Fr. Dionysius’ Book “Towards Wholeness from Brokenness. The Dalit Quest” Released

On the 28th January 2014, the book of Fr. Dionysius Rasquinha,S.J. titled “Towards Wholeness from Brokenness. The Dalit Quest” was released by Fr. Jose Vadassery, S.J., the Provincial of the Patna Jesuit Society, in the residence of the Navjyoti community. His grace William D'souza, S.J., the Archbishop of the Patna archdiocese received the first copy of the book. The Dalit Quest is the first book in Systematic Theology published by a member of the Patna Province. A homely group of 23 persons who were Jesuits, diocesan priests, a religious sister and a layman graced the occasion with their presence.

In his short speech Fr. Jose said that the publication of The Dalit Quest, a book in Dalit Theology was a significant fruit of theologizing and formation in the context of Bihar as done by the Patna Regional Theology Centre located at Danapur and then Khaspur, during the last 30 years. The Provincial further emphasized that the book offered the Church in Bihar and India, several important historical, sociological and theological insights from a dalit perspective. These insights would help the Indian Church to develop strategies that would make her work with the dalits and other sections of the oppressed more relevant and effective. The function concluded with a delicious and sumptuous meal.

Contact the author for copies of the book:
Fr. Dionysius Rasquinha, S.J.,
Navjyoti Niketan
Sadaquat Ashram, P.O.
Patna, BIHAR 800 010
Mob: 8294668455, 9430965715

The term dalit is originally a Marathi word and as a noun or adjective means broken, oppressed, crushed, etc. Mahatma Jyotirao Phule (1827-1890), a backward caste Marathi social reformer, was the first to use the term dalit to describe the untouchables, the oppressed victims of Hindu society. The dalit population was nearly 20.14 crores forming around 16.6% of India's population according to the 2011 Census. According to the Census Report of 2001 there were 25 million Christians in India. This was just below 3% of the total population of the country. About 70% of Indian Christians have been reported to be dalit Christians. Thus dalits constitute the vast majority of Indian Christians.

The emergence of the dalits as a social group on the Indian scenario and the perpetuation of their oppression have been the result of a long and complex historical process. With the solidification of the caste system, dalits have become a fixed group who have been forced to inherit their situation of inequality, permanent pollution by virtue of birth and involvement with organic matter, untouchability, inferiority, segregation, social exclusion and deprivation of human rights. This is the specificity of dalit oppression which has been destroying their humanity and peoplehood, rendering them economically indigent and politically powerless and damaging their psyche. In this they are distinguished from the most backward castes and the adivasis. Dalits have been and are the most oppressed and exploited people in Indian society.

However, dalit oppression is not the full story. Down the centuries and even today, a minority of the dalits has been striving in many and various ways for their human well-being in the face of the forces militating against it. Rooting themselves in their humanity broken by the cumulative domination of the caste-class nexus, dalits have been journeying towards wholeness. I have termed this striving as the dalit quest. The decision of the dalits to accept baptism and gradually articulate a Dalit Christian Theology / Dalit Theology is one powerful expression of the dalit quest.

My attempt in this book is to help the Indian Church to generously and effectively transform the Indian scenario, especially the Indian dalit scenario and cooperate wholeheartedly, but critically with the dalit quest. My endeavour is also to make a contribution to dalit Christian theology. And so, I have systematically articulated the salient features of the Indian Dalit Scenario today and have briefly dealt with the history of dalit oppression. I have also spelt out the various manifestations down the centuries of the Dalit Quest for dignity, equality, justice and well-being in the face of cumulative domination with its multiple negative effects. Having done so I have tried to reflect on and in the context of the aspects of dalit reality mentioned above, from a dalit multi-religious perspective, but especially from a dalit Christian perspective.

My endeavour has been to show that the mission of the Indian Church from a dalit multi-religious perspective in the Indian context is to cooperate with dalits, most backward castes, adivasis, women, all people of goodwill and God to eradicate the sinful causes of oppression viz. the brahminic-feudal-patriarchal ideology and the global capitalist ideology with their respective institutions and structures. The Indian Church is also called to help dalits, other sections of the oppressed and all people to receive God's love and share it generously by repairing the damage done to the cosmos, taking care of it in addition to using it and establishing a dignified, just and humane community rooted in love which would lead to human and cosmic well-being in history and beyond it. And so, the Indian Church is especially called to commit herself more deeply to the liberation, humanization and empowerment of the dalits of India and become a community of love.

I do hope that this book inspires and energizes the Indian Church to accompany and join the dalits and all people of goodwill in their journey towards wholeness from brokenness.

Dionysius Rasquinha,S.J.