An Unwanted Priest: An Autobiography of Father William Premdass Chaudhary reveals
Letters can be a good instrument to showcase the socio-political landscape of any society and culture and many people have used it as a tool to express their feelings – both sorrows 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 recently 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 analysing very far and peels the problem layer after layer with a great precision.
Analysing 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.
Writing about Dominic Immanuel, another priest, he says, “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 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 Indians 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 Vanvasis 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. The 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 surrounding him.
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 Vanvasis 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 Vanvasis, and not mere conversion, can bring social change in India.
In an era marked by potential economic meltdown, rampant corruption, assault on freedom of expression, the most newsworthy item recently seems to be Shah Rukh Khan assaulting MCA security guards. If one believes the national news channels, that is! In a celebrity-obsessed country, we seem to have lost our sense of balance.
Being a celebrity and a role model, should Shah Rukh not avoid a fracas in public places? Should he not eschew his penchant for displaying anger? And, should he not treat fellow beings with respect? The answer to all those questions is an unqualified ‘Yes’. But have the channels so completely run out of news that’s important, that they are playing only this story, as if nothing else matters in this country? Everyone tends to form opinions, and in this case, they are exclusively of the opinion that he should be punished.
My view is that a person as eminent as Shah Rukh is already suffering from the ignominy of being part of this unsavoury episode.
I still wonder, “Was he agitated because a 13-year old was being manhandled? Was he provoking or being provoked? Was this a sheer argument or a physical fight?”
The truth is unknown to all as we have formed our opinion purely on what is being aired on television. But, could he have handled it better? Probably Yes.
However, the vilification perpetrated by news channels is, to my mind, punishment enough for him. So, do we need a virtually obsessive harangue against him by entities that may or may not even be completely or precisely informed of the actual incident? That unfortunately seems to be the order of the day, with virtually everyone in the media forming an ill-informed opinion that his actions beget more severe punishment. It seems that this opinion is more directed against his eminence, and less against the episode in question.
When a ‘better known’ personality is up against a ‘lesser known’, the lesser known inevitably becomes the better known, and not vice versa.
But, for God’s sake, we must not lose sight of our sense of balance, and focus our energies on issues that are truly important and affect our lives.
(The write is Social Activist & Fashion Designer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)