the pain and agony of Dalits and Tribals after the conversion into Christianity
An Unwanted Priest, an autobiography of
Father William Premdass Chaudhary
Delhi, February 28, 2012: Letters can be a great instrument to showcase the
socio-political landscape of any society and culture and many people have used
this as a great tool to express their feelings – both sorrow and
happiness. Letters written by Dalit
priest Father William Premdass Chaudhary have also been used to reveal quite a
dark world of discrimination and untouchability widespread in the grandiose
Catholic Church system and debunks many myths surrounding Church.
Father William Premdass Chaudhary
attacks on the problem directly in his latest published autobiography ‘An Unwanted Priest’. He has an
inimitable style of writing; he describes life in the Church and priest and
presents insight hitherto unknown to most of the people. Father William
Premedass Chaudhary does not mince words when he picks pen. He goes on analyzing very far and peels the
problem layer after layer with a great precision.
Analyzing the deep rooted feeling
of caste discrimination in the forewalls of Church, Father William writes at
one place in response to letter written by Vincent M. Concessao, Archbishop of
Delhi, “I am a Dalit priest not a beggar. I am not begging you for the parish.
I am not the Manglorian priest so that you will care for me. I don’t require
your permission and position (parish) to preach the gospel. Jesus is my master
and not you. I am Jesus’ slave and not yours. Even without parish what I have
achieved, I am fully satisfied.
I am a Dalit priest so it is my
duty to safeguard the dignity of Dalit Catholics……….” He further goes on saying, “Why, I ( local Dalit Priest) am not assigned
pastoral ministry consecutively for four years but you have assigned pastoral
ministry to other Priests of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese though no one have gone
for long retreat”. You have written in your letter that you cannot assign me a
parish because of my shortcomings which are fabricated, as neither of my
shortcomings has been proved by you…….”
The book reveals inside world of
Church, clash of ego and raises questions on the style of functioning of the
grand institution and clearly depicts the injustice meted out to Dalit people
and priests. The book exposes many things and breaks many myths. Father William
raises a big question on the financial mismanagement of certain influential
officials in the Church.
When he writes about Dominique
Immanuel, another priest, that “Please tell Fr. Dominic to put on the website
of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese. He had Income and Expenditure for dubbing
the movie into other languages. The same Income and Expenditure must be put on
the website. When the movie was produced, the name of the Sadbhavana was added.
Why it was so? Chetanalaya was the only producer. I heard that Fr. Dominic
Emmanuel was telling others that Sadbhavana had contributed the money towards
the production of movie…..”
It does not seem farther from the
truth that there is greater need to put proper accounting checks on the income
and expenditure of Church. Similarly, at
one place in the book he gives an interesting instance and that actually became
basis for the title of the book which goes like this...
“I am an unwanted priest because
I am a Local dalit Priest”, Archbishop of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese told Fr
Premdass. One day I was having heated argument with one of the inmate priests
at clergy house. As argument went on, the priest called me an unwanted priest.
The book also compels Hindu society to think about the Dalit brothers who in
order to get the social respect and equal treatment opt for Christianity. The
Dalit converts think that they are liberated. But, here too, they don’t get any
reprieve. As, discrimination in the Church system is very subtle the situation
for a dalit priest like Father William becomes worse and it becomes almost
impossible for him to stay in the mainstream of priesthood.
Father William has dared to write
something that not many would even dare to say or confess even in dream. He
accepts the harsh reality of conversion and the dilemma before a dalit brother.
He writes, “Mostly dalit Hindus were and are poor because they were and are
exploited by upper caste Hindus and they were and are doing labourer jobs and
menial works. After the conversion dalit Catholics were and are exploited by
the authorities of Catholics Churches. Hindu Dalit’s condition did not improve
but remain the same. They were not allowed to come up by the upper caste people
in the society (Hindu). The dalit Catholic’s economical condition also was and
is not good and their standard of living was and is very poor even after
becoming Catholics in Delhi diocese
and in North India….”
However, the book also points out
some other type of discrimination such as dominance of South India
on the Church system. South Indian, are cared more by Delhi
diocese and they have plum positions in Catholic institutions while local
people and dalit don’t get their rights and they are more or less like slaves
for their Catholic masters.
The problem is at several levels.
Though, the form and strength of Indian
Church is very much derives from
large population of Dalits and Triblals who have reposed their faith in Jesus
but the structure of Church has remained elitist and pro-upper caste. This need
to change and this is precisely why wave of confrontation has started taking
shape. Book mentions about Poor Christian liberation Movement (PCLM) that
advocates the cause of dalit Christians strongly. Father William Premdass
Chaudhary has chosen a very ideal platform to answer several questions
The book – An Unwanted Priest: An autobiography of Father William Premdass Chaudhary
– will help the religious believers, religious institutions, government,
bureaucracy, judiciary, academicians, researchers and media professionals in
understanding the various problems of Dalits and Tribals and the darkness
behind the white robe. This will help in understanding the politics of
Conversion. And, it will certainly educate all that only economic development
of Dalits and Tribals, and not mere Conversion, can bring social change in India.