Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning "correct action/activity" or an emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc  This contrasts with orthodoxy, which emphasizes correct belief, and ritualism, the use of rituals.

While orthodoxies make use of codified beliefs, in the form of creeds, and ritualism more narrowly centers on the strict adherence to prescribed rites or rituals, orthopraxy is focused on issues of family, cultural integrity, the transmission of tradition, sacrificial offerings, concerns of purity, ethical systems, and the enforcement thereof.  Typically, traditional or folk religions (paganism, animism) are more concerned with orthopraxy than orthodoxy, and some argue that equating the term "faith" with "religion" presents a Christian-biased notion of what the primary characteristic of religion is. In the case of Hinduism orthopraxy and ritualism are mixed to the point that they become a single identity.

Saint Maximus the Confessor: "Theology without action is the theology of demons."

The Position of Dalits in India today   


According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population of India , that is, they number over 17 crore. Scheduled tribes comprise 8.2 per cent of the population, that is, they number over 8 crore. Both together constitute 24.4 per cent of the Indian population, that is, they together number over 25 crore.

The six states that have the highest percentage of scheduled caste population are
Punjab (28.9 lakhs),
Himachal Pradesh (24.7 lakhs),
West Bengal (23.0 lakhs),
Uttar Pradesh (21.1 lakhs),
Haryana (19.3 lakhs) and
Tamil Nadu (19.0 lakhs).

The twelve states that have the largest number of scheduled castes are
Uttar Pradesh (351.5 lakhs),
West Bengal (184.5 lakhs),
Bihar (130.5 lakhs),
Andhra Pradesh (123.4 lakhs),
Tamil Nadu (118.6 lakhs),
Maharashtra (98.8 lakhs),
Rajasthan (96.9 lakhs),
Madhya Pradesh (91.6 lakhs),
Karnataka (85.6 lakhs),
Punjab (70.3 lakhs),
Orissa (60.8 lakhs) and
Haryana (40.9 lakhs).


Almost every socio-economic indicator shows that the position of scheduled caste families is awful. In many cases their plight is getting worse. Let us have a look at some of the major indicators.



 In 1991 70% of the total SC households were landless or near landless (owning less than one acre).

This increased to 75% in 2000.
In 1991, 13% of the rural SC households were landless. However, in 2000 this saw a decline and was 10%.
As per the Agricultural Census of 1995-96, the bottom 61.6% of operational holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total operated land area. As against this, the top 7.3% of operational holdings accounted for 40.1% of the total operated area. This gives an indication of land concentration in the hands of a few.

In 2000, about 28 % of SC households in rural areas had acquired some access to fixed capital assets (agricultural land and non-land assets). This was only half compared to 56 % for other non-SC/ST households who had some access to fixed capital assets. In the urban areas, the proportion was 27 % for SCs and 35.5 % for others.

In 2000, 49.06 % of the working SC population were agricultural labourers, as compared to 32.69 % for the STs and only 19.66 % for the others. This shows the preponderance of dalits in agricultural labour. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of agricultural labourers in India increased from 7.46 crore to 10.74 crore, and a large proportion of them were dalits. On the other hand, the average number of workdays available to an agricultural labourer slumped from 123 in 1981 to 70 in 2005.

It is reported that out of the 60 million child labour in India , 40 % come from SC families. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 % of child labour engaged in carpet, matchstick and firecracker industries come from scheduled caste backgrounds. The tanning, colouring and leather processing, lifting dead animals, clearing human excreta, cleaning soiled clothes, collection of waste in slaughter houses and sale of toddy are some of the hereditary jobs generally pursued by Dalit children.

In 2000, as against the national average of Rs. 4485, the per capita income of SCs was Rs. 3,237.
The average weekly wage earning of an SC worker was Rs. 174.50 compared to Rs. 197.05 for other non- SC/ST workers.

In 2000, 35.4 % of the SC population was below the poverty line in rural areas as against 21 % among others (‘Others’ everywhere means non-SC/ST); in urban areas the gap was larger – 39 % of SC as against only 15 % among others. The largest incidence of poverty in rural areas was among agricultural labour followed by non-agricultural labour, whereas in urban areas the largest incidence of poverty was among casual labour followed by self-employed households. The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for all household types was lower for SCs than others.

In 2000, the unemployment rate based on current daily status was 5 % for SCs as compared to 3.5 % for others in rural and urban areas. The wage labour households accounted for 61.4 % of all SC households in rural areas and 26 % in urban areas, as compared to 25.5 % and 7.45 % for other households.

15 % and 7.5 % of central government posts are reserved for SCs and STs respectively. For SCs, in Group A, only 10.15 % posts were filled, in Group B it was 12.67 %, in Group C it was 16.15 % and in Group D it was 21.26 %. The figures for STs were even lower, at 2.89 %, 2.68 %, 5.69 % and 6.48 % for the four groups respectively. Of the 544 judges in the High Courts, only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Among school teachers all over the country, only 6.7 % were SC/STs, while among college and university teachers, only 2.6 % were SC/STs.

In 2001, the literacy rate among SCs was 54.7 % and among STs it was 47.1 %, as against 68.8 % for others. Among women, the literacy rate for SCs was 41.9 %, for STs it was 34.8 % and for others it was 58.2 %. School attendance was about 10 % less among SC boys than other boys, and about 5 % less among SC girls than other girls. Several studies have observed discrimination against SCs in schools in various forms.

In 2000, the Infant Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 1) in SCs was 83 per 1000 live births as against 61.8 for the others, and the Child Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 5) was 119.3 for 1000 live births as against 82.6 for the others. These high rates among the SCs are closely linked with poverty, low educational status and discrimination in access to health services. In 1999, at least 75 % of SC women suffered from anaemia and more than 70 % SC womens’ deliveries took place at home. More than 75 % of SC children were anaemic and more than 50 % suffered from various degrees of malnutrition.

While dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high caste counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst affected and suffer the three forms oppression -- caste, class and gender. As some of the above figures show, these relate to extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on wage labour, discrimination in employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-paid and hazardous manual jobs, violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various forms of superstitions (like the devadasi system) etc.

Only 11 % of SC households and 7 % of ST households had access to sanitary facilities as against the national average of 29 %.

Only 28 % of the SC population and 22 % of the ST population were users of electricity as against the national average of 48 %.

During 16 years between 1981 to 2000 for which records are available, a total of 3,57,945 cases of crime and atrocities were committed against the SCs. This comes to an annual average of about 22,371 crimes and atrocities per year.
The break-up of the atrocities and violence for the year 2000 is as follows:
486 cases of murder,
3298 grievous hurt,
260 of arson,
1034 cases of rape and
18,664 cases of other offences.
The practice of untouchability and social discrimination in the matter of use of public water bodies, water taps, temples, tea stalls, restaurants, community bath, roads and other social services continues to be of high magnitude.

Dalit in India Facts and Figures

Every 18 minutes:

A crime is committed against a Dalit

Every day:

  • 3 Dalit women are raped
  • 2 Dalits are murdered & 2 Dalits Houses are burnt in India
  • 11 Dalits are beaten

Every week:

  • 13 Dalits are murdered
  • 5 Dalits home or possessions are burnt
  • 6 Dalits are kidnapped or abducted

Social and Economic condition of Dalits:

  • 37 percent of Dalits living below poverty in India
  • More than half (54%) of their children are undernourished in India
  • 83 per 1000 live birth children born in Dalit community are probability of dying before the first birthday
  • 45 percent of Dalits do not know read and write in India
  • Dalits women burden double discrimination (gender and caste) in India
  • Only 27 percent of Dalits women give institutional deliveries in India
  • About one third of Dalit households do not have basic facilities
  • Public health workers refused to visit Dalit homes in 33% of villages
  • Dalits were prevented from entering police station in 27.6% of villages
  • Dalit children had to sit separately while eating in 37.8% of Govt. schools
  • Dalits didn’t get mail delivered to their homes in 23.5% of villages
  • Dalits were denied access to water sources in 48.4% of villages because of segregation & untouchabilty practices
  • Half of India ’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21% are severely underweight & 12% DIE before their 5th birthday
  • Literacy rates for Dalit women are as low as 37.8% In Rural India

Status of Prevention of Atrocities Act:

  • The conviction rate under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is 15.71% and pendency is as high as 85.37%. This when the Act has strict provisions aimed as a deterrent. By contrast, conviction rate under IPC is over 40%

Source: National Human Rights Commission Report on the Prevention and Atrocities against Scheduled Castes

Bishop of Calcutta, Daniel Wilson Issued a circular In 1823 to all the Anglican missionaries in India . saying that the distinction of castes must be abandoned, decidedly. immediately, finally.

In 1848 Bishop of Madras namely Bishop Spencer and 84 missionaries resolved to abandon caste as it was opposed to Christianity. Further, the Madras Misslonary Conference held in 1850 resolved to abandon caste system In Christianity.

 However the Christians who originally belonged to the Higher Castes, who held high influencial positions within the church would not allow these to happen.

Faith without works is dead. James 2:26 Christmas Ornaments





The arrival of the Christian missionaries to India , especially after the sixteenth century provided an occasion for many dalits to embrace Christianity. The Portuguese Padroado, the English Christian merchants, the French and the Irish missionaries and others converted thousands of dalits to the faith. It must be noted that economic benefits also played a major role in these conversions. For the dalits who lived in extreme poverty the economic benefits were the much needed and unexpected blessings. Many of them were labeled as 'wheat Christians' or 'milk powder Christians' but in truth hundreds of dalits escaped starvation solely due to the humanitarian efforts of the missionaries.

 However because of the presence of Christians who had higher status, the missionaries had a problem with the newly converted low caste Christians.  Hence the equality and the human dignity promised by Christianity has remained only a dream in the case of the millions of dalit Christians.


Dalit Christians find themselves in an unenviable position today. They are a people that are twice discriminated.

Even after independence an the abolition of untouchability, the states discriminates against them and refuses them any rights and privileges that their Hindu counterparts enjoy. The logic behind this is that once you become a Christian you really can not belong to a caste. Another argument from the state for not helping the dalit Christians is that they receive a lot of help from the foreign churches. While this may be true, it does not dispense the government's responsibility towards its citizens, no matter what religion they belong to.  Thus we fall back to the Marxist definition of polarisation of the have and have nots as the citeria for the backward and schedule class stratification.

In addition to the step-motherly treatment of the state towards them the dalit Christians suffer inequality, injustice and inhuman treatment within the church. They realize the painful truth that their change of religion has in no way changed their pathetic, subhuman social condition. In effect the dalit Christians live as refugees in their own homeland. What are the different areas of discrimination in Christian communities? I want to enumerate a few of them here. The factual details that follow are founded on my personal experience in the Pastoral Ministry and the information provided by National coordination Committee for Dailt Christians

1.  There is no equality in places of worship. There are still separate places for dalits in the church. Dalit Hindus are prevented from entering common temples. Dalit Christians are prevented from sitting with the other Christians.

2.  There is no equality in liturgical participation. In most village parishes dalits can not be lectors. Dalit children can not be altar servers. No dalit is given any leadership role in the liturgy. Dalits can receive communion only after the others have done so (This is true in some villages). Dalit children cannot get into the parish choir even if they are gifted singers.

3.  There is no equal participation in church festivals or important events in the parish. Dalits have no part in decision making of any kind.

4. Few dalits hold any position of importance in parish councils, village committees, etc.

5.  Dalit children do not have equal opportunities for education in Christian institutions. First of all because they can not afford - secondly because they are said to fall short of the high standards set by Christian institutions.

It is a sad fact that our Christian educational institutions cater to the affluent and socially higher classes - mostly Brahmins and high caste Hindus, who later turn against the Christian community.

6.  Dalits suffer discrimination in employment opportunities. The state does not provide employment opportunities for dalits and the church adds insult to injury by shutting the doors of her institutions to these poor people. If we look at the proportion between the number of dalit Christians and those among them that are employed in Christian institutions then the disparity becomes painfully clear.

7.  Discrimination is blatantly evident in the clergy representation in our churches. For a Community that makes up almost 80% of the entire Christian population which is about 25 million the clergy representation is hardly 2% (Here I base myself on the percentage of priests in the dioceses of my State which is a fair indication of how things are in other dioceses and other churches.) Only recently more and more dalit candidates are being ordained. But it must be stated that most of the dalit priests are mere numbers. They are not given any positions of power or importance in the dioceses.

8.  Till very recently there were no Bishops from the dalit community. It was only three years ago that my home state which has fifteen dioceses was blessed with two dalit bishops.

9.  The small number of dalit priests is due to the systematic rejection of dalit candidates in the seminaries and religious congregations. These places were filled with caste Christians and the few dalits who managed to enter could not survive.

10. There was inequality even after death! There were separate burial grounds for the dalits that really sealed their status as outcasts.         

The above analysis should make it sufficiently clear that even though the dalit Christians form the vast majority of the Christian population (20 million out of the total 25 million) they have been dominated, subjugated and ruled by the minority upper caste Christians. The situation is not very different today inspite of a ray of hope here and there. On top of all these misfortunes the poor dalit Christians have become the hapless victims of caste violence and atrocities barbarically engineered by Hindu fanatics who have the support and blessings of the caste conscious politicians. We constantly hear about the hundreds of dalit Christians brutally massacred, whole villages burned down, dalit women being molested and raped. Even nuns and missionaries have not been spared. These have become such common occurrences that people hardly ever take notice of them. But dalits have shown in recent times that they can not take it lying down anymore. They are beginning to muster courage and fight the enemy. Does it auger well for their eventual liberation? 


Christianity has failed to act effectively against casteism.

This is despite the fact the majority of the Indian church today is now Dalit.
The Indian Church has institutionalized various offensives such as:

  • rejecting Dalits into the priesthood,
  • separate communions for Dalits and non-Dalits, and
  • separate church entrances, seatings, and cemetaries.

Understanding the dalit Christians as a people and as a community in the context of their life in the society will throw some light as to how to present Jesus meaningfully to them. The dalit Christian community is one that bears deep social and psychological wounds that may take years to heal.

The problem with the dalit community lies in its identity. Both individuals and groups identify themselves as slaves, servants and outcasts. Centuries of oppression and servitude have somehow forced this identity on them and it has deeply affected their psyche. As John Webster has noted the dalits especially those in rural areas, have an inherent inferiority and a strong feeling of anger towards those responsible for making them what they are. (Webster, 1995 : 36)

They may accept their dalit identity within their in group, but once they are out of their group or village they would try to hide their identity. Recently there has been considerable dalit consciousness and dalits are beginning to see their identity not as something to be ashamed of but rather to be accepted and transformed.

The dalit community has been oppressed by the upper caste people for so many centuries that they have internalized the consciousness of the oppressors. For them aping the oppressor seems natural. All they want to achieve is to become like their oppressors because that is the only image that is deeply imprinted in their hearts. So, at one and the same time they want to be free from their oppressors and also to perpetuate their memory. This is a very dehumanizing effect that the upper caste people have successfully inflicted on the dalits. (Freire, 1970: 30)

It is also a community that is sorely disappointed and disillusioned with Christianity. Christianity has not been able to give them what it had promised - equality, dignity and acceptance. Many rural dalit Christians seem to have given up hope and are resigned to their fate. They have been taught for centuries that their miserable socio-economic condition is God's will for them. The church has been teaching them the virtue of patiently suffering the injustices with the promise of a better life in the next world. The Hindu scriptures justified the existence of the caste system openly and directly whereas Christian interpretation of God's Word might have done it in a more subtle and indirect way. How does one present Jesus in an acceptable and relevant way to a community of the dalit Christians?

  Wherever the BJP is in power in the states, atrocities on Muslims, dalits and adivasis have increased markedly. At the same time in some areas, they sought to pit the poor people belonging to dalits and tribal community against Muslims and Christians. So, the fight against caste oppression and communalism are interlinked.

 The experience clearly shows the need to link the fight against caste oppression with the struggle against class exploitation. At the same time, the class struggle must include the struggle for the abolition of the caste system and all forms of social oppression. This is an important part of the democratic revolution. 

Caste discrimination among Indian Christians


Caste discrimination is strongest among Christians in South India and weaker among urban Protestant congregations in North India . This is due to the fact that in South India , whole castes converted en masse to the religion, leaving members of different castes to compete in ways parallel to Hindus of the Indian caste system.

There are separate seats, separate communion cups, burial grounds, and churches for members of the lower castes, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic churches in India are largely controlled by upper caste Priests and nuns. Presently in India , more than 70 per cent of Catholics are Dalits, but the higher caste Catholics (30% by estimates) control 90 per cent of the Catholic churches administrative jobs. Out of the 156 catholic bishops, only 6 are from lower castes.


Many Dalit Catholics have spoken out against discrimination against them by members of the Catholic Church. A famous Dalit activist with a nom-de-plume of Bama Faustina has written books that are critical of the discrimination by the nuns and priests in Churches in South India . Pope John Paul II also criticized the caste discrimination in the Roman Catholic Church in India when addressing the bishops of Madras , Mylapore, Madurai , Cuddalore, and Pondicherry in late 2003. He went on to say: "It is the Church's obligation to work unceasingly to change hearts, helping all people to see every human being as a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, and therefore a member of our own family".


Indian Dalits find no refuge from caste in Christianity

Wall built across the Catholic cemetery in Trichy, Tamil Nadu state

Till death do us part: Dalits are buried on the other side of the wall in this cemetery

Many in India have embraced Christianity to escape the age-old caste oppression of the Hindu social order, but Christianity itself in some places is finding it difficult to shrug off the worst of caste discrimination.

In the town of Trichy , situated in the heart of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a wall built across the Catholic cemetery clearly illustrates how caste-based prejudice persists.

Those who converted to Christianity from the formerly "untouchable" Hindu caste groups known as Dalits are allocated space for burial on one side of the wall, while upper-caste converts are buried on the other side.

The separating wall was built over six decades ago.

Father Yesumariyan

"Caste discrimination is rampant in the Catholic Church”
Father Yesumariyan
Jesuit lawyer, Dalit campaigner

"This violates the Indian constitution. It is inhuman. It's humiliating," says Rajendiran, secretary general of Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, a small socio-political group that has announced a protest demanding the removal of the wall.

The Catholic Church in India says it does not approve of caste discrimination. But it says it is helpless in resolving this issue.

"The burial ground is owned by private individuals, so we are not able to do anything about this. Even the local bishop is not going to the cemetery to perform rituals," says Father Vincent Chinnadurai, chairman of the Tamil Nadu state Commission for Minorities.

He says there is a new cemetery in the town, where bodies are buried without any discrimination.

Yet burials continue to take place in the controversial cemetery, presided over by Catholic priests.

For centuries Hindus from different castes have been cremated or buried in different places, according to their caste.

'Cementing caste'

This practice is fading in the big cities and towns, but in some places in rural Tamil Nadu, caste-based graveyards are still in operation.

Dalit women in Delhi

Discrimination against Dalits persists in all strata of Indian society

Dalit Christians are demanding more proactive steps from the Church to remove the wall.

Father Lourdunathan Yesumariyan, a Jesuit, practising lawyer and Dalit-Christian activist, says the Church has the legal power to remove the wall.

Even though the cemetery is on privately owned land, he says, a recent high court judgement ruled that the Church has full responsibility as it administers the graveyard.

"The failure to remove the wall only helps cement caste feelings," he adds.

Some years ago two Catholic priests demolished a small part of the wall.

But the influential land-owning upper-caste Christian group rebuilt it.

The Church is meanwhile accused by critics of refusing to give "just representation" for Dalits in its power structure, even while it campaigns for a separate quota for the Dalit Christians in government jobs.

Fr Yesumariyan says: "In Tamil Nadu, over 70% of Catholics are Dalit converts. But only four out of 18 bishops are from the Dalit-Christian community.

"In many places influential caste groups have lobbied and made sure that only the person belonging to their caste is being appointed as bishop in their diocese."

He says that in places where Dalit Christians are the majority, they often struggle to get the top job.

Even though the archbishop of Tamil Nadu region is a Dalit Christian, he has been unable to improve the situation much for other members of his community in the Church.

Untouchablity 'everywhere'

In recent years a fixed number of jobs and seats have been earmarked in Catholic-run schools and colleges for members of the Dalit-Christian community.

Indian Catholic priest hands out the Eucharist

There are estimated to be more than 17 million Catholics in India

But this is being challenged in the court on the grounds that "there is no caste in Christianity".

Fr Yesumariyan continues: "The Indian constitution says it has abolished untouchablity. But it is everywhere. In the same way, the Catholic Church says there is no caste bias but caste discrimination is rampant in the Church.

"There are hardly any inter-caste marriages among converted Christians. Until recently, Church-run magazines carried matrimonial advertisements containing specific caste references. Only after our protest they stopped it."

A few churches in Tamil Nadu have even been closed after Dalit Christians demanded a share in the administration.

"We say there is no caste in Christianity," says Fr Chinnadurai. "But in India , Christianity was not able to get rid of caste.

"Those who converted to Christianity brought their caste prejudices with them. We are trying our best to get rid of them."


Vol:28 Iss:04 URL: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2804/stories/20110225280403800.htm

Caste divide


Tensions run high within the Christian community in Thachur village, and the government has adopted a hands-off approach for now.


The Roman Catholic church at Thachur village.

THE wrinkles on S. Royappan's face are a result of advancing age, but the ridges and furrows in them tell a story of humiliation of this Dalit Christian, as also others like him. Royappan, 82, was a bonded labourer, or padiyaal, in Thachur village in Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district, but it is the ‘bond' with the Roman Catholic church in the village that remains vivid in his memory.

The 175-year-old Arockiya Matha (Our Lady of Health) church has a chequered history, and the most recent additions to it may have the potential to be a turning point for Dalit Christians in the village. The events were the burials of two Dalit Christians in the cemetery attached to the church and the opposition to them by upper-caste Reddiar Christians, who claim the cemetery is only for their dead. The Reddiars' behaviour failed to unnerve Royappan, though; he had seen worse.

An eerie silence pervades Thachur, and most of the men of Reddiar families stayed away from the village for several days fearing police action. The Dalits in the village had overcome stiff resistance from the Reddiars and asserted their right twice in January when they buried the brother of a Dalit priest and a Dalit farm worker in the cemetery. The priest's brother, Velankanni, had died of natural causes on January 22, but the farm worker, Rajendran, was murdered; his body was retrieved from the lake in the village on January 24.


THE CEMETERY IN the church compound. All along, "upper-caste" Christians have resisted Dalit Christians' attempts to bury their dead here.

The full import of the development in Thachur, a predominantly Christian village around 80 km from Chennai, can be understood only by delving into the past.

Though the church building was constructed in 1922, the village is considered to be one of the oldest parishes in the State because the first Christians here arrived in 1836. The parish was then under the Pondicherry-Cuddalore diocese. In 1969, it came under the Madras-Mylapore diocese and moved to the Chengalpattu diocese created in 2002.

The population comprises Reddiars, who migrated from Andhra Pradesh, and Dalits, including Adi Dravidars and Arunthathiars. Though almost all of them are Christian converts, a sharp division existed right from the beginning on the basis of socio-economic disparity. Varna vyavastha (caste hierarchy), which is deeply rooted in Hinduism, has been absorbed by the converts and this has deepened the hiatus further.

Fr John Suresh, a priest who is also the director of the Chengalpattu Rural Development Society, said the cross-shaped church enabled the upper-caste Christians to occupy the centre, while the sides were earmarked for the Adi Dravidars and the Arunthathiars. The administration of the parish was under the control of a team of dharmakartas (trustees) belonging to the Reddiar caste. The Dalits were denied a role even in the day-to-day affairs of the church, not to speak of its administration. They could not assume the role of readers or lectors at Mass. They challenged this decades-old discrimination in the 1990s. The protracted legal battle resulted in the closure of the church for over 10 years until a path-breaking tripartite agreement was reached in November 2006.

But caste discrimination even in death continues in Thachur. The village has three cemeteries, one for each group. The one inside the church complex is claimed by the Reddiars, while the other two groups have theirs on the outskirts of the village.


The site in the cemetery where Velankanni, brother of a Dalit priest, was buried overcoming "upper-caste" opposition.

The Dalits' struggle drew support from some political parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and organisations such as the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), the Dalit Human Rights Centre, and the Chengalpattu Rural Development Society, which work for the welfare of oppressed people.

According to Bharathi Anna, convener of the Kancheepuram district unit of the TNUEF, even today the vast stretches of fertile land on the Palar river bed belong to the Reddiars. The majority of the Dalits work in these fields. A few of them are marginal farmers and a minuscule number have government jobs. Though a sizable number of upper-caste Christians have migrated to urban areas, including Chennai, they continue to own land in the village.

Reddiars, Adi Dravidars and Arunthathiars reside in different localities in the village. Most of the Dalits continue to be farmhands though the padiyaal system has by and large vanished. A good number of them have become construction workers, while some Dalit youth have entered the portals of higher education.

However, the Reddiars have been reluctant to relax their grip over the administration of the church. Royappan and several other residents of the village narrated the treatment meted out to them and others. There was a time when the padiyaals were flogged with tamarind twigs or tied to the wheel of a moving bullock cart as punishment. The Dalits employed by Reddiars had to drink water and gruel poured into their cupped hands. Such practices continued in the feudal society for long.

With some parish priests initiating steps to democratise the administration of the church, besides striving for the economic independence of the oppressed people, Dalit Christians slowly started raising their voice against discriminatory practices, said Fr John Suresh. As a result, the priests incurred the wrath of the upper-caste Christians. Some of them were even assaulted, alleged Fr John Suresh.

In another incident at R.N. Kandigai village under the same diocese in 1995, a parish priest who was seen to be pro-Dalit was manhandled by upper-caste Christians with a view to hindering his priestly duties. The church was closed indefinitely by the Archdiocesan authorities.

Recalling the legal battle in the local courts, L. Yesumarian, director of the Chengalpattu-based Dalit Human Rights Centre, said upper-caste Christians had set the ball rolling in 1995 by filing a case against a change in the route of the procession of Mother Mary as part of the parish's feast celebrations. They said the car procession should take the “customary route”, that is, it should not pass through the Dalit localities.

THE CEMETERY OF the Adi Dravidar (Dalit) Christians on the outskirts of the village.

The next case was filed by the same group a couple of years later, seeking the transfer of the then parish priest, Fr K.M. Joseph, a Malayalee, and the appointment of a priest who had knowledge of Tamil and Telugu. In turn, Fr Joseph filed a case seeking a direction that the parish priest would be the sole authority to administer the parish and to decide the mode of celebrations. In the same year, the Reddiars filed a defamation case against the Adi Dravidars. In 1999, the Adi Dravidars filed a case pleading for orders not to open the church until the suits in the courts between the parishioners were settled and decided.

When the legal battle was on, the Dalit Christians carried on different forms of agitation demanding a due share in the administration of the parish. They also called for steps to end the caste-based discrimination in the church and in the village. The control over the land belonging to the church also became a contentious issue.

Sustained struggles by the Dalits of Thachur resulted in the agreement of November 28, 2006, signed by representatives of Reddiars, Dalits and the diocese in the presence of officials of the Revenue Department.

The 12-point agreement laid down that all Christian groups in the parish should accept the authority of the bishop of Chengalpattu diocese and of the parish priest appointed by him as per Canon Law. The annual festival of the parish, it said, should be held with the involvement of all members of the parish under the direct supervision of the bishop. It also said all the groups should maintain unity to ensure that the car procession passed through all the habitations in the village.

The accord urged the parties concerned to abide by the diocese's decision on the issue pertaining to church land. All the places of worship and movable and immovable properties within the parish's jurisdiction should be brought under the administration of the diocese and the direct supervision of the bishop, it said. It also provided for the setting up of a parish council with elected representatives and for the appointment of pious groups.

Above all, all stakeholders agreed that acts of caste discrimination in the church or its administration would not be allowed. All the groups were advised to withdraw the cases pending before various courts. It was also agreed that the Sunday evening Mass would be in Telugu, while on other days it would be in Tamil.

A ROAD-ROKO AGITATION by Dalit Christians in the village demanding the arrest of the killers of Rajendran, a Dalit farm worker.

Only a few of the provisions, such as the car procession being taken to all the areas in the village, were implemented without any major impediment, said residents. However, caste animosity continued to haunt Thachur. Particularly, the Dalits were not allowed to use the cemetery in the church complex to bury their dead. The Reddiars ended their dependence on the local parish priests to perform rituals by bringing Telugu-speaking priests from other dioceses.

The Dalits were biding their time to break this barrier; a couple of attempts they made earlier had failed. But Velankanni, they decided, would be buried inside the church complex. They faced stiff resistance from the Reddiars while conducting the funeral mass and burying the body. At one stage, the Reddiars even locked the gate of the church, Bharathi Anna said. He added that the incident occurred even as the CPI(M) MLA G. Latha and other leaders were consoling the relatives of the deceased.

Rajendran, the Dalit farm worker, assisted the family members of Velankanni in digging the grave. He was found murdered a couple of days later. The police initially filed a “man missing” case but later, on the basis of the post-mortem report, changed it to one of murder. Dalit Christians staged a road-roko protest in the village demanding the arrest of those involved. The police said they had arrested a few persons in the case.

Such acts of discrimination against Dalit Christians exist in several other villages, including M.N. Kandigai, R.N. Kandigai and K.K. Pudur under the Chengalpattu diocese, said Fr Yesumarian. According to him, in many villages dominated by Telugu-speaking upper-caste Christians, language has been used as camouflage to continue with the discrimination against Dalits.

“Though there are as many as 20 priests, 60 nuns and three bishops belonging to the Reddiar caste in Thachur, none of them cares to explain to their own caste members that they should not violate the Canon Law,” he said.

Arunthathiars in these villages are virtually caught in the crossfire between Adi Dravidars and upper-caste Christians. “One group has muscle power and the other has money power. We are powerless. We find no other course but to maintain equidistance in the given situation as we depend on the rich farmers in the Reddiar community,” lamented a resident of the Arunthathiar habitation in Thachur.

Reddiar Christians of Thachur deny all the allegations against them. They only want to protect their rights as a linguistic minority, a spokesman of the Reddiars said, adding that Dalits were being instigated by some priests belonging to the oppressed community.

Regarding the November 2006 agreement, he said, some Reddiars had signed it without the consent of others. Denying any caste-based discrimination against Dalits, he said the Reddiars would demand an independent probe into the recent untoward incidents in the village. Official sources say that the government wants to adopt a cautious approach to the sensitive issue. The district administration has taken steps to ensure law and order in the village. Though the government may intend to evolve a consensus among the contending groups of the same religion, it will not impose any remedy, as it may become counterproductive, say official sources.

Any attempt by any group or section of people to promote untouchability is highly condemnable, said Fr A. Vincent Chinnadurai, Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Minorities. The commission would extend all assistance to restore normalcy in that village, he added.

The emergence of the Dalit Christian Movement and the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement and the support extended to them by secular and democratic forces have raised the hopes of Dalit Christians that they will win the relentless battle against caste-based discrimination in various denominations of Christianity, said activists of these movements.

Dalit Christians constitute more than 70 per cent of the Christian population in Tamil Nadu. Their sustained campaign, with the support of the secular and democratic forces, resulted in the 10-point programme charted by the Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council in 1990 for the integrated development of Dalit Catholics, they pointed out. After evaluating the implementation of the programme in 2003, it was further pruned for focussed action, they said.

However, the different forms of discrimination, such as the violence against Dalit Christians in Erayur in Villupuram district in March 2008, the attempts to preserve the dividing wall in the cemetery in Melapudur, the construction of churches with a design to maintain the caste hierarchy, as in Thachur and several other places, still continue, the activists pointed out. This underscores the fact that the struggle has to be intensified, they added.




Let us clean up our house.

Let us reread the Scriptures





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NEW DELHI: On the 21st July 2010, The national rally organized by the National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) in collaboration with the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). The rally began with a huge procession from the Kerala House, near Jantar Mantar, New Delhi .

Archbishop Vincent Concesso, the President of the National United Christian Forum inaugurated the rally and several other Bishops, Church leaders, Dalit activists, Dalit Muslim leaders spoke and demanded an immediate action from the Union Government of India  H. G. Issac Mar Osthatheos, Asst. Metropolitan Delhi Diocese attended the rally on behalf of Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and expressed our solidarity






We always talk about God as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  King of Kings is a lofty title that has been used by several monarchies (usually empires in the informal sense of great powers) throughout history, and in many cases the literal title meaning "King of Kings", i.e. Monarch elevated above other royal rulers in a vassal, tributary or protectorate position, especially in the case of Semitic languages, is conventionally (usually inaccurately) rendered as Emperor. Titles of this relative type have been in use from the most ancient times in Aryan. The rulers of Persia, at various times (under Zoroastrian as well as Muslim dynasties), have been titled Shâhanshâh, the shah of shahs  Whereas the most literal Sanskrit equivalent is Rajadhiraja,  such as Maharaja (literally Great King, also greatly devaluated by title inflation) and Maharajadhiraja (Bahadur) 'Great King of kings'. The titles Maharajadhiraja and Rajadhiraja were also assumed by some great Kushan kings in the 1st and 2nd centuries of AD, as was Devaputra or 'Son of God'.  Effectively we associate this concept with Power and Authority over the whole creatures so that he can control and do whatever it pleases him.


The Problem with the concept of Kingship and Power

However the picture presented by Jesus about authority and power presents an opposite upside down view.

Who Is the Greatest? (Luke22:24-30)

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.


 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that.    Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.

Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

You are those who have stood by me in my trials.   And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,   so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel .  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."


Mat 23:11-12  He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The Apostle John tells the rest of the story.

In response to the disciples' bickering Jesus takes off his outer garment, takes a towel and a basin, kneels behind each of them, and begins to wash their feet. He not only talks about being a servant on this occasion, he acts it out before them as a living parable they will never forget (John 13:4-17).

Joh 13:3-5 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.  Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.

Joh 13:12-17 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?   You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them



The Upside down Kingdom

The soldier obeyed the centurion because he knew that he would be punished if he disobeyed.  The centurion had the coercive power of the Roman Empire behind him.  This is authority from above. That power may be legal power, as is the case of the centurion.  It may be the power of a gun, or simply be bigger fists. When we think of a king or a kingdom, we imagine a dictator imposing his will on a helpless populace, draining them of their resources to be used for his own personal aggrandizement. Even if we picture him as a benevolent despot, he is at best an efficient bureaucrat.

But when we speak of God and the concept of kingdom, we refer to a completely different model.

Authority from above needs force.

In contrast, the Authority from below has no coercive force.  Instead it is based on two factors: Love and Freedom

God’s Handicap

 In dealing with the cosmos and all the living beings in it God is handicapped. But this handicap is self-imposed.  God deliberately takes upon himself this handicap because we are Sons of God. Hence he gives all sentients in the cosmos  free will. He will never force us into doing right , even when he knows that we are moving in the wrong direction and will eventually kill us. 

He conquers all through His Love whereby he dies himself for us and gives us a way out.  He still will not force us to take that road.  He is long suffering and waits the Father who waits for his prodigal Son.

Joh 15:12-13  This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. 


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35 NIV

Freedom and Service

All authority in the kingdom of God is based on freedom and service.  This seems like a mystery, but it makes the kingdom of God unique.

Joh 12:24 

Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.

Php 2:1-11   So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus demonstrated how servant authority works.

He lived amongst the people and served them. Many responded to his love by to become his disciples. 

He had great authority over his disciples, but no one was forced to obey him. They obeyed him because they loved him. Every disciple was free to withdraw their submission at any time. Judas demonstrated this freedom when he withdrew his submission to Jesus and submitted to the Jewish leaders.

“Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice,
hands that flung stars into space,
to cruel nails surrendered.
This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow Him
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.”

Graham Kendrick 

In the Kingdom of God , people gain authority by serving.

Husbands gain authority in their family,  by loving their wives.

Elders have authority,  because they serve the Christians in their care.

Those with authority in the kingdom of God must serve others.
They must never use coercion to get their will done.

The greatest SERVANT in the cosmos is God.

This is the Kingdom where each cares for the other and they form a family based on love and service giving themselves to each other.

God so loved the world HE GAVE


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The Gospel in the Dress

This teaching of the servanthood as authority is intentionally built into the dress of the Priesthood.  The dress of the Priest is the dress of the servants in the middle east with its waist band in readiness to serve.


The dress of Bishops  indicates Sacrifice of the blood and Servanthood.  Washed in the blood of the lamb gives its saffron color.  Safron clothes became of symbol of the sanyasins only after the ministry of Jesus.  The Brahmins even today wears the white.

Priestly dress of glory and authority is worn on top indicating the origin of authority is in the servantbood.

The greatest is the one who serve




"Love's Rule"

In essence, the Kingdom of God should be translated as  "Love's Domain," "Love's Dominion," or "Love's Rule" because the Kingdom of God is where the God is. God is Love

The only definitions of God in the bible are:

God is Love and God is a Spirit and God is Light

1Jn 4:7-24   Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

1Jn 4:19  We love, because he first loved us.  If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1Jn 4:21  And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

Joh 4:24  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

1Jn 3:16  By this we know love, that THEY laid down THEIR life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.

 Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.

Receive the Kingdom and the Kingdom responsibilities that Jesus would confer upon you.  Become partakers in the redemptive process of the cosmos

Behold I make all things new.




Sanjeeb Sublok  
  District Magistrate of Dhubri, Professor of Management (Deputy Director) at the National Academy of Administration , and Secretary to the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya.
Sanjeeb Sublok makes this ultimate truth statement.

A New Model for Hindu Capitalism

Note that in this "hierarchy", the Brahmin is the LOWEST, for he does NOTHING: only runs the system, like a night watchman or housemaid.

The Kshatriya is the gatekeeper and security guard.

The Vaishya owns the house.

The Shudra is the HIGHEST since he produces.

Only the most ingenious, the smartest, the most diligent will aspire to become Shudras.

To be a Shudra, i.e. wealth creator, would be a rank only worthy of the GREATEST, e.g. JRD Tata, or Narayana Murthy. JRD Tata was perhaps the greatest Shudra-Vaishya of all.

Note, of course, that this "model" is not hereditary.

Just based on the competence and talent of people.

Only the best can become Shudras.