EDUCATE DALITS LIKE YOU ARE EDUCATING ADIVASIS: DALIT ACTIVIST TO CARITAS

Dalit Rights activist Ashok Bharti on October 26, 2016 told Caritas that the Christian community in India has a critical role to potentially change the intellectual landscape among the Dalits.

Christian institutions are well organized. They are centrally placed in urban areas- where Dalits are despised, oppressed and suppressed. Educate the Dalits like you are educating the Adivasis, Mr. Bharti said at a half-yearly meeting of the general body members of Caritas India in New Delhi.

“It is a choice that you have to make” he told the gathering. “But the Dalits will be marching on whether or not you chose to educate them. We will continue to challenge the orthodoxy,” he claimed.

“Right now, we (Dalits) are confronting the Hindus but intellectual discourse will certainly engage with yours. At that time you should not feel left out from being part of a bigger minority” he said speaking candidly.

He suggested the merger of the Minority-Dalit forces which will be the ultimate guarantee of protection and security – not only of the Dalits but also of the Christians which is a minority in India.

“Christian community” he said “has been forward looking community, but unfortunately, somewhere on the way, it got so engrossed in itself that it forgot to recognize Dalit community as an emerging political force, as an intellectual force; contrary to the existing majority instinct.”

He suggested that the institutional structures at the disposal of Caritas India need to be put in use for bringing about the change, influencing the large network of Caritas India to join the change movement.

Mr. Bharti who is a former chairman of National Confederation of Dalit Adivasi Organizations (NACDOR) said that despite being ruled by majority caste, the government of India in principal have accepted proportionate share to SC/STs in their employment and other planned processes. “Why then the civil societies, the most progressive institution of the country can’t do the same?” the 56 year old activist asked.

Concluding his discourse, Mr. Bharti who is a founder and convener at Global Task Force of Socially Excluded said “In the long term, these are the things that will help restore– peace, dignity, fraternity and all the value that we preach.”

Taking a brief moment to respond, Caritas India’s Executive Director Fr. Frederick D’Souza said that the points are well taken. There may already be provisions to address the concerns of the Dalit community in the education policy at CBCI level. (Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India)

Speaking for Caritas India, he categorically said that the social inclusion policy of the organization mandates a very inclusive approach to all its interventions. He brought in examples of the recent Bihar and Tamil Nadu floods where Caritas had consciously reached out to the Dalit community among other deprived sections. Post the Tamil Nadu floods, a project of Caritas India continue to engage the Dalit community in dialogue, Fr. Frederick said.

Chairman of Caritas India, Bishop Lumen Monteiro welcomed and thanked Mr. Ashok Bharti for speaking freely. “Thank you for feeling so free with us” he said.