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union biblical seminary

Pune Bibvewadi-411 037


Maharashtra

Paper presentation on

A Biblical Response to Human Rights Violation


against the Marginalised Communities like Dalits,
Tribals and Adivasis

Submitted to

Dr. Prakash Abraham

by

Rev. Johnbabu Prattipati M.Th. ii (OT)


+9885266090, +918247773214

on
13-09-2018
in
Partial fulfilment of the course M.Th. II [OT]; Semester I
of
the course
Human Rights Issues with special reference to land and
Identity concerns in the Old Testament

1
OUTLINE

1. Introduction

2. Present Scenario
2.1. Discriminatory Contexts
2.2. Justice Promised, but not Delivered
2.3. Law favours and protects only the rich
2.4. Illegality is decided by law

3. Violations-Bible

4. The Dalits of Ancient Israel


4.1. The Poor in Israel
4.2. The Prophets and the Dalits
4.3. Prophetic Intervention on Behalf of a Peasant Dalit
4.4. Prophets of Dalit advocacy
4.5. Amos of Thekoa
4.6. Isaiah of Jerusalem
4.7. Micah of Moresheth-Gath
4.8. Biblical Response

5. The Tribals
5.1. Experience of the Tribal
5.2. The Exodus: A Biblical Paradigm for the Tribals - Liberation
5.3. Tribals as the main concern of the Prophets
5.4. Interpretation of the Bible as a Whole from the Tribals Perspective
5.5. Biblical Response

6. Conclusion

Bibliography

2
1. Introduction

Any honest study of the Bible must acknowledge that man, as God’s special creation, has been blessed
with certain “human rights.” Any true student of the Bible will be stimulated toward ideals such as
equity and justice and benevolence.1 The Bible says in Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image,


in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (ESV)

Because of this, man has a certain dignity and was given dominion over the rest of the creation
(Genesis 1:26).
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over
the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and
over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (ESV)

With these biblical base let us see the present Indian Scenario of the gender/caste and
oppressive/violations in terms of Human Rights Violations in the secular India of ours and see some
biblical responses.
2. Present Scenario
In India, a country of pervasive inequalities and systemic discrimination based on gender, caste/
ethnicity and class, crime control and criminal justice are heavily conditioned by social factors that
shape the prevalence, nature, forms and causative factors of crime. Certain sections of society, the
subalterns—Adivasis and Dalits, particularly women of these communities—are denied power,
resources and agency, and are excluded from mainstream society, solely on the basis of their ascribed
‘low’ social status. In the same manner that social hierarchies of caste/ethnicity, class and gender
distribute socio-economic and political power unequally, denying power and resources to those
deemed to lie at the bottom of these hierarchies, so, too, does the perpetration of crime on those at the
bottom of the social hierarchies increase while their access to criminal justice correspondingly
decreases.2
In recognition of this social reality, Article 46 of the Indian Constitution articulates the State’s duty
to protect the weaker sections of the population, in particular the Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and the
Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis), from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. Special criminal laws
and procedures, crime prevention cells and courts are set up in fulfilment of this State obligation.
Criminal justice, which aims to maintain social cohesiveness, therefore, encompasses two sets of
measures: punitive procedures applicable to everybody; and specific remedial measures that aim to
protect the recognised socially-excluded sections of society and integrate them into the mainstream.3
People-centred governance, of which crime control and punishment laws and policies are an
important component, requires that such laws and policies are responsible, responsive, transparent,
participatory and accountable to the people. Correspondingly, human rights are now recognised as a
key constituent element of governance, involving both the fair allocation of material resources and
the establishment of normative standards of behaviour in civil society. People’s growing awareness
1
‘What Does the Bible Say about Human Rights?’, GotQuestions.org, accessed 12 September 2018,
https://www.gotquestions.org/human-rights.html.
2
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, ‘Building a Subaltern Women’s Perspective’, in
Challenging the Rule(s) of Law: Colonialism, Criminology and Human Rights in India, ed. Kalpana Kannabiran and
Ranbir Singh (New Delhi: SAGE Publication India Publication India Pvt Ltd, 2008), 142.
3
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 142.
3
of their rights, as well as the increasing relevance of these rights to building humane communities,
argue in favour of governance that is rights-based. To adopt a human rights perspective, moreover, is
to focus on the situation of the most marginalised sections of society on both legal and moral grounds.
The litmus test for the effectiveness of the current criminal justice system (CJS), therefore, becomes
its ability to deliver legal protection and justice to the most socially marginalised and vulnerable
sections of society: these are the approximately 100 million Adivasi and Dalit women who together
constitute 12 per cent of the Indian population.4
In reality, however, a culture of violence and impunity, which is an intrinsic part of the parallel system
of caste underwritten by patriarchal norms, vitiates the impact of the rule of law and legal norms,
rendering its own form of criminal justice and punishment implicitly weighted against subaltern
citizens. Effectively combating this counterculture, then, demands an increasing recognition of rights-
based, subaltern-sensitive governance as the cornerstone of the CJS.5
2.1. Discriminatory Contexts
Crimes targeting Adivasi and Dalit women and their communities are not static but have adapted and
grown with emerging socio-economic and political trends. One such trend is state policies that
promote the market economy, resulting in the feminisation and casualisation of labour. The alienation
of Adivasi lands and the destruction of Adivasi women’s forest livelihoods in the process of
commercialisation of forests and other natural resources have, for example, forced many of these
women into low-wage casual labour. The mechanisation of agriculture, likewise, pushes out marginal
farmers and produces a surplus of daily-wage agricultural labourers; many of them are Adivasi and
Dalit women who then must diversify into further casual labour or work longer hours in the farms of
others doing hard labour—weeding, transplanting, and so on—which is traditionally allotted to
women and escapes mechanisation. The consequences for both Adivasi and Dalit women extend not
only to low wages and poor working standards, but often also to sexual harassment and other forms
of violence in the workplace.6
The Parliamentary Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes noted that
‘women belonging to these [scheduled] castes and [scheduled] tribes bore a double burden. They
were exploited by caste and gender and were vulnerable to and powerless against sexual exploitation.’
Similarly, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) stated
that while the annual average of reported crimes against Dalit communities had stayed at 25,000 per
year, there was a substantial increase in the ‘heinous crimes of rape and murder’ committed on the
members of the Scheduled Castes. The same Commission also noted that:7
…it is of great concern and regret that in our society, its weakest and vulnerable segments continue to
suffer from discrimination, exploitation and atrocities. Despite provisions for removal of disabilities and
discrimination against SCs and STs provided in the Constitution of India, incidents of atrocities on
members of SCs and STs continue to be reported from all parts of the country in differing numbers.8

At the same time, countertrends have emerged as well. As more Indian citizens become progressively
informed of their democratic rights, expectations of rights-based governance increasingly play into
the field of criminology. Dalit individuals, movements and organisations are increasingly demanding
recognition and protection of their rights against caste discrimination and violence. For instance, a

4
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 142–43.
5
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 143.
6
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 143.
7
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 144.
8
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 144.
4
public interest litigation is currently pending before the Supreme Court regarding the lacunae in the
implementation of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. This
petition is based on the social audits done of the Act by the National Human Rights Commission
(NHRC), the Justice K. Punnayya Committee, the NCSCST and non-governmental organisations
such as Sakshi–Human Rights Watch, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and
the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), indicating 20 main failures in the implementation of the Act. The
Supreme Court has sent notices (on 4 April 2006) to all state and Union Territory governments, the
NCSCST and the NHRC, directing them to submit status reports on the execution of this law.9
2.2. Justice Promised, but not Delivered
One needs to critically reflect on the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities)
Act 1989, enacted by Parliament in recognition of the fact that Dalits and Adivasis are specifically
vulnerable to certain crimes due to their caste/ethnic group identity and, hence, require special
protection with stringent penalties affixed for crimes under this Act. In other words, an attempt has
been made by lawmakers to ensure that the CJS delivers substantive justice to Adivasi and Dalit
‘victims’ of extreme violence, in recognition of the historical and structural discrimination and
ensuing violence they have faced from the dominant castes. The term ‘atrocity’, according to the
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, implies offences under the Indian Penal Code, (IPC)
1860 perpetrated against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by persons not belonging to
either community, where caste/ethnic consideration is really the root cause of the crime even though
caste/ethnic consciousness may not be the immediate motive for the crime. This has been certainly a
positive step forward for Indian criminology in terms of widening the scope of criminal justice to
include specific focus on vulnerable social groups, and utilising stringent penal provisions in an
attempt to stem the tide of atrocities against these two communities and to change negative social
attitudes towards them.10
However, as previously mentioned, the SC/ST (POA) Act, 1989 has also been criticised for delimiting
the definition of atrocities by not including socio-economic crimes such as social boycotts, or
massacres or Untouchability practices within its ambit. While the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955
enumerates a number of Untouchability practices that invoke legal penalties, this Act has been
criticised for its lack of stringent penalties and is rarely applied to the innumerable illegal
Untouchability practices that continue to exist today. Hence, the call for Untouchability to be
prescribed and punished as an atrocity under the SC/ST (POA) Act, 1989 becomes relevant in order
to provide adequate deterrence to these continuing practices. From a subaltern gender perspective,
the SC/ST (POA) Act, 1989 can be criticised for referring only to two specific gender atrocities—
sexual assault and sexual exploitation of Dalit and Adivasi women. Other forms of sexual violence
are only covered by the IPC 1860 while sexual violence inherent in the devadasi or jogini system of
ritualised prostitution, the overwhelming majority of victims being Dalit girls and women, is covered
only by state devadasi system abolition acts and is not explicitly defined as an atrocity. Targeted and
punitive attacks on women as means of punishment of their Dalit community, a fact increasingly
being recognised today, also arguably warrant a separate penal provision under the Act. 11
Moreover, currently, a number of legal and political strategies have been employed by those wielding
state- or caste-derived power to effectively defeat the purpose of the Act. For example, the lack of
implementation of this law is widely reported by a number of government and nongovernment
agencies, and even has been alluded to by various United Nations committees and officials. The PIL

9
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 144.
10
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 149.
11
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 149–50.
5
before the Supreme Court elaborates 20 main failures with regard to the implementation of the Act,
which are:
(1) ‘victims’ are deterred from making complaints of atrocities and, as a result, FIRs are rarely
registered or registered late;
(2) FIRs are registered without reference to proper sections of the Act;
(3) charge sheets in atrocity cases are invariably filed late;
(4) the accused in atrocity cases are invariably not arrested and allowed to roam free;
(5) ‘victims’ are deterred by police colluding with accused persons in fi ling false counter cases;
(6) compensation under the Act is invariably not paid;
(7) schemes for social and economic rehabilitation of the ‘victims’ are not framed in most states and
not implemented;
(8) ‘victims’ and witnesses invariably are not paid allowances under the Act for travel, and so on
during investigation and trial;
(9) investigations are invariably done in a shoddy fashion;
(10) investigations are often not done by the Deputy Superintendent of Police but by junior officers,
rendering the trial illegal;
(11) collective fines are never imposed even in serious cases;
(12) declaration of areas as atrocity-prone is hardly ever done;
(13) the accused are invariably released on bail even in cases of serious crimes;
(14) preventive steps as specified in the Act are hardly ever taken;
(15) SC/ST protection cells, nodal officers, special officers are not appointed;
(16) cases are underreported on a large scale;
(17) ‘victims’ are invariably forced to compromise on threat of social/economic boycott;
(18) the Central government reports are not being submitted to Parliament as required by Section
21(4) of the Act;
(19) the performance of Special Public Prosecutors is poor;
(20) and the Vigilance and Monitoring Committees are ineffective.12
2.3. Law favours and protects only the rich
‘The law favours and protects only the rich’ is a constant refrain. Far from being mere rhetoric, this
is the everyday experience of most people that contradicts the notion of the supremacy of the rule of
law. The belief that equality and the protection of the law are available only to the politically and

12
Jayashree P. Mangubhai and Aloysius Irudayam S.J, 150.
6
economically well placed is reinforced by the differential treatment of illegality in society. This does
not bode well for peace and the maintenance of law and order in society. 13
2.4. Illegality is decided by law
What comprises an illegal act and the remedies that are available are clearly defined and provided by
law. Based on the direction and type of socio-economic development and progress that they set in
motion, the rulers/lawmakers of the country decide the kinds of acts that law will declare illegal.
Obviously, not everyone in the country would agree with the kind of laws or the direction of economic
development. This is both expected and permitted in a democracy. The people have a right to not only
dissent but to do so with a loud enough voice in an attempt to make the lawmakers change their minds,
or at least raise a few doubts. The Constitution of India guarantees protection of fundamental rights
to dissenters.14
Though there is an exploitation done through the Law and the Indian Constitution as being favourable
to the rich class, it is not to be stated that the biblical law favoured the vulnerable rather it was the
God who was active in history protects and safeguards his people.
3. Violations-Bible

The Bible has been the basis for the formation of many of the constitutions of the world. The British
constitution which is directly based on the Bible has also contributed to the formation of the Indian
constitution.15

There are ample of examples in the Bible for human rights violations. If we were to inspect the Bible
closely we will find that inspite of many rights and commands, human freedom has been clearly
violated. The first murder Cain killed his brother Abel, thereby violating his right to life. Joseph’s
brothers separated him from his father and sold him to the Midianites, thereby selling him off to
slavery. Judah violated the marriage rights of his daughter-in-law Tamar.16

But a very important instance of violation of human rights is the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt
under Pharaoh. Jacob and his family came to Egypt on Pharaoh’s invitation (Gen.45:16-20). When
many years had passed by and when Joseph had died, the situation in Egypt changed. The Hebrews
had become great in number. When we come to the book of Exodus 1: 8-20 we find that the original
rights of the Hebrews were taken away and they were oppressed with forced labour, and their cities
were turned as store cities for pharaoh. “They made their lives bitter with hard labour in brick and
mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields”. Those who were once invited as guests have now
been used as slaves. But God did not keep quiet. He is a God of justice, freedom and peace. He heard
their cry and delivered them through His servant Moses.17

A very important thing to note here is that their human rights were violated only because they were a
minority community in Egypt (Exd.1:8) and they lacked political power and backup and hence their

13
Seema Misra, ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?: Adivasi Communities and Entitlements to Life’, in Challenging the
Rule(s) of Law: Colonialism, Criminology and Human Rights in India, ed. Kalpana Kannabiran and Ranbir Singh (New
Delhi: SAGE Publication India Publication India Pvt Ltd, 2008), 165.
14
Seema Misra, 165.
15
Solomon Raj, ‘Human Rights from Biblical Perspective’, 1–2, accessed 12 September 2018,
https://www.academia.edu/6381328/Human_rights_from_Biblical_Perspective.
16
Solomon Raj, 1–2.
17
Solomon Raj, 1–2.
7
natural and societal rights were violated. Until Joseph they were a respected and protected
community, but when Joseph disappeared from the scene, they were misused.18

As we continue to read the Bible we find that the Israelites were always a minority community among
their neighbours. After the end of the monarchical period the Israelites were sent into exile in Assyria
(721 B.C.E) and Babylon (589 B.C.E). Being a minority community in an exiled land in Assyria and
Babylon, their human rights were again violated. They were made slaves again. Their right to life,
freedom, food, clothing and shelter were violated. Many of the scholars are of the view that there
were many internal conflicts in Babylon which became the reason for its destruction because Babylon
was composed of many groups of people and they were revolting against each other and the king.
Hence Babylon failed in creating a kingdom built on justice and peace.19

It was not untill king Cyrus of Persia took over Babylon and issued a proclammation, realising the
worth of human life, that all the people of his kingdom were free to go back to their own nations and
free to worship and follow their own religion (Ezra 1). Therefore the Israelites came back to Jerusalem
to rebuild their own temple and rebuild their city. Their surrounding neighbours tried to oppose their
rebuilding work and threatened them. But this time king Darius, finding the decree issued by king
Cyrus, allowed them to continue their work. Under the wise and able leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah
the Israelites could complete their work.20
4. The Dalits of Ancient Israel
In ancient Israel there was not any group of people who could be called Dalits in the Indian sense.
But, in Hebrew, the language of the First Testament (0.T.) there is the word dal which means, the
poor, pressed, low and people without influence. Of course, these people have some correspondence
to the Indian Dalits. Here we may first think of the slaves who served the powerful and the influential.
A great difference is that in India such situations were sanctioned by scriptures and religion, while in
Israel it was a creation of humans that went on tolerated, or humanised. However, the prophets
strongly stand for social justice and take the side of the poor and the Dalits.21
4.1. The Poor in Israel
In ancient Israel, there were the rich and the poor and latter were severely exploited by the former,
but classes or castes of people on the score of birth or occupation was not there. There were also
people with special functions in society as the priests, elders, officials, military men and workers. The
priests were anointed leaders who gave leadership in worship and religious instruction. The elders
were heads of families (1 Sam 30:26-31) who formed a popular assembly. There were also the sarim
(Judg 30:26-31; Jer 25:19; 38:17f) who were officials or military commanders of the king (1 Sam
8:12; 1 Kings 9:22). These were servants of the king having some privileges and power especially in
the capital cities of Jerusalem and Samaria. They were ‘nobles’ but did not belong to a class through
birth or special privileges. There were the workers who hired themselves for work. It is true that they
were not always given just wages (Job 7:1-2; 14:6; Jer 22:3; Sir 34:22). They had no land of their
own (Judg 17:7-9; 19:1). Finally, there were the resident aliens who could work, earn and live
participating in the festivals.22

18
Solomon Raj, 1–2.
19
Solomon Raj, 1–2.
20
Solomon Raj, 1–2.
21
Kaniarakath George, ‘A Dalit Reading of the Prophetic Writings’, 3–4, accessed 12 September 2018,
https://www.academia.edu/28996157/A_DALIT_READING_OF_THE_PROPHETIC_WRITINGS.
22
George, 4.
8
4.2. The Prophets and the Dalits
The prophets, especially those of the eighth century BCE were very insistent on the social dimension
of faith and everyday life. Their approach to life was ever illumined by the covenant on Sinai
according to which Yahweh was their God and they belonged to him (Jer 7:23; 11:4; Ezk 11:20). It
meant a familial relationship between God and his people which meant loyalty (Chesed) and
faithfulness (’emeth or ’emūnāh) to God and to the covenant partners. A true covenant member could
not overlook or ignore the lot of the partners; the prophets constantly invited the people to covenant
fidelity and their most important word is Shūv (be converted, return).23
4.3. Prophetic Intervention on Behalf of a Peasant Dalit
Here we have a striking example of the Dalit peasant Naboth in of Jezreel who was made victim of a
judicial murder engineered by Jezebel, the queen who wanted to please her husband king Ahab who
was reigning in Samaria (1 Kings 21). The king wanted to have the vineyard of Naboth which he
refused to part with as it was his inherited portion and not a tradable commodity according to his faith
(Lev 25:23) and so could not be alienated. Jezebel fabricated a false story against the poor and helpless
Dalit: “Naboth cursed God and the king” and so deserved stoned to death. She was perhaps alluding
to the Scripture (Ex 22:28) which was made an instrument of manipulation. Naboth violated the law
of the Lord and deserved death, was the decision of the royalty ad he was murdered! The king heard
the news and was going to take possession of the vineyard and there appeared before him the prophet
Elijah who asked the king in the name of the Lord, “Have you killed, and also taken possession?
...Thus, days the Lord: in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your
blood.” The response of the king was outrageous, “Have you found me, O my enemy?”. Elijah
retorted equally and more: “I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in
the sight of the Lord. I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and I will cut off from Ahab
every male, bond or free, in Israel...” (1 Kings 21:10-21). For prophet Elijah a Dalit is equal in dignity
and is precious to God; that one is king does not mean that he could do anything with his people,
especially the Dalits. 24
The story of Naboth is being repeated in many parts of India in different ways. The Dalits have rights
in the law books, but they do not have prophets to stand up and speak for them before a Brahmin or
an officer; or do they have the money or influence to hire such a help. Even the devil can cite scriptures
for his purpose and religion and politician be made to serve the vested interests of the people who are
‘great’ and ‘noble’ in society according to their own definitions.25
4.4. Prophets of Dalit advocacy
Prophets of Dalit advocacy are those who understand their lamentable and unjust situation and stand
with them seeing that their only source help is God. Here we think of three such prophets who lived
in the eighth century BCE. Amos, Micah and Isaiah are towering figures though Jeremiah and Hosea
too are remarkable men. None of them belonged to any oppressed section of the people or were poor
who spoke for their kith and kin. Their point of departure was their understanding of the human person
and the religious idea of covenant relationship.26
4.5. Amos of Thekoa
Amos is the best known of the trio in the Dalit context the third millennium India in which we live.
His name is shortened form of Amaziah (2 Chr 17:16) which means “Yahweh has carried.” He was
from the village of Thekoa not far from Bethlehem who bred and raised up sheep. In the Hebrew
Bible, he is a nōqēd, a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees (Am 7:14), a rich of wealth and

23
George, 4–5.
24
George, 5.
25
George, 5–6.
26
George, 6.
9
influence. The king of Mesah too is described as a ‘herdsman, bōqēr;’ he was one especially cared
by the Lord. Amos did not belong to any prophetical school or caste, but as called by the Lord, he
became his spokesperson. He left his southern homeland and proclaimed the word of the Lord in the
royal sanctuary of Bethel to the displeasure and annoyance of the kingly and priestly establishments.27
The high priest of the royal sanctuary of Bethel, Amazia found the words of Amos unbearable and
informed the king what was happening there (Am 7:10-11). Indeed, Amos dared to say, “Jeroboam
shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from the land” (v.11). Amos was asked to
return to the South and earn his bread there. He was not o pollute the king’s sanctuary and cause
terrorism through his instigating cacophony. Amos declared that he was not a self-made prophet for
whom preaching was not a means of earning bread. “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but a
herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock and the
Lord aid to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’ (vv.14-15). The prophet could not be silenced
because he knew that “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures
of the shepherds wither and the top of Carmel dries up” (1:2) His words were indeed, unbearable to
the upper classes of priests, princes and officers who enjoyed life at the expense of the poor whose
condition was miserable and hopeless.28
4.6. Isaiah of Jerusalem
Modern scholars speak about a three authors for the book known in the name of Isaiah. The Hebrew
name Yashayahu, means ‘Yahweh the Lord) is salvation.’ First Isaiah (Chs 1-39) who lived and
worked in Jerusalem at a critical time for the southern kingdom deserves our special attention. It was
the time of the Assyrian threat is our focus. Judah was threatened by the mighty Assyrian Empire and
the main task of the prophet was to tell the Judean authorities that they need faith and trust in the Lord
than deceptive and fragile political alliances. 29
Isaiah was called by the Lord to be prophet in the year king Uzziah, under whose leadership, Judah
reached its economic and political zenith (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chr 26). Unlike Israel, Judah had a
smooth and stable economic and social growth that did not create immediate dire consequences. Of
course, not everything was in order here and the prophets had to raise their voices against some social
evils. Isaiah was an advocate of the Zion-Jerusalem theology which protected the king and temple by
all means. But Isaiah could not close his prophetic eyes the wickedness that emboldened the kings
and the priests, priests and other leaders to take advantage of the less fortunate.30
4.7. Micah of Moresheth-Gath
His name is the short form of Micaiah which means’ who is like Yah(weh)? Moresheth-Gath was a
village south-west of Jerusalem. As a prominent elder he was in touch with Jerusalem, engaged in
matters of justice (2 Chr 19:5-11). His sense of justice is sharp and comparable to that of Amos.31
Micah was from the rural area and knew well the concrete problems and concerns of the ordinary
people. He did not have much sympathy or the Jerusalem theology of Isaiah and even predicted its
fall (Micah 3:12). Having known and experienced the pitiful lot of the poor, he was chosen by the
Lord to be their spokesman on behalf of God.32

27
George, 6.
28
George, 6.
29
George, 6.
30
George, 6–7.
31
George, 7.
32
George, 7.
10
4.8. Biblical Response
The image of God in man also means that murder is a most heinous crime. “Whoever sheds the blood
of man, / by man shall his blood be shed; / for in the image of God / has God made man” (Genesis
9:6). The severity of the punishment underscores the severity of the offense. The Mosaic Law is full
of examples of how God expects everyone to be treated humanely. The Ten Commandments contain
prohibitions against murder, theft, coveting, adultery, and bearing false testimony. These five laws
promote the ethical treatment of our fellow man. Other examples in the Law include commands to
treat immigrants well (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34), to provide for the poor (Leviticus 19:10;
Deuteronomy 15:7-8), to grant interest-free loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25), and to release all
indentured servants every fifty years (Leviticus 25:39-41).33
The Bible teaches that God does not discriminate or show favouritism (Acts 10:34). Every person is
a unique creation of His, and He loves each one (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9). “Rich and poor have this in
common: / The LORD is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). In turn, the Bible teaches that
Christians should not discriminate based on race, gender, cultural background, or social standing
(Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; James 2:1-4). We are to be kind to all (Luke 6:35-36). The Bible
gives strict warnings against taking advantage of the poor and downtrodden. “He who oppresses the
poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God” (Proverbs
14:31).34
Instead, God’s people are to help whoever is in need (Proverbs 14:21; Matthew 5:42; Luke 10:30-
37). Throughout history, most Christians have understood their responsibility to aid their fellow
human beings. The majority of hospitals and orphanages in our world were founded by concerned
Christians. Many of the great humanitarian reforms of history, including abolition, were spearheaded
by Christian men and women seeking justice.35
Today, Christians are still working to combat human rights abuses and to promote the welfare of all
people. As they preach the Gospel around the world, they are digging wells, planting crops, giving
clothes, dispensing medicine, and providing education for the destitute. This is as it should be. There
is a sense in which the Christian has no “rights” of his own, because he has surrendered his life to
Christ. Christ “owns” the believer. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians
6:19-20). But God’s authority over us does not negate God’s image in us. Our submission to the will
of God does not annul God’s command to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 23:39). In
fact, we serve God most when we serve others (Matthew 25:40).36
5. The Tribals
Social scientists designate a segment of the world’s population as tribals, primitive or native tribes or
aborigines. Such tribes or communities are found in all six continents. India has the largest
concentration of such indigenous and tribal people. As many as 400 tribes exist in India with a
population of about 80 million.37

33
‘What Does the Bible Say about Human Rights?’
34
‘What Does the Bible Say about Human Rights?’
35
‘What Does the Bible Say about Human Rights?’
36
‘What Does the Bible Say about Human Rights?’
37
B. Zirsangliana, ‘God-Talk: Bible from a Tribal’s Perspective’, God-Talk (blog), 15 December 2010,
http://zirsangliana.blogspot.com/2010/12/bible-from-tribals-perspective.html.
11
5.1. Experience of the Tribal
The Tribals and dalits claim to be the indigenous or the ‘Adivasis’ (first inhabitants) people of India,
though the Indian Govt has never officially recognized this claim. Nirmal Minz says,”Adivasis
(Tribals-Dalits) of India are the indigenous people-the original inhabitants of land from which they
were displaced by invaders. Though the land originally belonged to them, Tribals in India till date are
facing chronic socio-political and economic problems. Different tribes in different places go through
marginalization and oppression in various forms. Ever since India has started new economic policy
(since 1991) the tribals have become the victims in the so-called economic development and
industrialization. “Every major dam since 1970s has been submerging adivasi land. Every wild life
sanctuary in India is on adivasi homelands. Every national park is totally adivasi. Of the mines in
India, 90% are on adivasi land. Almost 50% of the mineral wealth of India comes from adivasi areas.
Yet 85% of the Adivasis are below poverty line.38
K.Thanzauva observed that “Tribals have been victimized by development effort in our country. They
are pushed out from their ancestral land, to give way to the establishment of damps, power plan and
other developmental projects…the problem of alienation of tribal land is more acute in in the plain
areas. The problem of hill tribes in North east India is the shift of ownership from community to
individual ownership which deprived land right of the poor” Today, tribals are facing serious
problems in socio-economic spheres. Particularly in the North East India context, as Yangkahao says,
“The whole NE India is burning with the problem of insurgency, militarization, foreigners’ issue,
state sponsored terrorism, human rights violation etc But the social reality of the context has been
overlooked by the Central Govt of India. Inspite of all these problems and economic backwardness,
M.M. Thomas observed that the tribal Christians and Church are the real hope of bringing the Gospel
to India’s heart. Out of his personal experience he mentions, that tribal Christians are the effective
and dynamic instruments for future Christian missions in India.39
5.2. The Exodus: A Biblical Paradigm for the Tribals - Liberation
For the tribals, liberation movement in the Exodus provides a hope and paradigm for liberation. The
Exodus is the paradigm of the tribal movement that most closely parallels the current Indian tribal
context. From a tribal perspective the socio-political or socio-economic dimension of the Exodus
narrative is highlighted, rather than abstracting it to a spiritual and personal dimension. Biblical
accounts or stories have their full meaning when they are re-embodied in and through the tribal own
praxis of current socio-political liberation.40
Tribals themselves become the bridge connecting the hermeneutical gap between the liberating events
of the Bible and events of today. The tribals experience or belief in a God who delivered the oppressed
from social and political bondage in biblical times will inform and invite the tribals into the Bible,
believing the same God will deliver the oppressed in the present as well. The conviction and belief
that God who stands on the side of Hebrew slaves (Deut5:15; 15:15) will stand on the side of the
oppressed tribals fills a gap between the Bible and the life of today's tribals. The story of Hebrew
tribals experience in Exodus provides insight and hope to the tribals who are suffering. It is not the
situation or the reality of tribals that compares two different groups of tribals in two different times
and cultures. Rather, it is God who delivers the oppressed in the past and present and tribals’
experience that encounters God in history as the liberator. The past experience provides hope for the
present; the present experience confirms the God of the past, creating a unity of past and present,

38
Zirsangliana.
39
Zirsangliana.
40
Zirsangliana.
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history and reality. Thus, in a socio-economic or socio-political sense, the biblical liberating events
are clear paradigms for God's intervention in history, and such intervention takes place in the socio-
economic arena today.41
5.3. Tribals as the main concern of the Prophets
‘The voice of prophecy, heard in the latter part of 8th cent B.C. was like the roar of a lion that pierced
the noise of market places and solemn assemblies…the prophets were the successors to the judges,
the charismatic leaders of the former tribal confederacy.’ The Bible reveals that the Old testament
prophets are always on the side of the poor. Tribals identify the social reality of tribals by using terms
that refer to the people who are the main concern of the Hebrew prophets. Terms such as the "needy"
(`ebony; Amos 2:6, 4:1, 5:12, 8:4, and elsewhere), the "poor" (dalim; Amos 2:7, 4:1, 5:11, 8:6), and
the "afflicted" (`anawim; 2:7, 8:4) in Amos are examples. Tribals interpret the prophet Amos as the
advocate for tribals’ human right and for economic justice.42
In the light of what has been discussed so far, we can ascertain the need of re-reading and re-defining
the Bible from a new perspective. With the emergence of Contextual theology in the 1960’s, there
had been a paradigm shift in the Biblical hermeneutics. Liberation for the marginalized and oppressed
people became a biggest theological challenge. Tribal/Dalit theology also emerged in the 1980s. The
tribal and Dalit theologians re-read the Bible from the perspective of the poor people. As Jon Sobrino
says, “Every Christology is elaborated within the context of a specific situation.” Hence, the tribals
also develop a new Christology with a new Biblical interpretation and in the light of what they are
experiencing today. Tribal theologians are in the process of developing a tribal-Biblical hermeneutical
paradigm. Above all, the most important theological task for the tribals/ Dalits is finding a life-
affirming and empowering theological motif in the Bible.43
5.4. Interpretation of the Bible as a Whole from the Tribals Perspective
Tribal theologians read the whole Old Testament from tribal perspective. They see the Bible as a
book of the Israelites' confession of God who saves them throughout history. From the Exodus event,
tribal theologians examine Deuteronomist history, the Prophets, and Psalms and Wisdom Literature
and find that all these Biblical accounts, in one way or another relates the tribals and their
experiences.44
5.5. Biblical Response
The issue of alien occupies the central place in the Bible. The Biblical texts made evident that the
people of God (Israelites) themselves are the Aliens (Exodus 22:21; 23:9, Deut 24:18,22). When the
Israelites were settled as a nation there were aliens among them (Exodus 22:22; 23:19etc). More
importantly, God commanded them to protect the aliens; They should not oppress aliens (Deut 5:12-
15). Aliens should be helped (Deut 14:28; 24:19-21). They should do justice to aliens (Deut 24: 14-
22), aliens should participate in the worship and covenant ceremonies. Justice for the Aliens and
weaker section of community is one of the central theme of the Bible. Hence, the issue of alien or
alienation in the Bible becomes a theological challenge and provides a hermeneutical paradigm for
the tribals.45

41
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42
Zirsangliana.
43
Zirsangliana.
44
Zirsangliana.
45
Zirsangliana.
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6. Conclusion
Modern India suffers from politicians, bureaucrats, company managers and traders who have taken
on themselves the role of the high caste. Most of them are more concerned about wealth and name it
human welfare. It is high time that deprived rise up like prophets and show their ‘griefs’ to all these
anti-social agents and speak bold voices to the cause of equality of castes, economic, gender and
religious disparity.

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