Dalit Women’s Autobiographies as a Resource for Pastoral Theology, Care and Counselling
Rev. Devahi SELINA
Doctoral Student, Pastoral Care and Counselling
Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India
Dalits were denied access to knowledge systems and were forbidden to read, write, or listen to the Vedas. During British colonial rule, formal educational opportunities for Dalits emerged. Consequently, Dalits began to write themselves into history, by wielding the power of the pen. Dalit autobiographies are their stories that embody their pain, protests, and hope. Dalit works are still not included in mainstream writings, much like the Dalits themselves, who live beyond the village boundaries. Dalit literature depicts the anguish of being a Dalit in a caste-based society. Concurrently, document revolutionary concepts that question society's hegemonic caste systems. From 1990 to 2020, most Dalit women's writings whose experiences were not represented in mainstream Dalit literature and feminist writings were published. Their wretched lives were given meanings and purpose via literature, and their voices were heard. These women's counter-stories are painful because they strike at the conscience of society; because alternate perceptions of reality are not addressed, they are typically disregarded as radical and extreme. Their lived experiences can be used as a resource for pastoral theology. To be truly and relevantly contextual, pastoral theology must address the questions raised by Dalit women and weave its theology of pastoral care by paying attention to the resources that Dalit women use to cope with multiple forms of oppression, violence, and discrimination.
Methods of inquiry examine the contents (stories, testimonies, and narratives) of selected Dalit women's autobiographies in order to delve into their lived experience and re-present it in a narrative form that provides rich detail and context about their lives. Several themes emerge from Dalit women's testimonies, including how Dalit girl children are unwelcomed from childbirth at home and in society; discrimination at educational institutions; the nature of Dalit women's problems that differ from caste women; and domestic violence that these women face at home at the hands of their spouses and in-laws. The appalling poverty that Dalits experience as a result of societal structure and exploitation; the most heinous crimes against Dalit women being sexual violence and rape, while caste Hindus get away with impunity. The autobiographies expose the caste people's inhumanity and caste discrimination in the workplace. They depict the reliance of Dalit community. A study of their resilience open possibilities in understanding as to how the oppressed communities build mechanisms that enable them to cope. The coping technique implanted in them to help them deal with caste cruelty was documented.
Underneath their entire empathic writing/orientation and furious exposure of casteism is a profound substructure of Christian commitment. Their lived experiences as Dalits, as well as their pursuit of equality, human dignity, well-being, and justice for their people, make them natural caregivers. They abandon individuality and personal fulfilment in favour of collective caregiving as realistic possibilities, transforming themselves into pastoral caregivers. Their pastoral caregiving nature is supportive and empathic. They communicate their desires, dreams, and independent viewpoints, and they talk for themselves rather than being spoken for or by others. They employ the female body in rebellion and combat of patriarchal domination of women.