Ad Dharmi people are a large tribe in India with a low literacy rate. The Ad Dharmis speak Panjabi, a western Indian dialect. Ad Dharmi people have been a boiling cauldron for various social and political movements, drawing in missionaries from all over the world. The paper will show how its history is rich with innumerable instances of people’s upsurge against the tyrannical systems. However, what makes the case of Punjab and the Ad Dharm people unique is that its tirades against the system of oppression and violence remained always progressive and secular. They were not against a particular caste or community but against systems of tyranny and oppression. The Ad Dharm people have suffered for a long time because of their beliefs, but their strength in their faith and beliefs has kept the Ad Dharm people strong and tight-knit. This paper aims to show that Ad Dharmis are unreached people and they the thesis for the paper is the benefits and consequences of ministry outreach to the Ad Dharmi people- weigh the benefits of aiding the Ad Dharmi people against the dangers of missionary work in India, particularly where the Ad Dharmi people are located.
Un-reached people group –Ad Dharmis 1
Background information. 4
A survey of missions work. 7
Proposed strategy. 9
Ad Dharmi people are one among many Hindu subgroups found in India and is considered as backwards community and hence granted the status of Scheduled Caste. Ad Dharmis are concentrated mainly in Doaba region of Punjab. Majority people of Ad Dharmi are found in Punjab state and they form Ravidassia community. Scheduled castes in Punjab is at present divided into two segments, Chamars and Chuhars. Ad Dharmis form predominant community among Chamars and are mainly occupied in leather works traditionally. But with the passage of time Ad Dharmi’s began to occupy themselves as agricultural labourers for making a living. Ad Dharmis gained a distinct religious and social existence when the demand of leaders of Ad Dharmi movement to consider them as a separate caste in the Census was approved by the government in 1931.
An Ad Dharmi movement started during 1920’s and the main aim of the movement was to get the status of a distinct community. It was Mangoo Ram and B L Gherra who started the movement. Meaning of Ad Dharam is “original faith in Sanskrit”. It was a group of Chamars who were reformists of Ravidassia community that joined Ad Dharam Mandal and claimed themselves as Ad Dharmis. This sect with time evolved as a caste and it was these people who leaded Ad Dharmi movement. Though the movement consisted of Chura, Chamar and other dalits, Chamars dominated Ad Dharam movement both ideologically and numerically. It was Chamars who led the movement and hence it helped them to establish a social space. It was due to domination of Ad Dharams to the movement that it was known by their name itself.
Though there are only 1,325,000 people as Ad Dharmis in whole India, they are found in various regions like Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Of this Punjab alone has the largest number of Ad Dharmis counting to 1,289,000. Migration among Ad Dharmis is more than any other scheduled tribes in India. Their greater upward mobility has helped them to settle in cities and towns helping them to get educated and find blue collar and white collar jobs. This migration helped a significant majority of Ad Dharmis to get education than any other scheduled tribe.
Though they are very less in comparison to the total population of India, it can be seen that these people follow strict rules of endogamy and they marry people within their community. It is very rare even to marry people from members of Charmar community. The Ad-Dharmi across the country is further divided into major communities like Suman, Bangur, Sund, Chokhria, Sandhu, Chandar, Sidhu, Bhardwaj, Rai, Chumar, Por, Hohe, Rattu, Bhargu, Chakhu, Soniara, Pharias and Thind and Shergill is forming various exogamous clans. Though the primary language of all these clans is Punjabi (Western), these clans speak more than tewlve different secondary languages like Churahi, Marwari, Punjabi (Eastern), Mewari, Chambeali, Hindi, Mandeali, Kangri, Mahasu, Bagri and Pahari. Though majority follows Hinduism as their religion, it can be seen that there was some conversion to Buddhism during second half of the 19th Century.
Of the total population of scheduled castes in Punjab three fourth is constituted by Mazhabhis and Chamars and Ad Dharmis and Ramdasias together form Chamars. Chamars alone constitute 26.2% of the total population of schedules caste and the majority of them are Ad Dharmis constituting 14.9% of Chamar population according to 2001 Census. According to Census data 76.4% AD Dharmis are literate and hence they occupy high position among scheduled caste in Punjab. Only 22.8% of these people are agriculturists while 68.7% are engaged in other works.
Figure 1: Distribution of Ad Dharmi population in India
During 1950’s Ad Dharmis began to migrate to New Zealand and England and they got employment in industry. In North America, England and United Kingdom Ad Dharmis can be now found in fairly large communities due to the migration of this ethnic group. It was this migration that led to the evolution of Ad Dharmis as the most educated sect among scheduled castes in Punjab. In five decades from independence Ad Dharmis emerged as a large sizeable social group in Punjab itself. Migration of Ad Dharmis to England was so big that they were able to establish themselves in every field of economic activity in England. Ad Dharmis emigration from India to England during the second half of 19th Century played a major role in their evolution as the most literate and powerful community among Scheduled caste of Punjab.
Though Ravidassias among Ad Dharmi’s follow Guru Ravidas, this is in the incorporation of elements of Hinduism. Ad Dharmis have Gurudwara in their settlements as a place to worship and as the focus of their community. Ravidassia Sant Ramanad was killed on May 2009 and this led to a huge change in the society of Ad Dharmis. Dera Sach khand on the demise of Ravidassia Sant Ramanand established Ravidassia, a new religion and from then on all Ad Dharmis have begun to follow the religion of Ravidassia.
A survey of missions work
During the partition of India and Pakistan after independence several scheduled caste people were converted to Christianity for various reasons. One of the major reasons was that they were converting to Christianity as a method to avoid forced migration. In West Punjab during 1947 there were 7.4% Sikhs, 1.5% Christians and 1.4% Schedules Castes among the total population of 15,717, 390. Most Christians among these were converts from Scheduled Cast and majority Scheduled Caste constituted Ad Dharmi’s. Hence it can be assumed that there was conversion to Christianity among Ad Dharmi’s during the time of partition as a means to escape from the forced migration. It is also found that almost 20% non-Muslims of Punjab area resisted forced migration and among them 10% were the untouchables. It is mentioned by Singh (1991) that most Harijans converted to Christianity due to their fear for life.
Though missionary work was profound in India during and after British rule (Kaur 2008), there is no evidence that missionary works were strong among Ad Dharmi’s capable enough to convert them to Christianity. According to Babu Mangoo Ram Mugowalia who found Ad Dharam movement for empowering and emancipating untouchables Scheduled Caste of India is neither Muslim nor Christian. He is of the opinion that Ad Dharm religion is older than Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. He was also able to add Ad Dharm as a special religion in Census list.
Ad Dharmis are followers of Hinduism and it is not common among them to follow Christianity. According to reports of Joshua Project there is less than 5% Ad Dharmis professing Christianity and are Evangelicals. According to the Global Status of Evangelical Christianity (GSEC) progress of Gospel among various communities are determined according to three criteria. They are accessibility of community with the Gospel, extend to which people of the community are evangelical and activity of church during past two years. According to their report during last frontier Ad Dharmis had no access to major evangelical visual, print, audio or human resources and there were no evangelical churches and Christians. It is also reported that during the last period of the earlier frontier some resources were available to Ad Dharmis which resulted in formation of less than 2% evangelical in the community But prior to last two years it is reported that there is no activity from an evangelical church and missionaries among Ad Dharmis and hence their percentage remains unchanged as 2%. Ad Dharmis are considered as enriched population by GSEC and in the last two years there was initial church planting at a localized level among this community. Though this became widespread in due course there is no much increase of conversion among Ad Dharmis and the percentage remains at 2%. Within last one year there were some major changes and this resulted in an increase of 3% leading to 5% evangelicals among Ad Dharmis. Thus Ad Dharmis are considered at least reached a population by the Gospel and even though some missionary activities were carried out in the community progress is reported as very less. They are highly oriented to caste structure and with the death of Ravidassia Sant Ramanad in 2009 all Ad Dharmis began to follow a single religion called Ravidassia.
The strategy proposed in this paper is from the perspective of a missionary organization beginning to work among Ad Dharmis. It is already noted that some amount of Ad Dharmi population has migrated to towns, cities and foreign countries and have gained blue and white collar jobs and have thus achieved better standards of living than those living in various regions of Punjab itself. So the target of the organization will be those Ad Dharmis who are still illiterate and is living in poverty in various areas of Punjab. Punjab is selected for missionary works because of the total population of 1,325,000 Ad Dharmis, 1,057,000 lives in Punjab itself. Further 1,057,000 are speaking Punjabi (Western) and 135,000 speak Punjabi (Eastern). Thus it is found that missionary works in Punjab will provide with most benefits as illiterate and poor people will easily get attracted to god and his principles. It is believed that Ad Dharmis will follow evangelical principles because during initial stage there were no people following church, but with some influence from missionaries there was an increase of number leading to 2% following the church.
The organization will have to provide all kinds of assistance to Ad Dharmi people. They need to provide a support structure as facility to education, medicine etc. and thus provide support to people. An organization can act as a means of mediation for Ad dharmis and also need to provide humanitarian assistance and support to them. Ad Dharmis being scheduled caste is facing several issues from society. If the organization of the church or missionary can help them to have a better standard of living it will certainly attract them to the principles of church and Bible. An organization can help Ad Dharmis in getting a better education, medical facility and other assistance necessary to lead a better life quality in society.
One method that will help to reach out Ad Dharmis is to help them hear the Gospel in both written and oral forms in the form of recordings and films. If the Gospel is provided in writing form alone it will hinder coming of the Gospel among those people who are illiterate. Though Ad Dharmis are educated to a certain extent they are not 100% literate and so there are so many people who cannot read and write. Increasing the literacy level is one of the means to spread the Gospel among them.
The focus must be on scripture that suggests that “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.” Mark 13: 10. It is important that those from missionary pray for the entire community, to make them capable of taking care of their family and be able to provide education for their children by sending them to school. Missionary organization can provide the facility to educate young children during day time when elders are at work, and educate elders during night after they return from work. An organization can arrange classes and prayer on a regular basis and on a weekly schedule arrange for food and get together after classes and prayer. People of Ad Dharmi community can be provided a platform to speak out their demands and missionaries can help them achieve these demands to some extent possible.
A missionary organization established among Ad Dharmis need to rely on mission by translation. They need to spread the Bible in Punjabi or any other language that Ad Dharmis use. Missionary organization can also use the principle of mission of diffusion which is another age old means used by Gospel where by Ad Dharmis are diffused from higher social class. An organization can provide an alternate path for Ad Dharmis through which they will be able to succeed in their life. Here they will not be treated as Scheduled Caste and there won’t be any discrimination in society. It is this aspect of Scheduled Caste that the Gospel can easily reach to and make use of.
Scheduled Caste, especially Ad Dharmis is always trying to establish themselves in society through Ad Dharmi movement, migrations etc. Any offer to them like this will certainly attract these people and Gospel can make use of this method among Ad Dharmis to spread their concepts and attract people. As this is a very time consuming process first priority of the organization is to be to provide support and assistance to Ad Dharmis to gain education, medicine and other basic factors in life. As proposed by Winter and Hawthorne (1999) missionary organization can provide assistance in improving the living facility among Ad Dharmis. This can be done by educating them and providing them medical aid and other assistances which will be helpful for improving their quality of life. They do not believe in Christianity and considers themselves as strong followers of Hinduism which is very difficult to change easily. But it is not impossible for history has proven that Ad Dharmis can be attracted to Gospel teachings. For this missionary organization can make use of various sources of the Bible like forum of Bible agencies, Gospel Go, World Bible finder and World Christian Resource Directory.
Ad Dharmi people are a separate population group mainly found in Punjab State of India. This population group has not changed much even after so many years of independence and only those people who migrated to other places from this group were able to gain a better standard of living. It can also be found that there were very few activities from missionaries and church among this society and almost all of them are following Hinduism as their religion. These people share strong religious faith, but are highly illiterate and are living under a situation of misery. These people are considered at least reached a population with less than 5% being evangelical. With effective and active missionary activities it is possible to increase this percentage. But this will take some time for Ad Dharmis are people with strong religious beliefs. What can be done is to assist them in improving their quality of life through better education, medical facility etc., and thereby attract them to biblical thoughts. This is not an easy process and will take some time to become successful, but this is not an impossible matter also because people of Ad Dharmis are always seeking better living facilities and education, which if provided will certainly generate interest in them towards the gospel.
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