2005 – Dalit

Die Benachteiligung der Dalit in Indien

md03_600In October 2005 Father Anthony Packianathan visited our school.

Father Anthony Packianathan lives in India. This man was in Germany to tell Germans about the Dalit. He spoke English only and his native language, Tamil. So there also was a man who translated what he said. Father Packianathan’s English was not the English of Great Britain but the English of India. Everybody could hear that it was different. The students could not understand everything but some things they understood. That’s why this page is in English too.

indien2India is a big country, a very big country. It is not only a country but also a continent. In the year 2005 more than one billion people live in India. The country where the Indian elephant lives takes its name from the great river Indus. There are many different religions. 81% of all Indians are Hindus, 13 % are Muslims and about 2,5 % are Christians.
It is a very modern country. There are computers and software companies. But there is another side, a darker side that many people in other countries do not know. Many hundreds of years ago a caste system was formed India. There are four castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra. The Brahmin caste is number one and the Sudra cast number four. And there is a fifth group. It’s the group of those people that have no caste at all. They are called the Untouchables because people from the four castes thought the Untouchables were so dirty that they could not touch them. The Untouchables had to do all the dirty work, burn the dead, clean the streets, put away dead cows and do other work that nobody else wanted to do. They had to live away from the others, were very poor and had no rights at all.
Hindus believe they have seven lifes. With every life they can get closer to the first caste and next closer to Nirvana. The Untouchables can’t get to Nirvana because they are not in a caste.

That was, you think, a long time ago. It is history.

md02_600Father Anthony Packianathan told us that it isn’t history. Even today, even in modern India there is this caste system. It is not official. Like in Germany everybody has the same rights, rich or poor, man or woman, from a city or from a town. All people are equal. Nobody is better because of money or religion or anything else. In India it is law, yes, but it is theory in everyday life. So the castes are the castes and – Untouchables are the Untouchables, still.

md01_600The Catholic priest, Father Anthony Packianathan, told us what it means to be an Untouchable today. It means everything that is bad: no good jobs, no school, no good life, not much money, danger and much more …

How does he know? That is easy to answer. He is an Untouchable himself. The Untouchables, he said, call themselves Dalits. Today there are about 240 million Dalits. That is more than 20 % of all Indians. When Christians came to India many Dalits became Christians. They hoped this would help them because the Christian religion does not know castes. It hasn’t helped yet. Even in Christian churches Dalits have to sit awy from the others. And on cemeteries there is a wall. On one side there are Dalit graves and on the other graves of people from the castes.
Only few Dalits can go to school. Those that can go to school have to sit outside and listen through the window. Most Dalit children have to work. Children who work at a match factory start work at six in the morning and come back at eight in the evening. When they come home they eat and go to bed.
Life can be dangerous for Dalits. Sometimes Dalits are killed if they don’t do what someone from a caste says. Dalits can’t marry someone from a caste. Often they have no job at all and if they have a job, it is a very bad job like cleaning toilets and streets and collecting rubbish. What we learned from Father Anthony Packianathan is that not everywhere life is as nice as in Germany. Perhaps a country like Germany can do something to help the Dalits. In South Africa politics helped to end Apartheid.

If you want to learn more about India, have a look at the excellent German language article of the Wikipedia about India. There is also a German language article about Dalits.