Chura, also known as Bhanghi and Balmiki, is a caste or tribe in India and Pakistan. Populated regions include the Punjab region. Their traditional occupation is sweeping, a "polluting" occupation that caused them to be considered untouchables in the Hindu caste system.
Churas in Indian Punjab are largely followers of Sikhism. A small minority practice Valmikism, an offshoot form of mainstream Hinduism which still incorporates elements of Sikhism in its practices. In Pakistani Punjab 90-95% of its Christian population are from the Chura caste.
There were waves of Chuhra conversions to Christianity between the 1870s and 1930s. The British Raj censuses became increasingly confused regarding Chuhra religious beliefs because the respondents were allowed to choose their designation. Jeffrey Cox says that in the 1920s and 1930s they described themselves variously as
Chuhra, "Hindu" Chuhra, Musali (Muslim Chuhra), Mazhabi (Sikh Chuhra), Ad-Dharmi, Christian Chuhra, or simply Christian ... It is certain that a large majority of the 391,270 Indian Christians enumerated in Punjab were Chuhras - that is, the most stigmatized minority in the province.
Despite placing great emphasis on social equality and brotherhood among all Muslims, early South Asian Muslims did not address the problem of untouchability for the Chuhras or Bhangis. As a result, only a very few members from this community ever embraced Islam, most converting to Christianity. Chuhras adopted the externals of Islam by keeping Muslim names, observing Ramadan and burial of the dead. However they never underwent circumcision. Only a few cases of circumcision have ever been recorded for Chuhras or Bhangis and these were Chuhras who lived very near Jama Masjid. The Chuhras did not accept Mohammed as their prophet and also continued observing traditional Hindu festivals, such as Diwali, Raki and Holi. Just like their Hindu brethren they continued with their traditional caste work. In India the caste system was fully observed by Muslims. Untouchability was fully accepted and justified by the Muslims in India and the caste system was fully observed by Muslim society. In the same way that Hindu Chuhras who were barred from entrance to temples in historical times, Muslim Chuhras are still today barred from entrance to mosques and never allowed to go past the outside steps to Muslim religious places. The Untouchability even extended after death; Chuhras were to bury their dead in separate graveyards away from other Muslims.
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