Victim of Anti-Dalitism and Communalism
- by Oliver D'Souza
Whether senior Dalit Christian IAS officer, C Umashankar, has violated All India Services Rules by preaching is a matter that will be decided by the courts. However, taking Article 25 of the Constitution into consideration, the man is within his rights as his preaching took place in churches, in church events attended by Christians. He also did this in his own spare time. Surely, the service rules cannot supersede Constitutional guarantees, while the fact remains that he has not violated both.
But it is equally pertinent to note that the issue is being vigorously stoked by the Hindu Munani, which is among the fringe outfits that comprise the sangh parivar. Those who created problems at some of his appearances in churches too are from the same fold. No one else is interested in such matters.
The Munani has specific reasons for targeting Umshankar. Being an IAS officer, Umashankar belongs to that breed of people who are considered 'influencers' by virtue of their position. But he also happens to be a devout Dalit Christian attempting to practice his faith to the letter. This includes proclaiming the Christian faith.
Further, when he preaches about spiritual and physical healing that can take place in a person’s life through the kind of faith he has, for which he is additionally being criticized by sangh parivar elements, he is expressing his personal experience in the matter.
And it is a fact that Dalits indeed do need spiritual healing after facing three-and-a-half millenia of spiritual inequality. It is, therefore, logical to assume that members of the larger Dalit community in TN too may be inspired by his preaching to embrace Christianity, particularly because he is an accomplished Dalit claiming to have found liberation in the Christian faith. Herein, Umashankar as well as his audience is protected by Article 25 and such possible cause and effect should not be a problem to anyone other than those seeking to keep the Dalits in the Hindu fold even if they wish otherwise.
Going by the parivar’s stated goal of creating a 'Hindu Rashtra', and considering the content of the Hindu Munani' attack on him, alongwith Umashankar' status as a influential Dalit Christian IAS officer, clearly the Hindu Munani is targeting Umashankar in the furtherance of a Hindu Rashtra.
By gagging him, it seeks to insulate Dalits from Christianity and maintain their status quo.
This is not the first time that a Dalit Christian has been targeted by communal forces. All India Christian Council says over 75% of Christians attacked physically or otherwise have been Dalit Christians. They are targeted because they are Dalits in the first place, secondly, as vendetta for having embraced the Christian faith, and thirdly to serve as deterrent to other Dalits having conversion on their mind.
Umashankar’s case has two more dimensions as well. The man is an upright officer who has taken politicians to task for their misdeeds. The grapevine has it that the government was prevailed upon to issue the gag orders by a AIDMK MP whose coterie has faced the music from Umashankar. At the same time the BJP is seeking a foothold in the state. Making a hue and cry about Umashankar' preaching serves both purposes for concerned parties even though the parties involved are motivated by a separate agenda.
Whether they have been operating in collusion is a matter of conjecture. The gag orders also reek of partisanship by the TN government. State officials, including the IAS ones indulge in all kinds of religious activities, both in public and in their offices as well. Why have no similar orders been issued to them?
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