Hinduism. It is subconscious but real. And it has become became more pronounced in recent years.
The plight of the indigenous Punjabi Christians became all the more problematic. They are the future of the Catholic Church. They belong to the poor, working class. Ministering to them as a young priest, I soon realized that the caste stigma runs deep, especially in matters of eating and drinking from the same dishes. Young Christians may not be hired as waiters or cooks but as cleaners and domestic maids. Even the profession of nurses, which used to be dominated by Christians fifty years ago, now finds itself excluding Christians.
They are also excluded because of their Christian faith and may be branded as “Kafirs” or even worse “blasphemers”.
So the prejudice of being low caste and unclean is something that Christians have to deal with throughout their lives. That is the reason that many would like to migrate to other countries where there is no caste distinction and each person is accepted as a normal and equal human being.
Dark complexion is also a sign of low caste and a reason for exclusion. Children are taught at an early age to prize a light complexion. They are teased and taunted by their peers. They suffer from an inferiority complex.
There is a big market for creams that claim to lighten the skin tone.
It is a fact that systemic racism is a deep problem that is just beginning to surface in the USA because of the many incidents of violence to African Americans in the last few years. The emerging movement of “Black Lives Matter” has made this a burning issue. But it is a matter of concern and surprise that the rampant caste system of India and Pakistan is not denounced for what it is: systemic racism. Although the great Mahatma Gandhi drew attention to the miserable conditions of the Harijans, yet racism still persists in many forms today.
Let us make a determined effort to be conscious of these wrongful attitudes and work to create a society based on love, respect and dignity of every human being as the “imago Dei”, the image of God!

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

World Bank proved right, Narmada is already a destructive project: Medha Patkar

By Rajiv Shah  Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has said that the World Bank’s independent review mission, which brought out the Morse Commission report , has been proved right: The Sardar Sarovar dam has not only failed to live up to the loud promises made for irrigating large arid areas of Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, those who were displaced and resettled in Gujarat are getting increasingly restive as many of them are unable to get the promised water for irrigation and some for drinking water too. While 50,000 families have been resettled in three states and 20,000 have received land rights as land or cash, the authorities have not calculated what should be done with 15,000 families, whose houses are acquired for Sardar Sarovar but following changing backwater levels of the Sardar Sarovar dam, they are denied rehabilitation, Patkar tells Counterview in an interview (part1*): *** Q: What is the latest position in your view as far as the Sardar Sarovar dam is concerned?

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

This Maoist justified US, western Europe's anti-Soviet stance, even Bhindranwale

By Harsh Thakor*  A glaring example of the extent to which those seeking to identify themselves as revolutionaries can go in making odd compromises with those normally considered as “class enemies” in Marxist jargon is late Kondapalli Seetharamiah. Few know that this Maoist organiser two decades ago was so enamoured by the Chinese three worlds theory that he called for a united front with the United States and other western countries against what he considered Soviet social imperialism! This wasn’t the only “compromise” Seetharamiah made during his career as a revolutionary. On Punjab he took a most eclectical stand of supporting Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, thus soft-pedalling the terrorist Khalistani movement. Among his other opportunist alliances, about which few are aware of, include support to the Akalis in Punjab, on one hand, and the NTR Telugu Desam regime in Andhra Pradesh, on the other – all part of his anti-Congress thrust. Also known as KS, this Maoist started his career as

Why is NIOH-ICMR 'official' making false claims on silicosis?: Health rights NGO

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, Dr Jagdish Parikh, trustee, health rights NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, and Jagdish Patel, director, PTRC, have said that the claim being made for the use of biomarker for detection of silicosis raises concern about scientific tenacity of the diagnosis of the deadly occupational disease. The letter also objects to the reported claim by a top health official that it is possible to detect silicosis at the sub-radiological stage. It asks, “What is this subradiological stage of silicosis? We have not heard any such scientific term being used. Again, the report is using a term which is not found in any scientific literature so far. Is this term acceptable by ICMR? Is ICMR thinking of any explanation?” Text : This is with reference to our letter dated November 28, 2021. In our communication we had raised our concern about the scientific tena

Custodial death of Muslim youth: Govt of India told to ratify UN convention on torture

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, West Bengal, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has drawn to the custodial death of a Muslim youth following his torture in police custody after registering a "false case" based on manufactured records. Seeking "proper investigation" the whole incident, Roy in his plea insists, the incident legitimizes his organisations' long-standing demand "for immediate ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment." Text : Here I want to draw your kind attention to one incident of custodial torture by the Deganga police personnel and the subsequent custodial death of one Muslim man from the Other Backward Class community in Dum Dum Central Correctional Home. The name o