INTRODUCTION Research and studies have recently been initiated on the under-privileged people, namely, the Dalits in India. Though it is an encouraging fact, yet more systematic and classified studies are required because the Dalits are located over a wide range of areas, languages, cultures, and religions, where as the problems and solutions vary. Since the scholars and historians have ignored the Dalits for many centuries, a general study will not expose sufficiently their actual condition. Even though the Dalit Christian problems are resembling, Catholics and Protestants are divided over the issues.
Some of the Roman Catholic priests are interested and assert their solidarity with the Dalit Christian struggle for equal privilege from the Government like other Hindu Dalits. On the other hand, most Protestant denominations are indifferent towards any public or democratic means of agitation on behalf of Dalit community. They are very crafty and admonish Dalit believers only to pray and wait for God’s intervention. However, there is an apparent intolerance in the Church towards the study and observations concerning the problems of Dalit Christians because many unfair treatments have been critically exposed. T. N.
Gopakumar, the Asia Net programmer, did broadcast a slot on Dr. P. J. Joseph, a Catholic priest for thirty -eight years in the Esaw Church, on 22 October 2000. 1 Joseph advocated for the converted Christians that the Church should upgrade their place and participation in the leadership of the Church. The very next day, 1 T. N. Gopakumar, Kannady [Mirror-Mal], Asia Net , broadcast on 22 October, 2000. 1 with the knowledge of the authorities, a group of anti-Dalit Church members, attacked him and threw out this belongings from his room in the headquarters at Malapparambu, Kozhikode, where he lived for about thirty years.
Finally, he was admitted in the Government hospital and the Church authorities asked him to vacate the campus. Ironically, a group of his fellow priests conducted a fasting on 21st October 2000, praying for the repentance and good sense of Dr. Joseph. The Asia Net commentator added, that “the man spoke on behalf of the down-trodden and is crucified like his Savior. ”2 Though there are many who have to be expelled from the campus are still remaining, the one who spoke for the Dalit believers was illegally mustered out. The writer’s studies in SAIACS became an immediate reason for selecting this topic of research.
All these years, my mind has been disturbed much on the discrimination among Christians and I was distressed about this issue. In SAIACS, I have been aware of a real difference in terms of Christian relationship and unity. Here, the unique way that SAIACS respects and regards their service staff workers, irrespective of their background, and very specially, the common meals served has challenged my mind and I realized that here I can boldly develop a study that addresses issues on discriminations. Besides, my interactions with Dr. Graham Houghton motivated my thoughts and he has encouraged me to be a voice and model on the Dalit people.
This inspired my mind to initiate a research on the downtrodden that is the Dalits of Kerala. Rationale of the Study The unique culture and character of the people of Kerala State have greatly impacted the origin and growth of the Pentecostal Churches in Kerala. From the beginning, this denomination has consisted of different ethnic groups, that is Dalits and non-Dalits. 2 Ibid. 2 After a period of nine decades, statistics indicate that there is a reasonable and recognizable proportion of population of both the communities in the Church. At the beginning, Pentecostals maintained a cordial relationship and unity in the Church.
But due to various reasons, beyond their control, the Pentecostal Dalits still remain marginalized in many areas. Though Pentecostalism claims biblical foundations, believers from different sections, especially the people from the outcaste background are discriminated against in the Church. Although the Dalits responded first to the Pentecostal faith, every thing in ecclesiastical and administrative affairs were wrested from them when the Syrian Christians began to join Pentecostal Churches. Dalits have not been considered for leadership or administration of the Church.
They were neither encouraged nor privileged to exercise their capabilities. Usually, they were treated as second class citizens in the Church affairs. There were a few feeble attempts made against the inequality and the nepotism in the functioning of the Church. It seems that the Hindu ideology is accused for this social disparity, in the Church. This cannot be a justification for her failure in maintaining unity and harmony among the believers. Like other denominations in Kerala, the Pentecostals have made few efforts in formulating their history yet it seems to be biased in favour of the Syrian Christians.
The Dalit Pentecostals are marginalized and not given the due representation in all these historical documents. The history is presented in such a way that it will confuse an ordinary reader, that the Pentecostalism is the outcome of the Syrian effort. This is not true. 3 Dalit Pentecostals could not produce a piece of their history because of various reasons and could not defend their part in the formation of Pentecostalism in Kerala. Thus the present historical records are not complete and the people will not know the truth. To set the record straight is the business of this thesis.
There are a few works produced by non- Dalits on this topic for academic purposes. Yet the real heartbeat of the insider has not adequately been heard or made public. Though these works are informative, their assessment on certain areas such as reasons for Dalits adopting Christianity is not well balanced or even fair. A few things should be explained initially to get the idea of this work more clearly. The writer believes in the unique biblical principle of the unity of the body of Christ. Indeed, according to the Bible, there is no disparity of any kind in the Church.
All are one in Christ, and thus equal. However, the writer’s use of the term, Dalit Pentecostals is not to segregate the body of Christ into several groups, rather to focus mainly on the communities of Dalit origin, who are Pentecostals. for the sake of the study. The word Dalit is employed to identify the people who belong to those of outcaste background in the Indian context. Dalit refers to the caste-oriented idea and not simply the suffering people of any community. They were addressed by several other names and the Dalit community heard it with resentfulness.
Nevertheless, this word is well approved by the entire community, because it does not undermine their dignity and group them under one fold. So ethnic origin is more emphasized 4 Statement of the Problem Apparently, an educated Dalit Pentecostal reader suspects that the Syrian historians of Kerala Pentecostal Church are biased and prejudiced in their historical accounts. Did they represent Dalit Pentecostals in the right perspective? Have they not contributed anything to the Pentecostal movement in Kerala? What are the contributions of the converted Dalits? This work will mainly answering these questions from the Dalit perspective.
The Aim of the Study This study is focused on the Pentecostal community as a whole for introspection and challenges the Dalit-origin Pentecostals in particular to maintain a fair status and relationship. It describes some of the frustrations and unfulfilled hopes of Dalit Pentecostals. Limitation of the Study Since the Dalit Pentecostal history has not been produced before, the sources of the work are limited. Many Dalit Pentecostal Churches do not have any documentation of their history and the writer had to depend on oral reports. Some pastors may be out of the ignorance, failed to respond to the questionnaire.
Some views then are not complete. Since it is the history of almost nine decades, and covering the entire State, regretfully the writer could not travel around and gather all necessary information within the stipulated time frame. 5 Methodology The writer has undertaken research work in the libraries of SAIACS and UTC referring to related books, unpublished Theses, journals and Microfilm. In order to gather first-hand information, personal interviews are held with Dalit and Syrian Pentecostal leaders, political leaders as well as and women from either group.
Personal meetings with some of the founders of Dalit Pentecostal Churches were also made. Interviews with the Pentecostal editors and writers also contributed. As well a few group discussions with Dalit pastors and educated youth also are incorporated in the work. Another means of collecting the information was Questionnaires. Many respondents expressed their personal convictions and opinions, while answering the questions. A Television broadcast is also included in the collection of information. 6 CHAPTER ONE 1. A STUDY ON THE CONCEPT OF DALIT
Dalit, is a modern term for the untouchables of India, who have been exploited and subjected to atrocities due to the social stratification of Indian society. In many cases, Dalits are easily targeted even in this independent nation where the Constitution guarantees equal rights and privileges to every citizen. Throughout the centuries they have been victimized religiously, socially, culturally and most of all economically. The immediate cause of such discrimination according to the Tamil Roman Catholic priest L. Stanislaus, is the caste system, promulgated by Aryan Dharma. The questions are; should this sociological group, the Dalits, be oppressed and tyrannized in this land? Are they not part of this vast Indian nation? How is it that this vast community has become so dejected and rejected? The importance of the study is obvious. 1. 1. ETYMOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE TERM DALIT The term Dalit derives from the Sanskrit, dal, to crack, to open, and to split 4 . Dalit is also a Marathi word for those who have been broken, ground down by those above them in a deliberate and active way5 . James Massey in Roots: A Concise History of Dalits, xplained Dalit, as the burst, the split, the broken or torn asunder, the trodden down, the scattered, the crushed and the destroyed. 6 So it suggests, an afflicted and beleaguered people. 3 4 L. Stanislaus, The Liberative Mission of the Church Among Dalit Christians (Delhi: ISPCK, 1999), p. 1. Ibid. p. 2. 5 Ibid. p. 3. 6 James Massey, Roots: A Concise History of Dalits ( Bangalore: CISRS, 1991), p. 9 7 The present use of the term originated from the nineteenth century Marathi social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule who used the word in connection with the suppressed. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a well renowned Dalit leader, and the architect of the Constitution, said that the word describes the oppressed and broken victims of the casteridden society. 8 This term specifies the outcastes and despised community. During the 1070’s, the Dalit Panther Movement of Maharashtra described it more broadly as “members of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Neo-Buddhists, the working people, the landless and poor peasants, woman and all those who are being exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion. 9 So Dalits are exclusively the socially marginalized people of India. Dalits were addressed by many names and Massey points out that these have been changed occasionally. In most cases, to despise them or to show contempt. 10 Since they were considered outside Chaturvarna, the Four-Caste System, they were labeled OutCastes, and Untouchables and alienated from the main stream of the society. Many Dharma Scriptures called them slaves. 11 Nisada, Malicha, Chandala, and Achuta imply the sense of physical impurity. Narasihma Mehta introduced Harijan, a popular title propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. 2 However, the Dalits in refused it because they believed that it would demean them as illegitimate children of Devadasis. 13 Stanislaus, Liberative Mission, p. 2. Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 James Massey, ‘History and Dalit Identity,’ in Bhagavan Das and James Massey (eds. ), Dalit Solidarity (Delhi: ISPCK, 1995), p. 13. 11 Ibid. 12 S. M. Michael (ed. ), Dalits in Modern India Vision and Values (New Delhi: Vistaar Publications), p. 12. 13 In Nov. 24, 1985, the Government of India prohibted the terminology. 8 7 8 The Aryan suppression of Dalits for many generations is clear in these names.
They exercised religious whip to safe guard their stand. Jose Kananaikil observes, “religion came in as handy instrument to legitimize this exploitation system and to make others accept it without protest. “14 In 1999, Government of India recognized Dalits as Depressed Classes through an Act promoted by British Officials. 15 However, the 1931 Census of India, introduced a new title, the Exterior Castes, by J. H. Hutton, an eminent anthropologist and prominent writer on Indian castes because of some breach of caste rules and it would connote exclusion and not extrusion from other castes. 6 During the Round Table Conference in 1931, Ambedkar suggested two names: Protestant Hindus or Non-Conformist Hindus. 17 In 1935, Simon Commission introduced the name Scheduled Castes and was accepted by the Government of India. 18 This term is standardized in the Constitution of the Republic of India, and Article 341 empowers the President to include any caste, race or tribe among the Schedule caste, after consulting the head of the particular state, to notify by an order. 19 16. All these names are related to the racially discriminated people.
In order to define Dalits, anthropologists and sociologists have adopted two dominant perspectives. 20 The Marxist, Subaltern view emphasizes the class analysts of the Marxist ideology, including all the exploited and working class proletarians. 21 It focuses the wide range of all working class. The Dalit Panthers also supports this stand to certain extend. Professor Gangadhar Pantawane explained Dalit as follows: “Dalit is not a caste. Stanislaus, Liberative Mission, p. 8. Ibid. p. 3. 16 . John C. B.
Webster, The Dalit Christians: A History ( New Delhi: ISPCK, 1996), p. 3. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid. 19 Stanislaus, p. 5. 20 John C. B. Webster, ‘Who is a Dalit? ’ in S. M. Michael (ed. ), Dalits in Modern India (New Delhi: Vistaar Publications), p. 68-69 21 Ibid. 9 14 15 Dalit is a symbol of change and revolution. Dalit believes in humanism. He rejects existence of God, rebirth, soul, sacred books that teach discrimination, fate, and heaven, because these have made him a slave. He represents the exploited man in country. ” 22 Secondly, the traditional communal view.
This view explains the Dalits are people groups included within Hindu society who belong to those castes which Hindu religion considers to be polluted by the virtue of hereditary occupation. 23 Evaluating both perspectives, the former generalizes the suffering and exploitation part alone while ignoring the fact of caste status. In the Indian context, more than class, caste is crucial. Paul Chirackarodu, a Kerala Dalit leader rightly observed that the grand result of the first class-dominated communist movement in India which took place in Kerala in 1940’s, Dalits supported the Party because of its stand against the oppressors and landlords.
Later on, Dalits are seeking shelter in different other political parties because the Communists did not realize the fact and influence of caste in our society. 24 Afterwards, these parties also had to realize the reality and influence of caste feeling and changed their strategies to nominate candidates of influential castes in the constituencies, contrary to the their non-caste propaganda and secular identity. Even their leaders prefer same race marriage alliance. People adorn the tail of their castes at the end of their names as a matter of prestigious.
Based on these facts, our society is deeply caste oriented and many factors are cherishing it well. Moreover, the opinion of Pantewane might be a genuine expression against the exploitation nature of many religious, especially, Hinduism, but his conclusions about all 22 23 Massey, ‘ Dalit Identity,’ p. 12-13. Michael, Dalits in India, p. 69. 24 Paul Chirackkarodu, ‘Dalit and the Left,’ in A. M. Abraham Ayrookuzhiyil (ed. ), Dalit Desyita (Delhi: ISPCK,1990), p. 68. 10 Dalits are refutable because all Dalits are not infidels.
Many of them gladly adhere religious life when they are torn apart. Instead of acknowledging the verity of the caste sociology of India and its adverse effect on Dalits, mere class analysis would not be a fair deal with the real issue. The traditional approach is more convincing. To identify a Dalit, two factors must be considered. The historical documents and testimonies related to the classification of the society must be examined. Interestingly, all these records are supporting traditional view. From 1881 to 1931, six consecutive Census records except of 1891, all were based on castes. 5 Moreover, Ambedkar had testified before Simon Commission in 1928 that Bombay Trade Unions wished to preserve caste distinctions. In 1937, at a Depressed Class Conference in Bihar, a prominent Dalit leader, Jagjivan Ram clarified those members of the Kissan Sabha, the Farmers’ Union were the exploiters of Dalits. 26 This indicates that within the working class, racial discriminations are prevailing in India. So class analysts is a futile effort. Secondly, the traditional religious structure of the society. As Hutton had entioned, the exterior castes were also Hindus, because they worship the same deities and through they refused entry to the temples, boxes were placed outside, to receive their offerings. This indicates the division among the same religious group in the name of caste. Muslims and Christians were exempted from the section of depressed classes. 27 In conclusion, Dalits denote exclusively the lower caste people of India and other explanations are deceptive and biased. If we ignore the legitimate inheritors of the 25 26 Webster, ‘A Dalit,’ p. 69. Ibid. 7 Ibid. p. 72. 11 downtrodden and apply a broad meaning to the concept, it is the harsh denial of the privileges of a community who had been treated inhumane for centuries. 1. 2. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPT Three factors make difficult the discussion of the origin of Dalits. Firstly, disagreement among scholars. 28 They differ about the origin of Dalits and Dalits fear it as a global conspiracy of the non-Dalit historians. Secondly, inadequacy of Dalit literature. Due to their illiteracy and social backwardness they could not edit their history.
However, Massey observes that the absence of right material to write a Dalit history is the most difficult task, yet there are some archaeological and literary sources which can enable us to formulate some possible historical conclusions on Dalit. 29 Finally, manipulation of history. Though H. K. Trevaskis, in The land of the Five Rivers, mentioned that history is the key to the solution of many of world problems of the present day. 30 It is not true with the history of Dalits in India because in history, Dalits are not properly represented. They are always focused objectively.
Some historians do not even regard Dalits part of the so-called Indian civilization. Romala Thapar, in her work, Interpreting Early India, argues that the Vedic Aryan culture became the foundation of Indian culture. 31 Thus the aborigines denied place in the civilization of their land. Moreover, myths and stories have had fabricated to maintain Aryan dominion in the society. Hindu scriptures like Ramayan and Mahabharatha, more specifically, Srimad Bhagavat Geetha presented Dalits as object. Manusmriti has the worst reference about Dalits: Stanislaus, Liberative Mission, p. 6. Massey, Roots, p. 1. 30 Massey, ‘Dalit Identity,’ p. 14. 31 Ibid. p. 18. 28 29 12 The dwelling Chandalas and Suapakas as (should be) out of the villages; they should be deprived of dishes (apapatra), their property (consists of) dogs and asses, their clothes (should be ) garments of the dead, and their ornaments (should be) in broken dishes and they must constantly wander about. 32 Scholars agree that the problem of untouchability is related to the Aryan invasion. 33 Aryans were highly self-conscious, sharing a common language and religion, they migrated into Northwest India around B. C. 1500.
They remained in constant conflict with the natives for various reasons and looked down them, culturally inferior and excluded as ritually unclean. 34 Due to Aryan military exercises, the natives withdrew into regions as yet unoccupied by Aryans. Post Rig vedic literature of Aryan mention about the primitive forest-dwellers that were kept on the fringes of Aryan society in the conquered regions. 35 1. 3. THEORIES ON THE ORIGIN OF DALITS The impure intermixture of the four varnas. Michael, after surveying the Sutras, confirmed this theory. 36 Second theory is related to the Unclean and menial occupation.
Some believe that they were despised because of their mean job allotment. Thirdly, the pure-impure principle. 37 Von Fuerer-Haimendrof, an eminent anthropologist believes that untouchability is because of urban development and is the result of an unclean and ritually impure occupation. 38 Ambedkar surprised scholars with his new theory. He opined that the distinction between the Hindus and untouchables in its original form, before the advent of untouchability, was the distinction between Tribe men and the Broken men from alien tribes. Broken Men who subsequently came to be treated as untouchables, He identifies 2 33 Ibid. p. 21. Michael, Dalits in India, p. 2. 34 Ibid. p. 3. 35 Massey, Roots, p. 12. 36 Ibid. 37 Stanislaus, Liberative Mission, p. 7. 38 Michael, Dalits in India, p. 14. 13 the two roots from which untouchability has sprung: One, contempt and hatred for the Broken Men, and the continuation of beef-eating by the Broken Men after it had been given up by others. 39 However, Stanislaus discovers the origin had an economic base, i. e. , division of labor, and a definite function in society; later social and religious legitimization were given to them. 0 In literature, most scholars agree that the existing civilization of ancient India was about 1500 B. C. , at Mohenjodaro and Harappa, had been destroyed more than once by invaders. The Rigvedic hymns have stories about the destruction of the Indus civilization and indications of conflicts among different groups of people. 41 These hymns are directed to two warrior gods. Ramaprasad Chand has made this observation correctly, “the hymns reveal two hostile peoples of the land of the Seven Rivers now called the Punjab – the deva worshipping Arya and the deva-less and the riteless Dasya or Dasa. 42 Aryans preserved a hostile approach towards the Dasya or slaves in all aspects. Archaeological evidences also support the pre-Aryan inhabitants in India. Ancient Cities of the Indus, a major archaeological research paper by Gregory L. Possehl and archaeologists like Sir. John Marshall, Dr. Earnest Mackay, Sir Martimer Wheeler, S. R. Rao, Gurudip Singh, C. Ramasway also have supported this fact. 43 Sir John Marshall has well acknowledged the ancient civilization of pre-Aryan India when he says: Hitherto India has almost universally been regarded as one of the younger countries of the world…… ow at one single bound, we have ….. established the fact that in the third millennium before Christ and even that in the third millennium before Christ and even that the people of Punjab and Sind were living in well-built cities and were in the 39 40 Ibid. p. 15. Stanislaus, p. 7. 41 Massey, Roots, p. 13. 42 Ibid. p. 14. 43 Ibid. p. 22. 14 possession of a relatively mature culture with high standard and craftsmanship and developed system of pictorial writing. 44 Excavations confirmed certain outward resemblance between these early inhabitants and the people of the Western Coast of Tamil Nadu.
Their clothes and style of hair were almost the same. 45 Though stigma of castiesm sprang up in the later Vedic age, it was between 600 B. C. and 200 A. D. that untouchability appears as such. 46 Contemporary Budhist literature also shed lights to the practice of discrimination in North India. Aryans began to extend their control to the south, and the varna, colour distinctions also spread around. 47 Sangam literature, written around 300-600 A. D. , contain references of broad divisions of society somewhat similar to the four varnas. 8 As a result, a new order of hierarchy under the Brahmanical authority with its exploitative and oppressive nature began to operate. The political transition during the eighth century A. D. by Muslim invasion, failed to establish any change in the social structure because of class divisions within. During British rule, the missionaries made efforts to extinguish caste differences though Germans generally followed the policy of non-interference, upholding the existing practice of racism. 49 They made Provisions in the Act to protect the civil and religious rights of every citizen. 0 Missionaries took exceptional interest in attending the sores of the depressed in the caste-dominated society. They also had to abide the social practices in 44 45 Ibid. p. 23. Ibid. p. 28-30. 46 Webster, Dalit Christains, p. 3. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. p. 4. 49 Aleyamma Zachariah, Modern religoius & Secular Movements in India, (Bangalore: Theological Book Trust), p. 280. 50 Webster, Dalit Christians, p. 43. 15 order to establish themselves in the Indian soil. So they permitted caste differences in the Church. 1 Because of the missionaries, the officials exchanged ignoble titles of the Dalits to a decent name whereby Dalits achieved a modest status. Prior to the scheduled castes, the title depressed classes were used by the British Government and also by the various reform movements. Though the Government decided a communal award for the scheduled castes, was canceled due to the fasting treat of Mahatma Gandhi out of the fear that the scheduled castes may be separated from the Hindu community. Thus the provisions of Dalits were once again snatched away.
However, in the nineteenth century, there was a tremendous move among the Dalits. Bhatki Movement helped Dalits particularly in the spiritual matters. Though many movements could not bring any significant social change they reformed and revitalized the community. Few eminent leaders like Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Ambedkar, voiced for the total uplift of Dalits. 52 In the independent India, national rulers continue the Aryan negative attitude towards the Dalits though the Constitution proclaims special privileges.
Now there is an awaiting menace against it because the ruling coalition at the centre, the Brahmandominated government is sponsoring a constitution review Panel, for bringing changes in the fundamental rights and privileges and specially of Dalits and thereby revoking the old Aryan suppression in secular India. 51 52 Ibid. Ibid. Pp. 44-47. 16 1. 3. BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF DALIT Bible speaks about Dalits. Liberation theologians are trying to interpret and contextualize this concept in accordance with the Marxian perspective. The Hebrew term, dall , to languish, be weakened, be low, and be feeble. 3 Its different forms are constantly used in the Old Testament. More specifically, it has been used as an adjective, in order to denote the state of certain people. Generally, the root and related words indicate the people of low social status as opposed to those who are great or noble; people of straitened economic means as opposed of those who are wealthy, a people who are physically or socially weak as opposed to those who are powerful and strong. 54 A deeper sense and showing the process of reducing certain people into Dalit state are stated in Job 20:18-19; Psalm 79:8, Proverbs 14:31, Jeremiah 5:34.
Since New Testament perspective is more related to the spiritual aspect or man and its immediate focus is on the body concept, such a classification is not much necessitated. Instructions are given in the epistles on the Christian treatment in the master servant relationship. However, the Dalitness is not as clear as in the Old Testament. Apostles instructed the Church to remember the poor, the economically weak. Prabhu concludes that the Biblical understanding of the poor could be spelled out in three prepositions. 55 The poor in the Bible form a sociological Group whose identity is recognized by the social situation.
The poor in the Bible are a dialectical group whose identity is recognized by the antagonistic groups standing against them. The poor in the James Massey, ‘The Role of the Churches in the Whole Dalit Issue,’ National Council of Churches Review Vol. CXVI No. 5 May-June (1996) 325-333. 54 George M. Soares- Prabhu, ‘ Class in the Bible : The Biblical Poor or a Social Class? ,’ in rokiaswamy, G. Gispert- Sauch (eds. ), Liberation in Asia Theological Perspectives (Gujarat: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1987), p. 34. 55 Massey, ‘Dalit Identity,’ p. 34. 17 53
Bible are a Dynamic group who is not passive victims of history but those through whom the Lord shapes the history. 56 Thus the Bible speaks about the materially and socially rejected peoples, the weak and feeble of the society. Though men and systems overthrow them, God is known as their helper and refuge. However, the Indian understanding of Dalits is primarily based on the caste system introduced by Aryanism. 1. 4. SOCIOLOGICAL CONCLUSIONS The natives possessed an advanced civilization. Although, they are reduced to an insignificant people, they inherit a glorious past.
They were hard working self-reliant, civilized and sincere. They were caring for the rest of the society while the priestly class concentrated on feeding their deities, the Dalits had to work in the field to feed the rulers and their military. They inherited cultural programs like folk dance and traditional entertainment. Rev. Theophilus Appau of the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, Madurai, has analyzed Dalit sociology with his own code EPSIPEGS. 57 E stands for Economics. Appau clarifies that the early ancestors of Dalits were rich and never depended on any for their meals.
They had financial stability in the society. Nevertheless, Stanislaus has rightly pointed out, the caste system has brought the Dalits to the unfortunate economic conditions. 58 Hindu Religious laws did not permit them the right to make property, education, and complaints, but only to serve the upper castes. 59 Ambedkar argued that the caste system has its economic manifestation: First of all, it divides labourers, secondly it 56 57 George, ‘Biblical Poor,’ p. 37. Theophilus Appau, Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary (Interview, 10 May 2000). 58 Stanisluas, Liberative Mission, p. 9. 59 Ibid. 18 isassociates work from interest; thirdly, it disconnects intelligence from manual labourers; fourthly, prevents mobilization; and above all, deprives Dalits of all economic avenues of employment and puts him nearly in the position of a slave. 60 Some economic changes have taken place during the British rule. Since 1947, Dalits are provided with some Constitutional privileges under Article 46, “the state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker section of people and in particular SC/ST and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. 61 Reports prove that the provisions are only in the paper. Dalit society traditionally followed self-governing set-up, a model for democratic governance but were driven away from Power. Now this powerless community has to fight for their privileges. Reservation technically offers some loaves of power to them practically they are away from the red carpets of power. There are enough examples of Dalit ministers and eminent Dalit IAS officers were humiliated, harmed or even killed by their high caste colleagues because of their intolerance towards them. Ambedkar himself is an example.
Dalits maintained equal social status in their community. In the early Dalit society, the family ties were very warm and delicate and the women were given due respect. In a small Dalit family also, intimacy is comparatively higher. women are not liberated duly. Though majority of them are illiterates, they uphold ideological values. In the past, their religious practices and rituals were well knitted ideologically. resembled their ideological stand. Even their idols Unfortunately, now Dalit Their places of worship were natural, open and contextual. They worshipped both goddesses and gods equally and the nature. 0 61 Ibid. P. 10. Ibid. 19 Their psychological expressions and emotions are instant and sometimes outbursting. Usually they are not hard heartened and never hatch any rivalry. They are loyal and least corrupted in the society. They have a deep sense of environment. Though they are the sons of the soil, their place of living is very small and most of them possess only a piece of land because of oppression. Yet their animals, children, and relatives live closely and utilize the rest of the land for vegetation. Formerly they worshipped the nature and offered sacrifices to her.
They preserve the dignity of Gender relationship. In the Dalit society, there is an equal respect for both sexes. Mother is respected highly and symbolizes goddess. Finally, Dalits value spirituality. Every action is the outcome of one’s faith. In Dalit festivities, they enjoy complete transcendence by the way of singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments throughout night. They were relieved from their burdens of hard work by participating their religious gatherings. utmost satisfaction and hated hypocrisy. 62 They adored anything for their 1. 5. PRESENT STATISTICS OF DALITS IN INDIA
Dalits have improved considerably in various aspects of life in spite of many social, religious and Government hurdles. Recently (1994), the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which was tabled on the Parliament points out that the share of the SCs and STs in various jobs and governance continues to be dismal. For example, only one percent of ST and eight percent of SC candidates were employed in the Group A category of Indian embassies while the enormous chunk of the rest continues 62 Appau, Interview. 20 to be with the upper castes. 63
Even in the other three groups of employment in the embassies, the percentage representation of SCs does not go beyond seven percent and of STs does not go beyond 1. 20. The categories figure very badly in the employment profile of the Central government. In 1995, 10. 12% SC candidates were holding Class I posts and the figure in the case of SSTs was still worse, 2. 89%. 64 In the area of judiciary, the report reveals that their share is negligible. In March 1982, the SC judges were a little more than one percent while none of them belonged to ST. Now within two decades, the figure does not change much.
With the help of reservation, few got into the government services and there are stories of negligence and misrepresentation of them. Often special recruitment and concessions are only a public gimmick. Recently, Supreme Court of India was much concerned about the Creamy Layer of the down castes. The intention behind such a move is alleged as a Brahman conspiracy to divide the marginalized economically into small fragments and abrogate their nominal benefits. depressed. The down trodden have made progress politically. One has even rises to the level of becoming the President of India.
Out of the sixteen Prime Ministers of India, just one was from the non-Brahmin background and did not permit him to complete his term. Because the Prime Minister is the Executive Chief of the State. Except few places, they have to depend on the reservation seat to get an access to the corridors of powers. The The Communist regimes have succeeded in achieving many benefits to the 63 64 Editorial, ‘Where Do the Dalits Stand After 50 years of Aryan Rule,’ in Dalit Voice Aug 16- 31, 2000. Ibid. 21 discriminated people are not shared adequate benefits of economical and technological advancements of the Republic.
According to 1987-1088 reports, their ratio of poverty line is 57 in the rural area. The work force of the scheduled caste in 1991 was 1338,233,277. The literacy rate in 1991 was 37%, including 23. 8 million women. 65 After fifty years of independence, the country is not serious about groans and needs of this people. Aleyamma, comments that “Dalit problem is a combination of economic, social and religious issues. Unless there is a movement which tackles all the three areas of suppression full Dalit liberation may not be possible. ” 66 The margninalized must strive together to cast down the thresholds of castiesm.
Now the Brahmins are keen to re-convert many of them who uphold other faiths. Dalits should reject Aryan Dharma which made them condemned and come out of their villages where they are despised and limited and settle down in the urban culture in order to share the advantages of technological progress and create themselves economic stability needed for a better and more prosperous future. 65 66 Ibid. Aleyamma, Religious, p. 296. 22 CHAPTER TWO 2. SOCIAL HISTORY OF DALITS IN KERALA 2. 1. Introduction This chapter primarily deals with the historical analysis of the social structure and status of Dalits in Kerala.
It consists of the Christian approach to the Dalits and the missionary activities among them. Unless the Dalit history is dealt with exclusively, their Christian history cannot be appraised. A few factors must be considered in this historical study. Bernard Cohn, in his analysis of Indian society at the beginning of the nineteenth century has observed that the orientalists created a history in which the Dalits have little place. He acknowledged that even the missionaries, more accurately the Evangelicals also pursue the same device of installing the Brahmin as the head of the Society. 7 However, the nineteenth century was a turning point when there was a clear departure from the Brahminical theory of caste origins, in favour of more generalized speculative theories about racial conquest and mixture. And these documents were framed from data gathered out of direct observations and study from the life and practices of the natives. 68 Webster points out that ethnographers have applied two assumptions in their treatment of Dalits and other castes. The chief factor was their caste title based on their line of descent.
The second assumption was that the basic details about their traditional common occupations, beliefs, ceremonies and patterns of interaction with other castes did 23 not change much over time. Therefore, some of the facts and figures quoted might be outdated information. 69 Besides, in the administrative view of India, village was the basic unit of study more than caste. Because, the British government drew considerable income from land-revenue, and the administrators were particularly interested in the patterns of land holding in the villages for their survey and study. 0 However, Dalits rarely possessed any land of their own and were virtually excluded from the study. Therefore, historians may find difficulty in writing the history of the Dalits, depending on the official records. In turn of course the veracity of the present historical records are disputable. 2. 2. A Historical Analysis of the Social Structure of Kerala Kerala, in the tourist language is “God’s own country”, has a long history and tradition as an integral part of India. This southern state stands different in various aspects from other states.
Sreedhara Menon, a Kerala historian commented that “Kerala has had the distinction of being an independent geographical position and peculiar physical features have invested Kerala with a distinct individuality. ”71 A Popular Hindu mythology claims that Kerala was raised from the depth of the ocean. It is located between the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Fifty percent of the population lives by agriculture. Kerala produces the dominant share of cash crops in India and is rich industrial potential and infrastructure facilities. Tourism is one of the main revenues of the state. 2 Webster, The Dalit Christians, p. 5-6. Ibid. 69 Ibid. p. 7. 70 Ibid. 71 A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History (Madras: S. Viswanathan Printers & Publishers Pvt. Ltd, 1991), p. 1. 72 [n. a], India 2000, Research Reference & Tourism Development ( New Delhi: Publication Division , Ministry of Information & Broad casting , Govt. of India), p. 762-765. 24 67 68 The earliest racial strain of people in the state was the Negritos and the ProtoAustroloids were, according to Menon, the main element in the Dravidians population, who descended from Mediterranean region, and occupied south India. 3 They were, some think as the founders of the Dravidian culture in south. 74 Some of their kinsmen moved to north and established the Indus valley civilization. 75 Aryans who came to the northern India, around 1500 BC. , drove out the Dravidians of the valley. Such communities as Vellalas, Ezhavas, the Scheduled castes such as the Pulayas, Parayas and Kuravas are descendants of them. 76 The Aryans, who entered Kerala two or three centuries before the Christian era, had changed the social fabric of then existing society and completed the present racial composition of the population of the state.
Till the emergence of the Aryans, Philip argues that rigorous caste and communal barriers were unknown in the society. 77 There was large measure of freedom and equality among the people. The toiling classes were held in high esteem by the kings and the nobles. Women enjoyed high social status. Child marriage and women seclusion was unknown to them. Labor was considered with dignity and the people were divided in to tribes on the basis of their profession and the land they occupied. 78 Agriculture was the main occupation of the people.
Foreign trades were also practiced in those days. Aryans brought advanced technologies to the production of crops and they had the knowledge of rituchackra, the knowledge of seasonal cultivation and they were holding key to economic production. 79 Menon comments that the Aryanization of Kerala Menon, Survey, p. 3. Ibid. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. p. 5. 77 A. T. Philip, The Mar Thoma Churcxh and Kerala Society (Thiruvanathapuram: Juhanon Mar Thoma Study Centre, 1991), p. 4. 78 Ibid. 79 A. Selvaraj, The Impact of Christianity Upon the Dalits in Kerala : A Study of Transformation ( D.
Miss, SAIACS,1994), p. 6. 25 73 74 was a slow but steady process, which affected in subtle manner “not by the force of arms, but by the arts of peace. ” 80 It ended in the final submission of the local Dravidian races to “the superior intelligence and administrative skill of the Brahmins of the North”. 81 Philip observes that the early inhabitants did not practice any organized form of religious pursuit, rather it was a mixture of primitive rites and practices. 82 However, Jainism and Budhism entered in to Kerala prior to the first century AD. 3 Kunjan Pillai comments that Buddhism was more popular in Kerala but Jains had deep roots in the northern part of the state. 84 Christian and Jewish presence emerged in Kerala right from the first century AD. but the former also invariably maintained the divided social culture. Abraham Thomas Vazhyil observed that “the Syrian Christians were more part and parcel of the high caste society of Kerala. ” 85 According to tradition, by eighth century AD. , Aryanization reached its climax, 86 the Buddhists were defeated and the Aryans established themselves in Kerala.
They established Vedic Schools for the propagation of Manu Dharma. 87 Sree Sankaracharya was the most illustrious leader of Hinduism in the ninth century AD. 88 Local kings like Kulasekhara Alwar, Cheraman Perumal Nayanar and Viralminda Nayanar extended their sturdy support to the Aryan missionaries. 89 Bishop Cald, who well formed the Church Missionary Society in Tinnevely, commended on the tactics employed by the Aryan immigrants in spreading their ideas. He said that Menon, Survey, p. 80. Ibid. 82 Philip, Mar Thoma, p. 4. 83 Ibid. 84 Ibid. 85 Selva raj, Impact, p. 6. 86 Menon , Survey, p. 1. 87 Ibid. 88 Philip, Mar Thoma, p. 8. 80 81 26 The Aryan immigrants to the south appear to have been generally Brahmanical priests and instructors, rather than Kshatriya soldiers, and the kings of the Pandyan, Cholas, Kalingas and other Dravidians appear to have been simply Dravidian chieftains, whom their Brahmanical preceptors and spiritual directors dignified with Aryan titles, and taught to imitate and emulate the Solar, Lunar and Agni-kula race of kings. 90 With their allegiance to the rulers, Aryans influenced the rich merchants by throwing open to them the trade route to north India. 1 Later, they declared the ruling class Kshatriyas and the trading class Vaisyas, belongs to the superior castes. Eventually, these classes considered their own kinsmen inferior in the society and the Brahmins established dominance above all other castes. Then they introduced changes in the society like, detaining the practice of eating beef and they condemned those who used it. 92 They denied privilege of education to the Sudras and low castes. They looked down both the women and widows and negated their privileges. 93 They were very intolerant towards other faiths like Jainism and Buddhism.
They had damaged images and temples of other religions in Karumadi and Pallickal. 94 Aryans introduced temples and festivals to hinder the growth of other faiths. 95 The Chola-Chera war of eleventh century AD. led to far reaching economic and social changes in Kerala society. 96 The Brahmins, who were involved in the religious duties, in the name of war against Chola, began to mobilize military exercises. They established Salais, training schools, for arms training for Nambuthiri youths and compulsory kalari, Gymnisia, practices were introduced.
They even organized a Chavar, suicide squad to vanish their enemies. Because of their participation in the battle, Brahmins 89 90 Menon, Pp. 126-128. Ibid. p. 82. 91 Ibid. 92 Ibid. p. 83. 93 Ibid. 94 Ibid. p. 83. 95 Ibid. p. 128. 27 made maximum advantages. 97 A new feudal system emerged as the Brahmins occupied all the properties of the temples and educational institutions attached to it. Moreover, during the critical period of the war, several ordinary tenants who owned land and properties transferred their possessions in toto to Nambuthiri Brahmins and temples.
Because lands and endowments thus made overcome to be looked upon as Devaswams they enjoyed freedom from devastation by enemy forces as well as exemption from the payment of tax of the state. Thus emerged the Janmi, Land lords system, dominated by the Aryans. 98 Another historical development of the after effect of the Chola-Chera war was the inception of Matrilineal or marumakkathayam, replacing the traditional Patrilineal, Makkathaya system, introduced by the Aryans. 99 Due to the compulsory military training, many businessmen abandoned their carrier and subsequently, the foreign trades and the economy of the state declined.
Both Buddhism and Jainism began to disappear and the Aryanization turned more organized and systematic on the basis of castes and sub castes. 100 These social changes witnessed the break-up of the political unity of Kerala. The Viceroy or Naduvazhis of different nadus, provinces, asserted their independence. The state was divided in to different minor kingdoms and there were loggerheads between the local rulers. 101 E. Kunjan Pillai, a historian of Kerala suggests that Conversion to Christianity at that time was permitted only to the people belonging to the higher levels of society who had real faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Christian converts continue to practice the same social system and practices, as before, still another factor of the Christians was that they 96 97 Ibid. p. 132. Ibid. p. 133. 98 Ibid. 99 Selvaraj, Impact, p. 10-11. 100 Ibid. p. 134. 101 Ibid. 28 maintained a high standard of morality in trade business etc. It was not possible to distinguish a person as Hindu or Christian in those times merely by name. 102 The landing of Vasco da Gama at Calicut in May 1498 marked the beginning of a new era in Kerala history. 103 According to B. N. Puri, they entered India with the sword in one hand and cross in the other.
Philip quotes the words of K. M. Panicker “That the Captain General’s (Vasco da Gama’s) ship flew at its mast a flag on which was painted a large cross of Christ and also carried cannon, symbols of the new power entering the East. ” 104 Their main intention to bridging commercial relationship with India was hindered by the existing Muslim merchants of Calicut. In order to fulfill the Papal commission to evangelize India, they had to resist Muslim attack and to organize men who could join with them in the fight. 105 Most of the new converts were women who lived in marriage or concubine with Portuguese men.
Ezahvas and the fisher men community also received their faith. Though Portuguese pleased the local rulers, they remained in conflict with the Brahmins. 106 Syrian Christians also invariably kept aloof from the foreigners. In one particular incident, a Syrian priest withdrew from the presence of the Portuguese clergy because of their association with the untouchables. 107 Portuguese succeeded in establishing their authority because they were able to build their fortress and maintained troops for the local rulers and cultivated friendly relations with minor chieftains and others whose cooperation was necessary for the procurement of spices. 08 Philip, Mar Thoma, pp. 12-13. Menon, Survey, p. 160. 104 Philip. p. 14. 105 Ibid. p. 15. 106 Ibid. 107 Ibid. 108 Joseph Thekkedath, History of Christianity in India, vol. 2 ( Bangalore: Theological Publications in India,1982), Pp. 19-20. 29 102 103 However, by seventeenth century, the situation turned in favour of Dutch who overthrew the power of Portuguese and wielded in Malabar more or less the same influence that the Portuguese had exercised before. 109 They had made some significant contributions to the religious and economic fields.
They were unlike their predecessors, liberal and tolerant yet initially blamed for some religious aggression. 110 Later on, they built Churches and appointed native Latin Christians in some important positions. 111 They showed respect for Hindu sentiments and their temples and institutions were protected and well maintained religious harmony. They created conditions favorable for the revival of Kerala trade. Agriculture was upgraded with more scientific methods and exporting and importing systems were balanced. 112 However, the local king Marthanda Varma at the battle of Colachel defeated them in 1741. 13 The Brahmin domination continued firmly because they possessed large portions of land in the name of temple trustees and matrimonial relationship with the royal families. Moreover, many Nambuthiries were made ministers of the rajahs and their spiritual preceptors. Nayars, who were the militia of the land, enjoyed considerable power in the state. 114 The lower classes such as the Barbers, Wassermann, Potters and Weavers were also practically Nayars . Other Hindu communities like tiyas or Ezhavas were farmers and never permitted to share the civic life of the society. 15 Muslims in north had some influence. 116 Jews also were present and they were divided by color. Menon, Survey, p. 210. Ibid. p. 218. 111 Ibid. p. 219 112 Ibid. Pp. 218-220. 113 Ibid. p. 234. 114 Selvaraj, I mpact, p. 11. 115 Menon, Survey, p. 226. 116 Ibid. p. 228. 109 110 30 All untouchable castes were considered agrarian slaves, whose task was tilling the lands of their lords. They were mainly Pulayas, Parayas and Kuravas. Their masters had the power of life and death over their slaves. They had no access to the public roads in the presence of higher castes. 17 They were not admitted inside the house of their masters. History testifies the presence of numerous slaves with the upper caste masters. The ancestors report that the tax system was in favour of the high castes and Dalits were levied heavily. Death tax, Head tax, Breast tax, War tax, was the few among the many. Rev. Joseph, a Dalit Christian priest cites that tourists like Dr. Buckanan and Logan have mentioned in 1841 about the practice of slavery in Kerala. 118 There were slave- markets, where the slaves were sold and the master had right to sell or kill his servants.
Though it seems that the Christians were against slavery, they also practiced it. The first Dalit convert in central Kerala, Habel, was a slave of one of the known Christian families in Kerala, the Modayil family. 119 A slave was sold at an equal cost of an ox and a slave couple cost only 200 to 300 rupees in Malabar, according to Bucknan. 120 Slaves were classified in to different section such as war-captives, religiousslaves 121 and others those who were defiled by the low castes. However, Pulayas and Parayas were always considered as slaves. They were ill-treated inhumanely and cruelly.
Bertholowmea, a foreign tourist recollects that he had witnessed the hanging of five Dalit men for killing a cow. 122 He also recorded the execution of a Channan for stealing a coconut from a Nair’s house. 123 In case of suspicion of robbery, their ears and fingers were Joseph, Hiistory, p. 21-22. Rev. P. C. Joseph, Poikayil Shri Kumara Guru [ Poikayil Shri Kumara Guru-Mal] ( Thiruvalla: Chritsava Sahithya Samathy, 2000), p. 37. 119 Rev. P. C. Joseph, `Mahathaya Kaippatta Sambhavam’ [ The Great Kaippatta Event- Mal], C. S. I. Diocese of Madhya Kerala 140th Habel day Celebration Souvenir , September 8, 1994. 7. 20 Joseph, Poikayil , p. 38. 121 Those who violated the caste or religious rules. 122 Joseph, p. 39. 123 Ibid. 31 117 118 chopped off. In order to identify their slaves, masters used to mark on their slaves with hot-iron pieces. Chopping off the nose and breasts of slave women and men’s sexual organs were the normal punishments. Some Dalits were branded as rebels and were buried their bodies up to the neck and had poured oil on their heads till they died and in some cases they were burned alive. In certain cases, their bodies were tied to two trees and torn apart. Many were hanged up side down for days together.
Several of them were thrown to wild beasts. 124 Dalits were yoked with bulls and oxen in the fields and on roads. Hundreds of poor people were drowned for strengthening dams, a superstitious belief. Pulayas and Parayas were chained and taken to the slave markets. Numerous slaves were taken to the cities and to Cochin, expect on Sundays. Some times, Church buildings were used to stable the slaves. 125 Though the masters were supposed to feed their slaves, in many cases, they were not provided even for their minimum living. After hard labour from dawn to dusk, they starved and even man handled daily.
Paul Chirackarodu, a popular Dalit leader in Kerala adds that the slaves were neglected when they become sick and most of them died in their hunger. 126 They had no social status or education facility. They were denied access in the temples, Churches and public places. The government also did not distribute justice to them and treated like animals. By eighteenth century, there were three main provincial states in the southwest coast of India, namely, Travancore, Cochin and Malabar. Twenty-six principalities have been identified as subordinate to these states. A contemporary document of 1747, however, 24 125 Ibid. p. 40. Ibid. 126 Paul Chirackkarodu, Dalit Christavar Keralathil [ Dalit Christians in Kerala- Mal] (Thiruvalla: CSS, 2000), P. 29. 32 identifies as many as seventy-five minor rulers in Kozhikode and Kochi. 127 The British got control of the states around 1800. At the British rule, the old feudal system made way for a centralized administration by 1790. Many of the privileges of the high castes and the Syrian Christians were eliminated. During this time, the troops of Tippu, based in Kerala, had an anti-Christian attitude. They destroyed Churches and massacred Christians and priests. 28 During nineteen and twentieth centuries, a new social system has emerged with various social and economical impacts. There were social and administrative reforms in view of modernizing Kerala. 129 Heredity offices were eliminated and corrupt officials were dismissed. The judiciary and legal formalities were based on the Western principles demanding equal penalty for equal offense. Compulsory services in the Government without payment of remuneration was abolished and wage system was introduced. 130 2. 3. The Social Movements of Dalit Liberation The most important achievement of this period was the social movements developed in Kerala.
M. Stephen, a proficient Pentecostal Dalit writer identifies two major reforms or protest movements in the period. 131 The Nadar and the Upper-Cloth Controversy. Muthgukutty Swamy was the main organizer of this movement that took place between 1820-60. The Nadars many of whom were not allowed to wear clothes above waist and their effort to do so was persecuted by Nairs. As a result the Government made an order in 1814 regulating the dress of women. The Nairs came to the extent of E. R. Hambye, History of Christianity in India, Vol. 3 (Bangalore: The Church History Association of India, 1997), p. 15. 28 Ibid. Pp. 18-20. 129 Menon, Survey, p. 221-222. 130 Ibid. Pp. 324-27. 127 33 strip off the loose blouses or jackets of Nadar women. In spite of their complaints to the Government, the Nadars were beaten up and the Dewan made a declaration on 27th December 1858 in favour of the Nairs. 132 It created a situation of revolt. Government had to bend before the demand of the people, and in 1865, a new order was issued on the right to all lower castes to wear upper clothes. 133 Because of the agitation, the Government and Nairs had to recognize the dignity of the low castes and specially their women. 134
The Cheramar Movement under Ayyankali, the charismatic leader of Pulayas, was the second agitation. He was born at Venganoor in Trivandrum. 135 Cheramers were denied the privilege of education and walking on the streets and education. Then he organized his people against this behaviour. Since he grasped the need of education, he started a school for Cheramers at Venganoor in 1904. In 1907, he founded the Sadhu Jana paripalana Yogam, the Assembly of the Depressed, for their socio-economic liberation. 136 He asked Pulayas not to work for Nair landlords until their children were permitted to enter in the schools. 37 After a long struggle, Pulayas were given representation in Sir Mulam Assembly, the then Legislative Assembly where Ayyankkali voiced for his people. Because of his determination, the Government granted them house sites, schools and employment in the Government departments. 138 He worked for political power of untouchables and their socio-economic freedom. Subsequently, Cheramers today enjoy improvement socially, economically and politically. M. Stephen, A Liberated Vision ( Delhi : ISPCK, 1999 ), p. 71. Ibid. p. 72. 133 Ibid. p. 75-76. 134 Ibid. s 135 Menon, Survey , pp. 28-329. 136 Ibid. 137 Stephen, Ibid. 138 Stephen, Liberated, p. 75. 34 131 132 A third significant movement was the Ezhava Movement under the leadership of Sri Narayana Guru. He too revolted against Brahmin ascendancy and campaigned for the mitigation of the rigor of caste. 139 He proceeded ahead by installing separate deities and consecrated special places for the low-caste people against provocation of Brahmins. He fought against such practices as Talikuttukalyanam, Tirandukuli among Ezahavas and succeeded in dissuading people from these practices.
Menon observes that “the work of Narayana Guru helped to rouse the Hindus from their age-long slumber and to give the Hindu religious reform movement in Kerala a social bias and practical run”. 140 Stephen opinions that this movement brought upward mobility of his community and impacted the nature of the traditional caste system. 141 However, now this community is well established politically and economically and they have emerged as a dominating ethnic group in Kerala. Kerala, in the new millennium has a lot of developments in the social structure and economic fields because of the Christian influence and education.
Now Kerala stands as an exemplary state for many other Indian states in education, social life and economy. However, she has an ignoble past. 2. 3. Background of Dalits in Kerala Apart from Aryans, all others were considered as Dalits in Kerala. They were regarded as the children of the sea and jungle. They are the descendants of the Indus valley civilization. In the ancient days, Kerala had active business relationships with the Indus 139 140 141 Ibid. Menon, Survey. P. 325. Stephen, p. 75. 35 valley. Teakwood, sandalwood, spices and beautiful birds were exported to them.
Thus some of them were sheltered in the shore of Kerala during the Aryan invasion. 142 Hence they are known as the sons of the sea. While the other refugees settled down in the mountain areas in association with the tribal there and emerged as the sons of the jungles. 143 Aryans had no relation to the sea and they prohibited crossing the sea. They had no control over the sons of the sea. They did not therefore object to the conversion process of the European missionaries among the sons of the sea, in the 16th century. Syrian Christians, Muhammadeans and the Latin Christians are all belong to this group.
Nairs, Ezhavas, Pualyas and Parayas were considered as the children of Jungles and they were dominated and exploited by the Brahmins. When Protestant missionaries converted them, the Aryans strongly protested it. 144 Joseph recorded that “according to the 1836 Census report, there were 1,64,864 slaves in Travancore, including in the government custody. Logon has recorded in the Malabar Manual that there were 1,57,758 slaves in Malabar. It was the account of the Pulayas alone”. 145 The way is now open to for a brief explanation of various catagories of the Dalits. 2. 4. 1 The Pulayas
Bishop Caldwell opined that they were the earliest race of inhabitants in Kerala. 146 They were the slave community in a caste-based society. He explained, “ I consider the black low caste races of southern India not Turanians, or immigrants of any sort, but Dalit Bandhu , `Sanchara patham’ Orbit in Thomas Kadankavil (ch. ed. ), Dalit Ekopanam: Chila Ulkazchakal [Dalit Solidarity: Some Insights – Mal] ( Kottayam: Centre for Dalit Solidarity, 1999), p. 42. 143 Ibid. P. 43. 144 Ibid. 145 Joseph, Poikayil, p. 43. 142 36 aborigines, like the Negroid aborigines of the Eastern Islands and Australia. 147 The term pulaya is derived from the word pula, indicating a ceremonial pollution, taint or defilement. Because of their social immunity, they were forced out of the streets and common places. They were traditional slaves and illiterates. Pulayas were divided into three divisions. Ina Pulayas considered superior. The Tandu Pulayas used to wear grass. Finally, the Kana Pulayas, they used to wear better and more artificially made aprons. 148 Moreover, they were divided in to western and eastern Pulayas. Due to their economic inadequacy and landlessness, they constructed simple houses with grass and wood.
They were not permitted to wear ornaments or clean dress. 149 They had to work in the fields extensively and were paid very low, sometimes in kind not in cash. They were punished brutally even for simple mistakes. In order to relieve from the pain of the hard labour, they used intoxication and during their festivities, they dance and sing through out the night. They had to depend on their masters to the extent that they had to get permission from their masters for their personal needs like marriage and children. They were considered as objects of transaction. 150 L. A.
Krishna Iyer comments on their religion, “the Pulayas are animists, but are slowly coming on to the higher forms of worship. Their gods are Parakutty, Karinkutty, Chathan and the spirits of their ancestors. ”151 They maintained their own pooja systems and appointed own priests. They were not idol-worshippers and Bhagavathi was their main J. W. Gladstone , Protestant Christianity and the People’s Movement in Kerala ( Trivandrum: Seminary Publications, 1984), p. .33. 147 Ibid. 146 82 Bandhu, ‘Sanchara’, p. 43. Gladstone, Protestant, p. 35. Chirackkarodu, Dalit Christavar, p. 26-27. 151 Gla