Historic Christmas celebration by and with Thurumbars

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By Sakkaravarthi Simon

Gingee: The Thurumbars, who are often dubbed “the Dalit of the Dalit” and the “unseen” on December 23 uniquely celebrated Christmas at the town of Gingee in Tamil Nadu state. 

The Thurumbars are the last rung of people in the Indian caste-ridden hierarchical Tamil society. They are the traditional laundry workers in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu.

The theme for the 2020 Christmas celebration was “The journey towards Liberation”. This was to remind the Thurumbars about, their arduous journey towards their liberation in today’s south Indian society. 

The crib was poignantly designed by Salesian Fr. Arul Valan, a co-founder and convener of the Thurumbar Liberation Movement (TLM) by depicting Jesus’ birth behind the bars, portraying indirectly that for most poor people, humaneness is out of easy reach. 

Sr. Anthonysami Alphonsa, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Aloysius Gonzaga (an indigenous congregation) and the co-convener, coordinated this celebration at Gingee TLM headquarters with the cooperation of both, the members and the leaders of TLM. 

The celebration began with a prayer service. The sacred readings were taken from the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavath Geetha and the sayings of great Indian sages like Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher, and Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu monk. 

There were four brief talks by illustrious people, connected with the struggles of the poor people.

Fr. Arputha Raj, secretary of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission, Archdiocese of Pondicherry – Cuddalore and Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, spoke about “Untouchability within the Indian Church and Dalit Christians’ struggle for their rights”.

Fr. SaroValan of the Human Rights Movement spoke about the struggle for human rights in the face of the darkening scenario that is being unfolded in India. 

Sakthivel of Makkal Jananaayaga Amaipusaaraa Thozhirsangam briefed the people about the situation of the farmers in New Delhi.  

And finally, Valarmathi, a member of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), spoke about how the poor should go about the coming elections in Tamil Nadu. 

The event was graced by various Dalit priests and nuns of the surrounding areas. 

The cultural troupe led by Chinnappan interspersed the event with their soul-stirring and fiery songs.

Then around 100 widows and poor Thurumbars of this locality were honoured with a gift of saree and bedsheets. 

The most interesting fact about this celebration is that the people themselves pooled their mite for this meaningful event. 

The whole event came out so successfully due to the whole-hearted cooperation of Fr. Solomon, Anbu, Maadharasu, Thamizhagam, Boopalan, Simon and the host of volunteers who helped.  

The grand finale was that all the participants were provided with lunch. 

“We thank God for the gift of this fraternity and solidarity manifested through various activities,” said Fr. Valan, an activist. 

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