Christianity and the untouchables

Published January 1, 2004

Dear editor,

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s move to prevent religious conversions among Hindus in India is meant to comfort the upper castes of the Brahmin and Kshatriya (“Indian churches fight new law on conversions,” November).

As a British service officer during the Second World War, I served in India and Burma shortly before the division of “British India” into two countries, Pakistan and India.

During officer’s training I had a bearer or personal servant, a Christian named Francis, whose family was in the-then Portuguese enclave of Goa. I could not expect him to clean the toilet area or sweep the floor ? that was the duty of the sweeper, an untouchable. My clothes were washed by a dhobi and water was brought by a bhisti. They were all untouchables. After independence, Gandhi declared that untouchability should be abolished and the non-caste, apparently renamed dalit, became the lowest caste.

I think that the other castes see the dalit ‘s embrace of Christianity as spelling an end to cheap menial service. Ted Westall

Hamilton, Ont.


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