‘You can change religion, but not caste’: TN official stirs controversy
Following protests, collector M Pradeep Kumar inspected the place on February 26 and gave an assurance that Dalits would be allowed to take part in church festivities.
TIRUCHY: “You can convert to another religion, not caste. No matter where you go, your caste won’t go away, not even after death,” a video clip of an official allegedly saying this has gone viral. The person seen in the clip is Thiruverumbur tahsildar T Jayaprakash, and he was speaking at a peace meeting held on July 20 to resolve issues related to discrimination of Dalit Christians.
According to sources, 70 out of 250 Christian families in Ayyampatti village are Dalits. Members belonging to BC community have an issue with Dalits taking part in festivals held at St Mary Magdalene Church and in using the community hall.
Following protests, collector M Pradeep Kumar inspected the place on February 26 and gave an assurance that Dalits would be allowed to take part in church festivities. Following the assurance, the church constituted a 12-member panel involving Dalits. But, members of BC communities allegedly did not want the panel to play any role in the church’s annual festival. They also allegedly tried to stop the Dalits from mobilising funds.
At a peace meeting scheduled on July 20, when a Dalit raised the issue of their community having a separate graveyard, the tahsildar said, “You are what you are born.Your caste will never change and you will have a separate burial ground.”
He ended the meeting saying, “The annual fest will be held in ‘traditional’ manner and all communities should participate. The church may form another panel to organise the festival.” Expressing regret, Dalit Christians told TNIE, “The word ‘traditional manner’ meant they would be removing our involvement through the committee in the festival which was scheduled for July 22. But, the festival was also not held on that day.”
CPI’s Tiruchy sub-urban district secretary Rajkumar said, “Tahsildar is an executive magistrate in the taluk. In this case, he has acted in favour of the BCs. Casteist motives of excluding Dalits from a decision-making body and discrimination cannot be accepted. The state government should not allow such persons to hold office.” When TNIE spoke to Pradeep Kumar, he said he will look into the issue and conduct a proper inquiry .