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A parable of inspiration narrated by Dalit Christians!
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A parable of inspiration narrated by Dalit Christians!

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P Victor Vijay Kumar

Thousands of years of the varna and caste system took the entire society to an abysmal level of morality and insensitivity towards fellow human beings. The sections at the bottom layers have been intimidated for years to ensure social and economic gains for the brahminical caste Hindus. Of late, the resurgence in the assertion and retaliation levels of the Dalit sections has seen a significant shift in their approach and movements. Bhima Koregaon rally and protests against the Supreme Court’s skewed verdict on SC/ST Atrocities Act exemplify the same.

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Rajesh Saripella, Mahasena leader

Amidst these media highlighted protests, what has been missed out is an important and interesting mass movement led by Dalit Christians in a small town called Chirala in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a massive scale fight against the Hindutva forces. This occurred when Shiva Shakthi, a Hindu fundamentalist outfit, reached Chirala to instigate communal tensions and conspired to hammer down Christian gospel activity in the state. Shiva Shakthi is originally patronized by Swami Paripoornananda, a Hindu fundamentalist seer from Andhra Pradesh. Shiva Shakthi has been campaigning against Christians, publishing pamphlets and other literature demeaning Christianity. They are actively engaged in intimidating Christians on social media and on the ground as well.

The sequence of incidents goes as follows:

• Last Sunday i.e., April 15, 2018, around 30 Shiva Shakthi’s cadre gathered at the local BJP office in Chirala Town.
• It was reportedly understood that Shiva Shakthi was planning to take a rally in favour of the accused in the rape and murder case of the minor, Asifa.
• They had also gathered to distribute locally some anti-Christian literature, which depicts Jesus Christ as a psychopath, to intimidate Christians.
• This meeting was noticed by a local Dalit youth who alerted fellow Dalit Christians, who are organizing themselves under the banner of “Mahasena”
• In a matter of minutes, local Dalit youth caught hold of the Shiva Shakthi cadre, who had just finished their meeting and were dispersing. They questioned their agenda and the intentions of the meeting in Chirala. They noticed anti-Christian literature in their hands and an argument picked up from both sides.
• It is gathered that as Andhra Pradesh was not given special status, there was a lot of unrest and resentment in the Andhra state population against BJP and this outfit wants to divert the attention to a communal tension and gather Hindu votes to the maximum level back into their fold.
• As the Shiva Shakthi cadre got aggressive, the local Dalith youth, around 10-20 of them, confronted them face-to-face.
• The fear of attack scared the Shiva Shakthi cadre and many of them fled except for 6 people who got in the clutches of the Dalit youth.
• Dalit youth were able to catch hold of a few people, beat them and later handed over to the police on the charges that the Shiva Shakthi cadre was conspiring to create communal tension locally.

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• In the evening of the same day, around 1000 Dalits, Christians, and Muslims reached the police station demanding the arrest of the main culprits behind the provocative acts of Shiva Shakthi, especially of one Mr. Karunakar Sugguna, leader of Shiva Shakthi.
• The day after the incident, there was a meeting of local Dalit youth in a church in Chirala which mobilized people to demand the arrest of the main leaders of Shiva Shakthi. A procession of 20,000 people was taken out in Chirala town successfully, with full-blown slogan paying tribute to Ambedkar and condemning the communalism instigated by the Sangh. Many of the people who voluntarily joined the processions hailed from Bahujan, Muslim and Christian sections of the society.
• This remarkable and large-scale rally could not attract any mainstream media so far and has not even been reported as a passing news line. 

 

Rajesh Saripella talks about the Chirala incidents – link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tb21820SXo 

The most interesting feature of this rally and retaliation, is – the local youth organised themselves with the inspiration of Ambedkar – Phule and have been apolitical all along. The youth in Chirala have become self-assertive and demonstrated their independent courage to face the communal forces. This was possible only because of the confidence they gained over a period of time, and the grit gathered out of the self-education on Ambedkar’s philosophy. The local youth have been economically independent with their own small businesses and some decent Government jobs.

Some of the photos and videos are presented below. These unreported developments in the small town of Chirala remain exemplary to every Dalit and Bahujan fighting the brahminical Hindutva forces in this country.

Some excerpts from an of interview of Mr. Rajesh Saripalle, President, Mahasena are given below:

Q: What is the perspective and philosophy of Mahasena?

Rajesh: Brother, Mahasena was born first when Pastor Swamy was attacked in Hyderabad [Pastor Swamy went into a coma after he was mysteriously beaten up in Hyderabad on January 21, 2017, for distributing Bibles on Tank Bund. Round Table India reported this incident on February 15, 2017 (Dalit Pastor Attacked Brutally by Hindutva Goons)]. The helpless situation of people like Pastor Swamy triggered the idea that Dalit Christians need to get organised in a militant fashion. What we have observed so far is this, Dalit Christian population is widely attacked but least reported as they believe that their Lord would take care of them. However, on the ground level, it is very deplorable that the attacks on them continue on a large scale, on their churches, on their gospel meetings etc., and go unreported and unrecognized. We were agonized by the brutal attack on Pastor Swamy in Hyderabad and we thought of organizing ourselves to provide moral comfort and possible protection for Dalit Chrisitians to let them live and practice their faith peacefully. We will not attack anyone on our own. However, we will not keep quiet if someone encroaches into our lives and attacks. We will be able to teach this lesson to Brahminical BJP like parties.

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Q: How and whom do you want to mobilise in this regard?

Rajesh: We do not restrict ourselves exclusively to Dalit Christians. We have huge sympathy for this section for the sole reason that they do not even take recourse under the law if their rights are attacked and their lives are threatened. This was clearly visible in case of Pastor Swamy and other cases reported and unreported. This is largely because of their poor socio-economic background and their faith in their Lord. We try to instill confidence in them. We do not attack anyone on our own and it’s not our job too. We only have to provide moral courage to them that they should not get dejected. We are seeing a significant change in the thinking of Christians in this area. They are becoming financially independent and self-assertive. They have started questioning the surroundings. We have been fighting for all Dalits and Muslims irrespective of their caste and religious beliefs. We are organizing them too. We are moving along with all those who sympathise with us, including those from normal Hindu faith.

Q: What do they specifically think about Dalit Christians and their plight in this country?

Rajesh: What Christians preach is their faith. They do not condemn or attack others’ faith. They believe in their God and believe they need to propagate about him for self-less spiritual reasons. They believe in Christ and they think it is a good thing that others also believe and improve their lives. It’s their faith. But what Hindu Brahminical forces do here is – they spew venom on other religions. They do not tolerate the fact that some other religious faith is overtaking them in number and in logic as well. Thus they resort to provocation and intimidation. And wherever the Dalit Christians are there, they fall prey to this for they lack adequate political and financial support.

 

The mass rally in which Dalit Christians, Hindus and Muslims participated – link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZnZm1hSKsg

Q: How do you club Christianity and Ambedkarism in one thread?

Rajesh: Ambedkarism is a political philosophy. Christianity is a spiritual philosophy. Christianity stands for a most democratic attitude. God does not expect you to keep the lamp alight in a storm, reposing faith on him. We are living on this earth as per the rights are given by this land and we shall fight for those rights that we sincerely and strongly deserve. We protect our faith system as per a normal citizen’s rights. God never tells you to be blindly foolish too, which is a fundamentalist way of living. We respect everyone and their faith. We do not have any problem with anyone. We only need a proper protection for our faith system and look for our economic independence and social dignity.

Q: What are the unique problems faced by Dalit Christians, in your perspective?

Rajesh: Large sections of this population lives strive for the betterment of their lives, reposing faith in God alone for every crime and suffering that’s inflicted on them. Added to this, their weak negotiating power makes them vulnerable. Thus the Hindu fundamentalist forces choose them as easy prey for their fascist attitude. Besides, if anyone accepts Christianity as their faith, their right for reservation is snatched away from them. Tribals, when they get converted to Christianity, still continue to be recognized as tribals but that is not the case with Dalits. Officially, Christianity is recognized as the religion of only 2% of the total population. The moment Government recognizes that these Dalits have only changed their religion but not their real social status, the number will shoot up beyond 10%. Thus, the number of Christians does matter to them and they will be able to have a major say in politics. We are fighting for this wherever we get a chance to present our problems on a political platform.

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Q: How does Mahasena want to continue this fight against communal provocation? What would be the future programme of Mahasena?

Rajesh: We have just started. We are working as an independent organization. We do not link up with any political party. Our guide and mentor is Babasaheb Ambedkar. It has been one year nearly since this organization was born. We have been successfully able to inculcate Ambedkarite teachings among our people. We have a very encouraging response and support from Christians from Kuwait, Australia and other countries. If everything goes well, and if the situation demands, we do not mind moving in a political direction. We tell all our people that we will not achieve anything without political power. We will get more organised as we go forward.

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P Victor Vijay Kumar is an investment banker and is reachable at pvvkumar@yahoo.co.uk or facebook ID “P V Vijay Kumar”.

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