Christians in India celebrated Dalit Liberation Sunday on the 11th December last by renewing their commitment to those of Dalit origin who still suffer from the traditional practice of untouchability.

In traditional Hindu thinking, Dalits are not quite human: they are denied the right to enter the temple, read, or eat with members of other castes. Moreover a person who touches a Dalit must immediately purify himself. Sadly as was pointed out by one Christian Missionary: “When it comes to social life, they are untouchable. For rape however they are touchable.”

Within the traditional Hindu mindset, to be Dalit is much worse than being poor. No matter how much education or wealth a Dalit acquires she or he will always remain polluted and a shame on the face of the earth. In many respects Dalits are like biblical lepers, except that while lepers are cured in the bible, within mainstream Indian culture, Dalits cannot be healed.

Notwithstanding the fact that India’s economy is large, fast growing and in many sectors highly competitive, poverty is widespread. India in fact has a dual economy on the one hand, modern technological and fast-paced, on the other, traditional, agrarian and poorly educated.

More than 40% of the Indian population are living below the poverty line. According to World Bank estimates, one third of the entire world’s poor live in India. Dalits accounting for somewhat over 15% of the total Indian population (between 150 and 160 million people) are numbered amongst the poorest of these poor.

Dalit Liberation Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday nearest to International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in association with the National Council of Churches in India strongly supports this annual celebration.

In a statement released by the Catholic bishops to mark Dalit Liberation Sunday 2011, note was made that “Indian society is still under the grip of caste culture that perpetuates ethos, attitudes, structures of inequality and dehumanizing untouchable practices.”  

“Contrary to the Gospel vision of Christ, the ‘caste mentality’ violates the God-given dignity and equality of the human person. Human dignity and respect are due to every human person and any denial of this is a sin against God and a disservice to humanity.”

A ‘confident, strong and vibrant’ Catholic Church in India is actively engaged in trying to transform a dominant culture which seeks to deny millions of people of their God-given dignity which is the fundamental basis of all human rights.

Article is an amended version of a Zenit News Agency article.

This article can be found in Mirror 0212.