Court sees untouchability in Dalits discrimination in Beschi parish

Chennai (Matters India): The Madras High Court has pulled up some upper caste Christians who cited tradition to discriminate their Dalit brethren in a parish started by Italian Jesuit missioner Constanzo Beschi some 300 years ago

The caste Christians refused to take a church car to the streets inhabited by Dalit people during the parish festival in St. Saveriyar (Xavier) Church at Purthakudi village in Trichy district.

The church was constructed more than 300 years ago by Tamil scholar Constanzo Beschi, locally known as Veeramamunivar.

A division bench of the court said such discrimination amounted to practicing untouchability which is punishable under the Indian law.

Justices V. Ramasubramanian and N. Kirubakaran made the observation while allowing a writ petition that sought to take the car of.

The upper caste Christians under the leadership of on Kulanthai Raji cited tradition and customary practice for not taking the car through the Dalit locality, reported The Hindu.

The court said Raj and his group had used “sophisticated language” to justity their stand. “But behind the veil… lies the real practice of untouchability which cannot permitted,” the judges asserted.

They also pointed out that the parish priest, who was the fourth respondent, tried to wriggle out of the controversy stating that his duty was confined only to conducting Sacraments and that he had no authority to interfere in things that a group of people does according to traditions and customs.

However, the judges noted that the invitation for the car festival was printed with the priest’s blessings. “Therefore, if the invitations for the festival become invitations for trouble, the fourth respondent cannot completely distance himself. “

The priest had appeared in the court to submit that he had tried to talk to both the groups in the village without success. He left the decision to the court, saying that was the only option available.

The judges said that the High Court was not new to cases of caste discrimination in Christianity since it had been deciding such cases since 1916.

They directed the revenue and police officials in Tiruchi to ensure that the church cars were taken through North Sebastiyar Street, South Sebastiyar Street and Theradi Street, besides permitting Dalit Christians living there to take part in the cultural events associated with the festival.

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