02, Aug 2015
Sudipto Mondal, Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Updated: Aug 02, 2015 15:28 IST
Why do Dalits convert to Christianity? To break out of the Hindu caste system, you might say. Not completely true, as we found out in Harobele, just 60 km from Bengaluru. Christianity entered the region centuries ago. The Catholic mission here, one of the oldest in Karnataka, was established in 1675; 980 of the 1,000 families here are Catholics.
Catholicism, however, has offered no escape from untouchability for Dalits like Arogya Swamy (37), whose family left Hinduism and settled in Harobele three centuries ago. For proof, we enter an untidy little tea shop pretending as if we don’t know each other. I am served in a steel tumbler like everybody else and offered a chair. Swamy is served his tea in a disposable plastic cup. He hesitates to sit along with the other customers; he stands outside. As we sip our tea in silence, he gestures toward the barber shop next door. The barber flings a tennis ball into the distance and shoos away a group of boys with a stick. “Those boys were Dalit Catholics. The barber didn’t want them to pollute his shop with their ball,” says Swamy later.