Caste transcends the boundaries of language, culture and religion in India. The Brahmanical construct of Varna and Jati have polluted and ruined all the religions in India and severely enslaved the minds for many a millennium.
Even say 2000 years after conversion some of the minorities in India and especially in Kerala claim Brahmanical and Savrna ancestry and lineage to ironically and shamelessly reassert their pseudo elitist claims over the people, the subaltern communities from whom their ancestors have come.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of Christians in India are dalit bahujans and Christians as a whole are under severe attack from Hindutva pro fascism of various avatars the Syrian Christians in Kerala cherish their high cultural affiliations that dangerously and suicidally bring in the Hindu Brahmanical discourses of cultural and racial supremacy and sell themselves to hegemony for ever.
The World Council of Churches in association with Student Christian Movement of India, National Council of Churches in India and Centre for Social Studies and Culture organized an international colloquium on Caste, Religion and Culture at Kochi in Kerala during 1-4 May 2011.
It was done under the ethical initiative of Rev. Bishop Mar Koorilos and in the co-ordination of Prof. T M Yesudasan of CSSC and Dr P Sanal Mohan of SSS, MGU. Rev. Dr Deenabandhu Manchala of WCC was present through out and was a real source of dedicated support and inspiration.
Prof Gopal Guru the leading academic, scholar and activist in dalit studies in India today, talked about the ethical agency of the outcastes in confronting the socio cultural inequality in India.
He declared that the former untouchables today address the issue of caste everywhere as they tumble on it and they could not move ahead without breaking it. He also appealed to the youth to keep alive the debate on caste as a collective and epistemological resistance against the return of elitist conspiracies against constitutional safeguards as consolidated in the anti-Mandal and anti-affirmative-action riots unleashed by the Top Twice Born in the early 1990s and even at the beginning of 21st century.
Sarankumar Limbale who spoke in a later session elaborated the brokenness and the struggle for human status in many parts of the country by the most deprived and dehumanized people in India. According to him the first struggle is to achieve human status in a local cultural sense and then let us move towards human rights on a universal dimension.
Prof Susie Tharu who addressed the delegates in the valedictory upheld the importance of conversion and the importance of dalit Christian identity as an act of translation of cultural reality that could liberate us in various ways. Even when she embraced the ethical and liberating role of the Christian churches in India she detached from the whole debate herself as “a secular academic.”
Activists, theologians, students, scholars, academics and common people belonging to various denominations actively participated in the various seminar sessions and it was also an important meeting place and interaction for all. There were also parallel discussions and informal exchanges at the margins of the meet that extended its scope and potential as a liberating space of articulation and voice consciousness.
Young friends Shibi Peter and Anil T Varghese and other young girls of the student wing who effectively organized the colloquium deserve appreciation. Bishop Koorilos stressed the importance of finding new language and idiom in addressing caste within and outside the church.
Let us hope that this could be a beginning for future epistemological and ethical democratic struggles and inclusive reforms in and out side the fold for a radical refashioning of our cultures, polity and society at large. I am proud to be part of this trans formative endeavor.