On the eve of the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of the village of Ayyampatty, a Catholic Dalit lodged a complaint with various authorities, and threatens to take the matter to the High Court of Madras if no action is taken.
The Dalits, also called Untouchables, are individuals considered, from the point of view of the caste system, as outsiders. They are most often assigned to functions or trades deemed impure.
The issue of discrimination against Dalits continues to rock the Catholic community in Tamil Nadu. After movements against the lack of the appointment of bishops from the marginalized - who constitute the vast majority of the faithful of this southern Indian state - a new protest has arose concerning the patronal feast in the village of Ayyampatty, in the diocese of Tirucirapalli (Trichy).
A Catholic named G. Mathew, through his lawyers, has filed a complaint with civil authorities, the police, and the diocese in which he denounces the fact that Dalit Catholics are deliberately being excluded from the great feast and the procession organized on the occasion of the feast of the patron saint, July 22.
“In our parish,” Mr. G. Mathew complained to AsiaNews, “there are about 70 Dalit Catholic families, but they are not included in the feast. No subscriptions have been collected from among them, the procession with the cars in the streets of the village avoids the streets where the Dalits live.
“The cemeteries are also separate: there is one for Dalit Christians and another for Catholics from other castes. The pastor, who is not a Dalit, tried to include them in the community by involving women in church activities. Because of this, he was threatened by members of higher castes and is now outside the parish.”
The complaint calls for action to be taken against such behavior. Otherwise, the initiator of the initiative reserves the right to “appeal to the High Court of Madras for the protection of the rights of Dalits in the Catholic Church.”
The issue of outcasts remains a raw nerve within Indian culture where – despite its official abolition when the Constitution came into effect in 1950 – discrimination is still practiced widely.
In order to improve this situation, Pope Francis has chosen a Dalit among the cardinals who will be created during the consistory of August 27: Bishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad. But the deep-rooted caste reflexes are, in the opinion of all the missionaries, very difficult to uproot.