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Murder in India shows persistence of caste prejudice

Catholic World News - January 27, 2011

A dalit Catholic has been murdered in the town of Thatchur, in India’s southern Tamil state, after he dug a grave for another dalit Catholic in a cemetery previously reserved for members of India’s upper castes. Dalits are members of the lowest castes in traditional Hindu society, once known as “untouchables.” The parish in Thatchur had seen earlier clashes between dalits and Catholics of upper-caste background; in fact the church had been closed for more than a decade because of the strife. But the conflict became bloody after the January 22 burial of a dalit-- the brother of a priest—who became the first dalit buried in the cemetery in its 198-year history. The body of the man who dug the grave was found in a lake two days later.

Bishop Anthonisamy Neethinathan of the Chingelput diocese presided at the funeral for the slain gravedigger on January 25. Hundreds of dalits and political activists attended the service, which was conducted with tight police security.

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