07/20/2022, 14.00
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Tamil Nadu: Man files complaint after Dalits discriminated in local parish

by Nirmala Carvalho

Dalits protest in the village of Ayyampatty on the eve of the feast day of St Mary Magdalene, the local patron saint. Dalit Catholics are excluded from the celebrations and forced to have a separate cemetery. A Dalit man threatens to go before the Madras High Court if things are not rectified.

Trichy (AsiaNews) – The issue of discrimination against Dalits continues to trouble the life of Tamil Nadu’s Catholic community, whose members belong by and large to the lower castes.

After the protests against the Church’s failure to appoint Dalits as bishops, the popular feast of St Mary Magdalene in the village of Ayyampatty, Diocese of Tiruchirappalli (Trichy), has become another flashpoint of dissent.

Lawyers representing G. Mathew, a Catholic man, have filed a complaint with civil authorities and the police because Dalit Catholics are deliberately excluded from the celebrations, including a procession, marking the patron saint’s feast day, which is next Friday (22 July).

“In our parish, there are around 70 Dalit Catholic families,” Mathew told AsiaNews. “Dalit Christians are not included in the festival. Festival subscriptions are not collected from them and the festival car procession will not go to the Dalit streets.” What is more, “Dalit Christians and [upper] caste Christians have separate cemeteries.”

“The parish priest is not a Dalit,’” Mathew noted, “but he has tried to include them and women in the activities of the church. For this reason, he has been threatened by upper caste Catholics and is now out of the parish.”

The complainant calls for action against such behaviour; otherwise, he reserves the right to "bring the matter to the knowledge of the [. . .] Madras High Court” to “protect the rights of Dalits in the Catholic Church.”

The status of Dalits is an open wound in Indian culture where discrimination remains widespread, even though untouchability was banned under the 1950 constitution.

To show his opposition to anti-Dalit attitudes and send a strong signal to the local Catholic Church, Pope Francis chose for the first time a Dalit prelate, Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad, as one of the new cardinals to be created with the consistory of 27 August.

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