Articles & Commentaries

Hope for India's Dalits

A commentary by Jeremy Lallier

Posted December 16, 2010

India's Dalits, once referred to as untouchables, are still struggling, but worshipping the goddess of the English language will not solve the problem. God's fair and equitable Kingdom will.

Although discrimination based on India's caste system has been officially outlawed for almost 60 years now, the prejudices still linger—sometimes prominently—in the country. Perhaps few know this better than the Dalits.

India's most persecuted class, the Dalits (meaning "ground," "suppressed," "crushed" or "broken to pieces") are the targets of violence, discrimination and even human trafficking in a country where they comprise perhaps a sixth of the population. Recently, IBN Live reported that three Dalits were fined an equivalent total of $1,013 for their crime...of drinking from a public tap ("Dalits Fined for Daring to Drink Water From Tap," Oct. 17, 2010).

The "goddess of the English language"?

Some among the persecuted class have devised a plan they hope will provide coming generations with a brighter future—a temple to the "goddess of the English language." The temple, to be shaped like a desktop computer, will portray English as a deity meant to be worshipped and understood at a young age.

"The idea," says Dalit author Chandra Bhan Prasad, "is to make English a matter of faith among Dalits because we believe it is an empowering language. If a Dalit woman starts worshipping English as a goddess, there is no way her kids would escape the 'ABC' from their childhood" ("India's 'Untouchables' to Build Temple to 'Goddess of the English Language,'", Oct. 27, 2010). Some believe that such worship will better equip the Dalits for higher-status jobs and begin to erase the class's stigma of inferiority.

But will it? Could mastery of the English language really open up such doors for the Dalit people? Maybe. But could it erase decades and even centuries of deep-rooted societal prejudices? Unlikely. No matter how proficient or skilled the Dalits become, they will continue to face, to some degree, the prejudices of a culture that has spent hundreds of years regarding them as almost subhuman.

It's not a problem exclusive to India, either. In almost every culture, across time and location, we find a history of strained relations and ensuing atrocities—the oppressed, the enslaved, the reviled, the scapegoated, the slaughtered.

English will not—cannot—fix this problem. No language can, nor can any human. The root is so deeply embedded in our nature that our best attempts have only suppressed it; it has never been eradicated completely.

What the Dalits need is not a temple to "the goddess of the English language." What they need—what every human being, oppressed or oppressor, needs—is an understanding of the God who shaped the universe.

What matters to God

In the eyes of our Creator, the traits we often think of as defining us are inconsequential. The color of our skin, the nobility of our blood, our country or ethnicity of origin—all these things are meaningless when we stand before the One who created us.

What matters to God is not our social status, but the state of our hearts. In instructing ancient Israel thousands of years ago, the prophet Moses explained it this way:

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command you today for your good?..

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing" (Deuteronomy:10:12-13[12]And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,[13]To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?, 17-18).

To put it simply, as the apostle Paul would centuries later, "There is no partiality with God" (Romans:2:11For there is no respect of persons with God.).

A Kingdom of true equality

God's way is one of equality. In God's vast eternal plan no individual or group receives special treatment. Princes and paupers are held to the same standards of right and wrong, and face the same penalties for abusing those standards. It is this system of equality that India and the world in general lacks—and it is this system that God will one day establish across the globe, never to be overturned.

As you read these words, God is guiding world events from His heavenly throne, preparing all of humanity for a Kingdom that will at long last enforce true justice for all peoples.

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