By Robancy A. Helen
The Christian Arunthiyar Rights Movement organized the 40th day memorial for P. Jayaseelan, the general secretary at Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (TNBC Commission for SC/ST, Udhaya Deepam), in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, on July 17.
Bishop P. Thomas Paulsamy, president of the TNBC Commission for SC and ST, presided over the memorial Mass.
“We need to fight for our rights, and leaders like Jayaseelan should emerge to protect the rights and dignity of the people,” said the bishop in his homily.
He also reminded people the work of Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, who died for the Tribal People. Fr. Kulandainathan Adaikalam, secretary to the TNBC Commission for SC/ST, Fr. Y. Poulraj, Vicar Forane of Gingee Pondicherry-Cuddalore Archdiocese, Fr. Chrispin Bonifas, and secretary to the TNBC Commission for Vocation, celebrated the Holy Mass and garlanded the picture of P. Jayaseelan.
A book on the life of Jayaseelan was released by Pastor T.T. Dharmaraj of the Church of South India, and Fr. Kulandainathan received the first copy.
Jayaseelan, the general secretary of the Christian Arunthiyar Rights Movement in Tamil Nadu, breathed his last on June 4, 2023, at Koneripatti, Salem Diocese.
Arunthathiyars are one of the sub-caste groups of the Dalits in Tamil Nadu. They are cobblers, and Arundathias are leather workers.
Arunthathiyars formed a society 50,000 years ago and lived a prosperous life in Tamil Nadu.
They are known for their bravery, language, and livelihood. In 1922, the people belonging to five different communities known as Chemman, Chakkili, Pakadai Maathari, and Mathiga were combined and called Arunthathiyars by a Government Order.
Here is the story of a man who had to fight all his life for the equal rights of the Christian Arunthathiyars in Tamil Nadu.
Hailing from an Aruthathiyar community, Jayaseelan was born on January 7, 1975, in Authoor, Salem district, Tamil Nadu.
Having completed his Bachelor of Social Work at St. Joseph’s College, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, he actively participated in the Catholic Youth Movement and Red Cross.
He is survived by his wife, Salomi, and children, Sherley, Jenifer, and Jerald.
Article 15 of the Constitution of India forbids discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth. It applies Article 14’s general principle of equality in specific situations by forbidding classifications made on protected grounds.
But the discriminatory ways of casteism make it impossible to practice equality in India. The people belonging to the so-called marginalized communities are ill-treated; they are denied their right to have a decent lifestyle with dignity.
Jayaseelan started his service for the Arunthathiyars in 2008. He was a counselor at a Government Hospital in Salem.
In 2010, he started an NGO to provide education and medical care to malnourished and poor children in Salem. He conducted awareness programs and leadership training.
He coordinated more than 500 Self-Help Groups and set up the livelihoods of 60,000 individuals.
In 2018, he opened Veilankanni Hospital in honor of his mother, providing medical care at a low cost.
He was elected as the general secretary of the Christian Arunthiyar Rights Movement in 2011 and traveled across Tamil Nadu state to organize the Christian Arunthathiyars.
Gunamangalam is the highly populated village of the Arunthathiyars. Through his efforts, Bishop F. Antonysamy of Kumbakonam announced this village as a full-fledged parish.
In 2022, when the Christian Arunthathiyars faced caste discrimination at Thondamanthurai in the diocese of Kumbakonam, Jayaseelan formed a fact-finding team and protested caste discrimination.
In a peaceful dialogue with the diocesan administration, they put an end to discrimination.
During the condolence meeting, the documentary on Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians was telecast, and Fr. Poulraj briefed the participants on the case.
“We cannot lose hope in our fight against caste discrimination. We have raised the voice for the theology of liberation,” bemoans Felix, state coordinator of Kristhava Makkal Kalam.
Pannur Balan, the president of the Christian Arunthiyar Rights Movement, Dr. Kavimani, a professor at Government Fine Arts College, Chennai; and S. Savarimuthu coordinated the meeting.