Christians and Muslims have condemned a proposed law aimed at controlling Kerala’s population, which envisages a fine of 10,000 rupees (US$200) or three months in jail for having more than two children. The Kerala Women’s Code Bill, drafted by a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, also recommends couples violating the two-child norm be barred from receiving social benefits from the government. Another possible clause would bar religious and political organisations from discouraging family planning. The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council (KCBC) has called the draft “anti-democratic and an infringement on the parental rights of the people.” This is the first time an Indian state has recommended legal action against big families. Kerala’s 33.3 million people account for less than four percent of India’s total population of 1.21 billion. KCBC spokesman Father Stephen Alathara said yesterday that the draft was an attempt to “undermine family values and divide society along communal lines”. “We have been promoting anti-abortion and encouraging people to have big families,” he said. A parish in Wayanad district is now offering fixed-rate deposits of 10,000 rupees, held in the name of the fifth child in a family that is born this year. The government however is proposing cash incentives of 5,000 rupees to women who marry after the age of 19 and will recommend facilities for free and safe abortions. The Syro-Malabar Church, which issued a pastoral letter last year appealing to the faithful to have more children, described the draft as “draconian and anti-Church.” The Orthodox and Jacobite churches have also condemned it. Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, the Catholicos of the Orthodox Church based in Kottayam, warned the government of dire consequences if the bill is passed. Muslim organizations are also angry. “It’s an attempt to curtail religious freedom and faith. We will oppose it,” said Abdul Samad Pukkottur, of the state Sunni Youth Federation. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said resentment against the draft law is unwarranted. “Government will make a decision only after consulting with all groups. We have taken note of the protests against the draft,” he added.
BANGALORE: Terming Jan Lokpal bill’s draft as antisecular, members of the All India Christian Council and other minorities forum announced to jointly present their own version of the Lokpal draft based on Aruna Roy’s draft.
“Anna’s draft has no place for Dalits and other minorities.
His agitation was filled with members from extremist factions like the RSS.
This is unconstitutional and unfortunate,” Dr.John Dayal, member of National Integration Council told reporters here.
Clarifying their stand that they were not against Anna, the speakers stated that they were only opposing the content and methodology of the agitation.
“First, the movement was not inclusive.
There was no representation from the minority communities.
Second, Anna’s draft has no place for Dalits or other minorities.
He was held captive by the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi,” said Dr.
Venkatswamy of the Samatha Sainik Dal argued that the act of hunger strike is unconstitutional.
“Bypassing the parliament and constitution is dangerous.
The appointed Lokpal will turn into a dictator.
The entire Anna-led agitation was a mere metaphor for extremist forces to reign their terror over the minorities,” he said, adding that a signed petition will be sent to the Standing Committee.
Narayanswamy of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti criticized Team Anna’s approach.
“I do not approve of ridiculing of the Parliament and constitution.
Anna, who is a school dropout, was perhaps misled by his cronies as the draft was in English,” he remarked, while lashing out at Kiran Bedi for her ghoonghat theatrics.
The minorities version of the bill will be an improvised version of social activist Aruna Roy’s draft.
“We will focus on participatory process and an inclusive selection committee in our draft that will be made soon,” said Dr.Dayal.
BANGALORE: The representatives from Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive policy and National Law School of India University pledged their support to the rally and agitation demanding reservation for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims.
In a statement, Dr S Japhet, professor and director of the Centre, recalled the various efforts of organisations to secure reservation facilities for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims as they should be considered as Scheduled Castes.
The group substantiated their demand by referring to incidents reported from various parts of the country where Dalit Christians have been vulnerable to attacks as were Dalits. Even within their religions, they are still being treated as Dalits, the statement said.
The religious minority groups want an amendment to the Presidential Order of the Government of India, 1950, that disallows people professing other religions other than Hinduism from being considered as SCs.
Vice Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Dr. HT Sangliana today said Nagaland should set up a State Commission for Minorities where a Christian member can be the chairperson or president and others can be members of the commission and facilitate annual general budget, subsidies, funds and scholarships. Sangliana, who represents Christian community, is on tour in the seven northeastern states and is in-charge of three other states Orrisa, Jharkhand and Karnataka.
The vice chairperson disclosed to have had a series of meetings with the chief secretary and other government officials. He has proposed to them to form a commission. He said that the Ministry of minority affairs is concerned about the welfare of the minorities. Sangliana said the commission awards those who contribute towards promotion of communal harmony through articles or books. Any organization or individual belonging to NCM (the five communities) can be a part of the opportunity, he said. Therefore logically Nagas are minorities because Nagas are Christians and not because they are Nagas. He appealed the minority groups to know the schemes and programmes provided by the government of India and to avail them for their development.
Expressing contentment over the ‘communal harmony in the state’, Sangliana said minorities in other states are victims of humiliation and discrimination. ‘It is against the provision of the constitution and as such action can be taken by the NCM against the perpetrators. Replying to a query on formation of a minority commission in the state, Sangliana said he has yet to get specific response from the government.
The National Commission for Minorities was instituted in 1992 where five communities Buddhist, Muslim, Sikhs, Parsi and Christians were recognized. Under the act, the country is divided into 5 zones with the idea that one member will be assigned as member of the community to monitor work.
The Vice Chairman also met the different representatives of minority groups of the state. While interacting with different minority groups from Nagaland, which included the Sikhs, Muslims, Tibetans and Christians, he said that his coming to Nagaland was to make aware to the people of Nagaland the National Commission for Minorities. Ideas and opinions were shared by all groups during the interaction session with Dr. Sangliana. The Muslim community also submitted a memorandum to the Vice-Chairman, National Commission for Minorities. Chief Secretary Nagaland, DGP, Home Commissioner and Secretary Home were also present in the meeting.
By Shanmohamed inamdar
In 1935, the British, in response to growing demands from the oppressed castes led by Babasaheb Ambedkar, arranged for a number of castes, whose names were specified in a schedule (hence called Scheduled Castes), to be given reservations in government jobs and elected bodies. These castes, numbering several hundred, had historically been treated as despised untouchables, considered both by the wider society as well as the Hindu religion as sub-humans or worse. They were not defined by any religion. They included a number of castes or sections thereof whose ancestors had converted over the centuries to various religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism, in search of liberation from the tyranny of the Hindu, or more specially, Brahminical religion.
Recognising the legitimacy of the demands of the oppressed castes for reservations as a means for representation, the Constitution of India continued with the special provisions for the Scheduled Castes under Article 341, but in 1950, a presidential order specified that no person professing any religion other than Hinduism would be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.
This patently anti-secular and grossly anti-democratic order was stiffly resisted by non-Hindu Dalits. In the face of strong protests over the years, the Indian state was compelled to extend Scheduled Caste status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim Dalits. This is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of these groups that number in the tens of millions. It is a patent act of discrimination on the basis of religion engaged in by the Indian state itself, clearly revealing its pro-Hindu bias. It compels Dalits to identify themselves (often against their will, given the degraded status that Hinduism consigns them to) as ‘Hindus’, thereby artificially inflating Hindu numbers. This is the price that they have to pay in order to receive the crumbs of state patronage. Although the Brahminical texts, the basis of what is called ‘Hinduism’ clearly do not recognise Dalits as members of the Hindu society, treating them as ‘polluting’ outcastes, as outside the four-fold varna system, by insisting that the Dalits identify themselves as ‘Hindus’ if they wish to enjoy Scheduled Caste status, the Indian state has, in one stroke, engaged in a massive act of religious conversion, more aptly described as ‘religious bribery’, converting through the force of law, millions of people to a religion that is predicated on their degradation and the brutal denial of their humanity. According to the law, if a Christian or Muslim Dalit converts to ‘Hinduism’, he is automatically entitled to Scheduled Caste status. This is another way in which the Indian state acts as a Hindu missionary agent, its secular pretensions notwithstanding.
‘Upper’ caste Hindu leaders seek to justify the discriminatory religious clause attached to the Scheduled Caste category on the grounds that it is a ‘compensation’ for the degradation that Hinduism, in contrast to Christianity and Islam, prescribes for the Dalits, using this as an argument to deny Scheduled Caste status to Christian and Muslim Dalits. This claim is deeply flawed. It clearly contradicts their repeated (and patently false) claims of the superiority of Hinduism and its supposed teachings of universal compassion and tolerance. It also ignores the fact Sikhism and Buddhism (treated by them as ‘branches’ of Hinduism, the protests of their votaries to the contrary not withstanding) clearly denounce untouchability but yet Buddhist and Sikh Dalits enjoy Scheduled Caste status. There is thus no logical reason to deny the same status to Dalit followers of other egalitarian religions, such as Christianity and Islam. The absurdity of this restriction appears even more apparent when considered in the light of the fact that no such religious restrictions apply in the case of the Scheduled Tribes.
It is clear that the misplaced perception of Islam and Christianity being ‘non-Indic’ and, therefore, ‘foreign’ religions is at the root of the refusal to extend Scheduled Caste status to Christian and Muslim Dalits. It is apparent that this restriction also stems from a fear pervasive among the ‘upper’ caste Hindu ruling class, that if Scheduled Caste status were extended to Christian and Muslim Dalits, scores of so-called Hindu Dalits might convert to Christianity and Islam in order to escape the shackles of ‘Hinduism’, which, as Dr Ambedkar rightly considered, was a code designed to consign them to eternal, religiously-sanctioned slavery. Such a prospect, needless to say, poses a major threat to the hegemony of the ‘upper’ castes.
Deprived of Scheduled Caste status for decades, the Christian and, in particular, Muslim Dalits are probably worse off, in terms of major socio-economic indicators, than the so-called Hindu Dalits. Unlike the latter, they are denied reservations in jobs and elected bodies, are not protected from anti-Scheduled Caste atrocity legislations, and no separate provision is made for them in government schemes. In addition to the degradation, they suffer as Dalits, they suffer discrimination as religious minorities – at the hands of agencies of the state, ‘upper’ caste Hindus and their ‘upper’ caste coreligionists. This is, therefore, added justification for scrapping the discriminatory provisions of the 1950 presidential order and for extending Scheduled Caste status to them as well.
ALL INDIA MUSLIM BACKWARD COMMUNITY
WELFARE TRUST (AIMBC) MUMBAI , MAHARASHTRA
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By Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy
At long last India has arrived – it has finally emerged after a thousand year alien rule first under the invaders from West Asia, and later under the British colonisers.
Soon after India’s independence in 1947, thanks to the foresighted ventures of establishing new educational institutions in engineering, technology and management, and infrastructure development, wealth creation and the accompanying socio-economic development became feasible.
The constitution of India prepared in the 1940s reflects the land where literacy rate stood at 12 percent[i] – and the one ruled by an alien power, the British colonisers. A constitution created under these circumstances – although much influenced by the British counterpart – was going to have certain quirks or flaws. One such flaw, as explained here, has since led to egregious religious apartheid practices, and more.
For any emergent or modern nation, it would indeed be downright shameful, and even outright inconceivable to blatantly discriminate against its citizens, especially its majority community. This reminds one of the white apartheid-rule in South Africa.
One may be surprised to learn that in India, of all nations, similar practices are taking place.
Recently, St. Stephen’s College, an elite Christian missionary-controlled higher education institution located in New Delhi shocked many by declaring that it was setting up a quota system that allots 50 percent of its student enrolment for the Christians.[ii] For a nation used to coveting college education in elite institutions, the news was devastating:
Even as getting into this [St. Stephen’s] college is so difficult and now if they cut down the seats for general category, where will we go? This is really unfair.[iii]
So said a young Delhi college hopeful named Arya Pakriti, presumed to be a member of the majority Hindu community.
A stunning fact: About 95 percent of the college’s expenses are paid by the taxpayers, with the majority community contributing most of it.[iv] Interestingly, according to the 2001 census figures, Christian population in New Delhi constitutes just one percent.[v] Indeed, Indian taxpayers appear to be subsidising the selective empowerment of Christians in St. Stephen’s College at the expense of deserving non-Christians.
A Supreme Court ruling based on Article 30 of the Indian Constitution was used by the St. Stephen’s management to justify these religious discriminations.[vi]
In 1993, the Government of India notified that the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) are considered “minority.”[vii] Article 30 of the Indian constitution allows religious minority communities regardless of their socio-economic status to allot up to 50 percent of student enrolment and employment for members of their own communities in educational institutions administered by them even if the institutions are getting aid from the government.[viii] The definition of minority applies at the national level – meaning that in the Indian states of Mizoram and Punjab where Christians and Sikhs are majorities respectively, and the Hindus are a minority, Article 30 still applies to the Christians and Sikhs in these states as minorities, and the Hindus there as majority.
Christian minorities are also, not surprisingly, getting preferential employment in missionary-controlled educational institutions, again justified on the basis of Article 30. For example, the percentages of teaching staff belonging to the Christian faith in missionary-controlled, but taxpayer-funded American College, Union Christian College and St. Xavier’s College are 66, 83 and 42 respectively.[ix] But the percentages of Christians in the state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, where these colleges are located are just 7, 19 and 1 respectively,[x] clearly suggesting the role of religious discrimination in hiring. It appears that these lawful discriminatory practices encompass just about all Christian denominations and cut across the nation. The temptation to discriminate is driven by the highly beneficial manner of the reservations as well as by their lawful nature.
If the percentage of missionary-controlled educational institutions is proportional to the Christian minority population percentage, these discriminations, while hardly justifiable for a nation that calls itself “secular,” are unlikely to have an adverse impact. However, here’s the gist of the problem: the 2.3 percent (2001 census figures)[xi] Christian minorities control over 22 percent[xii] (almost ten times their population percentage) of all educational institutions in India (i.e., over 40,000 of them[xiii])
In combination with Article 30, the above statistics state the obvious: The Christians are a privileged minority in India, with the government’s resources – inadvertently, it seems – allocated for their preferred empowerment. Not surprisingly, literacy rate of the Christians in India stands at 80 percent,[xiv] compared to 65 percent[xv] overall. With the missionaries providing nearly 30 percent of the healthcare services in India,[xvi] employment possibilities for those who convert to Christianity are significantly more than those of non-Christians. In addition, the minority status of missionary-controlled institutions helps them get tax, land allotment and many other benefits.[xvii]
Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to justify any claims of the Christians being an under-privileged minority, as a coalition of Christian community organisations itself noted in a recent press release: “Currently the job share percentage of Christians in services like teachers, nursing, clerical and junior level CEO [Chief Executive Officer] is more than their numerical percentage.” The same press release went on to note in the next sentence that, “This is due to their [Christians’] sincerity, honesty and better education,”[xviii] while regrettably ignoring the fact that Article 30 has already granted the Christian community significant reservations and other opportunities.
The magnitude and scale of these discriminations are staggering. If each missionary-controlled institution has on the average a total of 300 students and staff, and if it discriminates on the average against 10 non-Christian student enrolments and youth employments every year, it translates to about a quarter million discriminatory acts every year. For instance, St. Stephen’s, which has an incoming class of about 400 students every year,[xix] allots nearly 200 of these seats exclusively for Christians i.e., nearly 200 acts of discrimination every year.
It is pertinent to contrast here the scheme implemented in South Africa by the ruling white minority during the apartheid era. The black majority was deliberately denied education and employment opportunities through a racial system designed to favour the whites.[xx] This, in a nutshell denied the black majority empowerment in their land. Of course, in the case of South Africa, the white ruling class’s apartheid practices were deliberate and by design, in order to keep the black majority away from power. However, in the case of India, the egregious religious discriminations are an unintended consequence of Article 30 of the Indian constitution. Or so it seems.
World over, people began to raise their voices against the cruelty and immorality of the apartheid practices in South Africa. But in India, the larger-than-life implications of similar practices have yet to be realised “and, let alone be addressed. Indeed, best-selling author Ramachandra Guha himself an alumni of St. Stephen’s gets it only half right when he calls the reservation policies of his former college, ‘unethical.’”[xxi]
The discriminatory policies induced by Article 30 of the Indian constitution, arguably, violate Articles 23 and 26 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Charter) to which India is a signatory.[xxii] Specifically, “the right to work, to free choice of employment,” mentioned in Article 23 and, “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit,” mentioned in Article 26 appear to be violated. Therefore, Article 30-induced discriminations constitute human rights violations as well.
For all the talk of its emergence, India is one of the most impoverished nations on the planet. A 2006 family health survey conducted there found that 46 percent of its children under the age of three were underweight, even surpassing 28 percent for children under the age of five in sub-Saharan countries. Anaemia, a condition reflecting malnutrition was found to increase among Indian children to 79 percent, up from 74 percent in 1999.[xxiii] The extent of malnutrition is such that nearly two million Indian children every year ” i.e., about six thousand children every day” die from it.[xxiv]
The Hindu majority has become under-privileged in part due to centuries of alien rule in which they were shut out of power and were discriminated against. It is indeed true that at the present time the Muslim minorities are relatively under-privileged compared to the Hindu majority.[xxv] Even still, one has to wonder how much of that is self-inflicted, considering the well-established reluctance of the Muslim community in India to embrace modern education[xxvi] by choosing madarasa (Muslim religious school) education. The regressive evolution of the Muslim majority Pakistan,[xxvii] despite sharing much with India also substantiates the role of self-infliction.
By their own accounts, the Christian minorities are easily among the most empowered in India. The other sizeable minority, the Sikhs, are also better off compared to the majority community, as most of them live in the fertile state of Punjab. In this context, Article 30 is not only hard to justify, but it can be seen to extend hardships the majority community underwent for centuries, albeit this time by successive governments it helped to elect.
Education and employment are necessary paths to empowerment and a ticket out of poverty. India’s own constitution-induced discriminations, that allow religious preferences to dictate over merit, deny unfairly a path out of poverty for millions of innocent children and youths. These discriminations show the sheer absurdity of the Right to Education Act[xxviii] passed recently by the Indian parliament, as many of the best schools and colleges in the nation are controlled by the missionaries who discriminate against the nearly 95 percent of the nation’s population as a matter of policy.
In the long run, what is at stake is more than India’s retarded development or egregious human rights violations.
The long-term implications of Article 30-induced religious discriminations and missionaries’ disproportional control of educational institutions can be studied by applying “Dynamic Models of Segregation” developed by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling.[xxix] He originally showed that a small preference for one’s neighbours to be of the same color could lead to total segregation. The positive feedback cycle of segregation-prejudice-in-group preference can be found in most human populations, with great variation in what are regarded as meaningful differences: Gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, sexual preference and religion. Significantly, he showed that once a cycle of separation-prejudice-discrimination-separation has begun, it has a self-sustaining momentum. The segregation process has the tendency to pick up momentum overtime from trickle to exodus, just like very rapidly increasing viewership of a successful movie, as the word of mouth gets around.
Dr. Schelling’s theory, as it is applied to the religious conversion of the majority community in India involves replacing separation by conversion (to Christianity), and prejudice by lower social status (due to the denial of education and employment opportunities in missionary-controlled elite institutions) and welcoming efforts of the proselytising missionaries.
This conversion “version” of segregation may have already happened in certain regions of India. The northeast Indian states of Nagaland and Mizoram had less than a 1 percent Christian population percentage at the beginning of the past century.[xxx] However, by the 1991 census year, the Christian populations in these two states had increased to almost 90 percent.[xxxi] Unlike in most of the rest of India, the missionaries were pioneers in bringing education and other civic amenities to these under-developed regions. Adding this to the missionaries overwhelming control of educational institutions there probably led to the rapid conversion of the natives.
However, christianisation of India as a whole has not occurred at this fast pace because in the rest of India, for many decades, the upper caste Hindus were better educated than the Christian minorities and the communities there in general have developed more than the ones in Mizoram or Nagaland. The Hindu majority also established and ran many educational institutions. And importantly, the missionary-controlled educational institutions, baring a quota of few percent, admirably kept the enrolment open for everyone, regardless of the background. As a result, until 2001, for almost fifty years, the Christian minority population percentage in all of India trickled very slowly upwards to about 2.3.
But then, all of a sudden, Christian population percentage surged dramatically higher.
Operation World which tracks the growth of Christianity around the globe lists up-to-date figures for India in its website. According to the website the annual Christian population growth rate in India at the present time shows a big jump at 3.7 percent compared to the overall annual population growth rate of 1.44 percent.[xxxii] Accordingly, while the Christian population percentage was just 2.3 percent in 2001,[xxxiii] it has more than doubled rapidly to 5.84 percent as of 2010.[xxxiv] Whereas the annual Christian population growth rate during the period from 1991 to 2001 was only 2.26 percent[xxxv] compared to the overall annual population growth rate of 2.13 percent[xxxvi] during the same period.
So, why has the Christian population percentage in India increased so dramatically during the past decade?
A graph shown in Operation World’s website reveals the reason that the dramatic growth in Christian population percentage is mostly due to conversion from Hinduism, as reflected by a drop in Hindu population percentage (note that the Muslim population percentage increased during this period, suggesting that the Muslims are not converting to Christianity in large numbers).[xxxvii] In the early 1990s, in a landmark ruling the Indian Supreme Court, on the basis of Article 30, allowed minority-controlled educational institutions to allot up to 50 percent of their seats on the basis of faith.[xxxviii] While in the immediate aftermath the Christian minority reservation percentages in missionary-controlled institutions remained small, over the next decade they increased to reach the ceiling limit of 50 percent. It took time for this new trend to sink in; impact of these reservations on demographics probably did not materialize until about the year 2000. Now, the trend appears to be full-blown in the form of a rapid rise in Christian population percentage.
The Supreme Court’s decision and the willingness of the missionaries to discriminate by taking away up to 50 percent of the enrolments in over 20 percent of educational institutions controlled by them meant that it is disadvantageous to be a Hindu and far more beneficial to be a Christian in the secular and democratic nation of India. This is particularly true for lower income majority community families with young children and youths in need of education and employment.
It is useful to quantify the implications of this decision. Assuming on the average a total of 300 students and staff in an institution, for the 40,000 institutions controlled by the missionaries, a grand total of 12 million seats is reached. Hence, a disturbing possibility has arisen as a result of the honoured court’s decision: It has empowered the missionaries to lawfully deny non-Christians from a few millions to about 6 million student enrolments and staff employments every year in institutions likely funded by the government.
Governments both at the central and the state levels have setup an employment/education quota system for under-privileged lower caste Hindus in government and in the public sector units, and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the minority-controlled educational institutions.[xxxix] Admittedly, minorities such as the Christians and to some extent the Muslims have been largely excluded from this quota system; but then, so are the forward caste Hindus who are numerically more than both Christians and Muslims put together.[l] Still, the missionaries’ vastly disproportional control of educational institutions appears to give them the ability to selectively influence empowerment of communities on the basis of religion – and at the expense of taxpayers. The following examples elucidate this point.
Post 1990s, the religious apartheid practices permitted by Article 30 of India’s constitution have played a primary role in devastating the majority community economically in the southern Indian state of Kerala by marginalising their educational opportunities. The article has given minority-controlled institutions in Kerala legal power to discriminate and to regulate educational access at the expense of the taxpayers. According to Indian academic C. Issac:
[The] 55 per cent of Hindu population of Kerala controls 11.11 per cent of the state’s bank deposits. On the other hand, the 19 per cent Christian community commands 33.33 per cent and 25 per cent Muslim population retains 55.55 per cent. The education is one of the major sectors where the organised strength of the minorities in Kerala is used in a covert manner. In this sector the majority [Hindu] community as well as the government together control only 11.11 percent, on the other hand, the church controls 55.55 percent and Muslim religious organisations 33.33 percent of all institutions. At present the professional education sector of Kerala is almost under the full control of the minorities. About 12,000 engineering enrolments and 300 medicine enrolments are in the minority institutions and they are fully controlling the admissions. At present 60 percent of the enrolments in paramedical courses are controlled by the organised minority religious leadership. In this situation the successive governments are functioning as mere onlookers. A lion’s share of these aided [government-funded] schools is under minority management.[li]
Can a parent belonging to the majority community expect his/her sons and daughters, even if they are well-qualified, to receive college education in Kerala? Difficult as it is to get admission in a college, it is unlikely to be lost on many Hindus that they stand a much higher chance, should they convert to one of the privileged minority faiths.
A resident of Kanyakumari – a southern district of Kanyakumari in the state of Tamilnadu that has newly become Christian majority – has commented below on the infringing of the rights of the Hindu community. Here again, the issue of concern is enhanced government-sponsored empowerment opportunities available for those who belong to minority religions through Article 30, and their denials to the majority community:[lii]
There are so many scholarship programmes for minorities and backward classes, but there is no such scholarship for Hindu students. The poor are not able to afford children’s education. We will have to vote for Radhakrishnan [a Hindu legislator contestant] to get our rights back.[liii]
Not surprisingly, in many parts of India, there have been anecdotal instances of entire families converting to Christianity in order for their children to receive education and scholarships.[liv] This is creating destabilising social tensions, with the ill-informed majority community unable to enact measures to modify the existing minority-favouring system of quotas, and instead, directing anger unfairly at the minority Christians.
One such violent conflict has recently occurred in Khandamal district of Orissa, where tensions have been building up for some time between the non-tribal (Paanas) who converted to Christianity and the tribal (Kandhas) who remained in Hinduism.[lv] Those who converted found themselves selectively empowered[lvi] through education in missionary-controlled but government-funded schools and colleges, thanks in part due to Article 30-induced reservations. A Kandha complained in an interview: “We feel neglected here – even our political representatives are all Paanas. Paanas convert to Christianity and are well off.”[lvii]
Evidence-based reasoning suggests that India is undergoing a civilisational change – a process of de-hinduising, powered by Article 30-induced egregious deprivations. This shows that the majority community in India has not yet matured enough to protect its core interests from being unfairly trampled. While the minorities’ politisation of their religious institutions have helped them mobilize their community to vote and to leverage the voting power to advance their interests,[lviii] the lack of politisation of the majority community’s religious institutions has not helped. These contrasting roles played by the religious institutions of the minority and majority communities can be traced to centuries of rule by alien powers. In order to mitigate potential challenges to their hold on power, the alien entities ensured de-politising of the majority community’s religious institutions.
Among the capable segments of India’s population, the middle class, upper middle class, and even the rich members of the majority community have remained apolitical – by largely shying away from voting – due to their disappointment with the political process in the nation.[lix] They could afford to, as the booming economy of the past two decades has created educational and job opportunities for them. However, as the minority population percentage increases invariably in the coming years, as present trends indicate, Article 30-induced discriminations will increasingly shut the door on majority empowerment. Indeed, as seen in Kerala with substantial minority population, this process will only intensify in the coming years. This is not a speculation; it is a reasoned extrapolation of data and backed by an analysis based on the acclaimed work of a Nobel Prize-winning economist.
It has become quite clear that the apolitical, and yet the capable segments of the majority community now have to involve themselves in the political process, in order to ensure a future for themselves and their progenies. This should rejuvenate the Indian politic and help usher in a new era for Indian democracy. Article 30 will likely loom large as an issue in near-term electoral politics for a good reason: Not known for its religiosity, the majority community is driven by its desire for material comforts that require growing education and employment opportunities. Hence, sooner than later politicians are going to figure out that addressing Article 30′s undercutting of these opportunities offers among the best means of politically mobilising the entire community in order to build a strong powerbase.
Clearly, modern and “emergent” India has to do away with Article 30 in the present form. The question remains what should replace it. A window into answering this question comes from the United States of America, arguable among the most developed secular democracies and home to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Discriminations faced by the black minorities and to a lesser extent by non-Christian and non-white immigrants from abroad (in employment, educational, social and professional settings), compelled the United States to enact the cornerstone anti-discrimination legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legislation, among other things, prohibits discriminations based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin.[lx] There is an exception: Due to their under-privileged status brought by centuries of deliberate denial of empowerment by the majority whites, minorities such as the blacks in America have now been afforded special privileges in the form of a very limited quota system called Affirmative Action.[lxi]
This article shouldn’t be viewed as an attack on Christian minorities or a call for undermining their rights, or an effort to stop conversions altogether. The focus of this analysis is about the egregious human rights violations of the 80 percent majority community. By tracing these violations to Article 30 of the Indian constitution, this piece offers ways of addressing this issue objectively and fairly without infringing on anyone’s rights. As a modern and free nation, India ought to uphold the right of its people to practice and importantly, change a faith as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”[lxii]
One could justifiably argue that India doesn’t deserve to be called a modern democracy unless it takes steps to stop the constitution-based egregious discriminatory practices and unfair denial of empowerment of one eighth of entire humanity.[lxiii] The country, which spearheaded the opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa, now finds itself in an unfortunate position of practicing a form of apartheid on its majority population.
If biodiversity is viewed crucial for the well-being of humanity,[xliv] so should cultural-religious diversity. For instance, India’s western neighbour Pakistan’s relentless drive to eradicate cultural-religious diversity within may have left it highly vulnerable to dead-end ideologies.[lxv] It is incumbent on humanity to ensure that ancient ways of life are allowed to evolve, and not be extinguished by apartheid practices.
(Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy is a U.S.-based nuclear physicist . His contact website: http://www.moorthymuthuswamy.com/ The views expressed by the author are his own.)
Chennai,Feb11 (PTI) Union Minister for Water Resources and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid today called for setting upof public-private minority educational institutions, saying such efforts should be encouraged.
Khurshid, who also inaugurated a conference ”FutureChallenges and Opportunities for minority Higher Educationalinstitutions in India in the present Global Scenario,” saidpublic-private minority institutions have to be differentfrom the regular minority institutions.
Referring to the Supreme Court verdict limiting 50 per centreservation for minority students of that particularcommunity in minority run institutions, he said it had to be”re-examined” as there were “different minorities and different needs.”
He said what works for one minority may not work for theother as communities such as Parsis and Christians were”relatively better-off” than Muslims.
Addressing an audience, predominantly from the Muslim community, he said a national grid should be created among Muslim minority institutions so that there was increasedinteraction for ensuring greater access, variety and exposure.
The greatest enemy of Muslim Renaissance of the 21stcentury was not from “dark and divisive forces but cynicismof our own people,” he said.
“What keeps the majority and minority together should be encouraged and what keeps them apart should be rejected,” he said.
In a lighter vein, quoting an official, he said he wasselected as Water resources Minister as he hailed from Uttar Pradesh which was not involved in any inter-state waterdisputes.
The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has appealed to President Pratibha Patil to reject the Somasekhara report which gave a clean chit to the government and police accused of anti-Christian violence in Karnataka.
In a letter to the president on Feb. 7, the GCIC also urged her to counsel the national political parties to uphold the Constitution of India to preserve united India, where the minorities can be safe.
“We fear that the Karnataka Government is likely to use the anti-minority and biased report to curtail the religious freedom and minority rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India,” the letter stated.
It said that the primary objective of the commission is to identify the ways and means to help the victims of brutal attacks.
“The GCIC appeals you to advise the Karnataka State Government to reject Justice B.K. Somasekhara Commission’s biased and distorted report,” it added.
It also appealed to the president to ask the state government to order a probe by the centre into the anti-Christian attacks.
The council also demanded compensation, relief and rehabilitation to the affected Christians.
The one-man Justice Somasekhara Commission had on Jan. 28 submitted its report on the anti-Christian violence in Karnataka in 2008.
The report said that the government and its police were not responsible for the violence.
By Emanual Nahar
Minority rights have gained greater visibility and relevance all over the world. India is no exception to it being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural society. Diversity of all types is the very soul of India. It is in this context that minority rights have assumed added significance in post-independence India. When India attained independence after its division on religious lines, religious minorities became very apprehensive of their identity. According to a survey (2001) at that time there were 11.67 per cent Muslims, 2.32 per cent Christians, 1.79 per cent Sikhs and considerable number of Buddhists (0.77 per cent), Parsees (0.4 per cent) and Jains (0.43 per cent) in India.
After World War II, the world’s minorities locked within the state have increased rather than decreased in numbers. So far as India’s case is concerned, the trajectory reveals that India has almost always had a composite population. The Constitution of free India has give recognition to a number of languages in the Eighth Schedule and there are five religious groups which have been given the official status of National Minorities, namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees. The framers of the Constitution bestowed considerable thought and attention upon the minority problem in all its facets and provided constitutional safeguards; yet the issue has evaded solution till today. Consequently, the progress of minorities in India is beset with problems including those of prejudice and discrimination.
Even the dominant Muslim community has several grievances. It is perceived by many that they lag behind in educational progress because of economic hardship and discrimination against them in the education field. No special efforts have been made to fulfil the needs of Muslims which belong to the lower strata of society. The grievances of the Sikhs in India are largely political with subdued economic overtones. The grievances of all religious minorities seem to be related to the operation of state agencies. Questions about problems between the majority and minorities that arise are:
• What status has the polity granted to its minorities?
• What are the problems faced by the minorities especially in the context of inclusion and exclusion in state- building in post-colonial India?
• How are they able to assert themselves?
• What is the role and extent of their participation in politics and socio-economic developments?
• What is the extent of prejudice and discrimination faced by them?
Today minority rights have introduced two new dimensions into democracy. First, they made community a legitimate subject of political discourse; and second, they placed the issue of inter-group equality on the agenda. The Indian experience also reveals that minority rights present two important problems for a democratic polity. One, minority rights privilege the community’s cultural practices over the principle of equal rights for all citizens. Two, recognised minorities are not always sensitive to the plight of internal minorities. Thus, while special safeguards provided to identified minorities curb the hegemony of any one community or the nation-state, they do not guarantee free and equal status to all groups and communities in society.
The principle of non-discrimination and the concept of common citizenship are enshrined in all provisions of the Indian Constitution. The first and foremost is the Right to Equality (Article 14) which is an extension of the rights ensured in the Preamble to the Constitution. Article 14 of our Constitution says:
The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law and shall provide equal protection for every person within the territory of India.
Though this Article appears to be very short and simple, it is one of the greatest pillars of democracy. It protects both minority and majority alike against the discriminatory conduct of the government both negatively and positively. This provision embodies a concept which is a hall-mark of democracy. However, to the question as to whether the Indian minorities really enjoy this fundamental right to equality, the answer, unfortunately, is ‘no’. Because in the real sense, Indian minorities do not fully enjoy some of the basic fundamental rights. The major problems faced by the Christian minority with regard to fundamental rights are as given below.
The discrimination on grounds of religion is very clearly prohibited by Article 15 of our Constitution which says in clause (1): “The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender, place of birth etc.” This fundamental right against discrimination on ground of religion is one of the most important rights for the flourishing of any religiously pluralistic society as we have in our country.1 But unfortunately, we are till now unable to implement what Article 15 last down. This mandate of “non-discrimination against any person on grounds of religion” given in Article 15 of the Constitution has still not been enforced totally, even though the Constitution was promulgated more than 58 years ago. This right, which existed, in whatever little extent, before the promulgation of the Constitution, was lost when our Constitution came into being.
The third paragraph of the Presidential Order of 1950 was amended by Parliament to extend constitutional benefits to the ‘Dalit Sikhs’ (1956) and the ‘Buddhists’ (1990) along with the ‘Hindus’, but similar benefit was refused to the Dalit Christians. The denial of justice to the Dalit Christians is also against the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India on equal justice. The Presidential Order, as it was interpreted, was not only communalistic, it was also anti-Dalit. It tended to divide the Dalits on the basis of religioin. Regarding the criteria of amendment, the point made by Ramvilas Paswan in 1990 needs to be noted. Paswan, who was the then Union Minister of Welfare and Labour, while stating the objects and reasons for proposing to include Buddhists of Scheduled Caste origin in the list of Scheduled Castes, said that the change of religion does not alter social and economic conditions. But above all, the third paragraph of the 1950 Presidential Order is a direct contradiction of Articles 14, 15 and 25 of our Constitution since it had used religion as the criterion to describe who will be a Scheduled Caste. This needs to be deleted completely.2
In India the opportunities for employment are very scanty and the state is the greatest employer. The principle of non-discrimination and equality is also upheld in matters of public employment in the Constitution. Article 16 says: “No citizen shall, on grounds of religion, race or caste, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.”
The Constitution in Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. But again, because of the Presidential Order of 1950 and the refusal of Shanker Dayal Sharma to issue an ordinance3 for reservation for Christians during the time of P.V. Narashima Rao as the PM the Article has been made infructuous. This has been made available to the Dalits in the fold of Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism but not to those who are Christians. This also amounts to discrimination on grounds of religion which the ‘state’ is forbidden to effect under Article 15.
The denial of justice to the Dalit Christians goes against the letter and spirit of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 25 of the Constitution of India on equal justice, equal opportunities and freedom of religion. If a Scheduled Caste becomes a Christian, he loses all the reservation facilities, and if he produces a certificate of Scheduled Caste he gets back all the benefits. Even the children of the same Scheduled Caste parents, living under the same roof, sharing the same meals are discriminated against on the basis of religion. Sohan Singh gets all the reservation facilities. While his own brother Mohan Masih is denied all the benefits just because “Masih” happens to be a Christian. It is bad luck if any Christian symbol is noticed with him/her or at his/her residence. He/she loses all the service benefits. This also amounts to violation of the constitutional rights. Despite 59 years of our independence the Dalit Christians continue to be the victims of all kinds of ill-treatment. The history of independent India is both pathetic and shameful on the treatment meted out to Dalits.
The Mandal Commission’s report unambiguously stated that state assistance should be given to all genuinely backward sections of people irrespective of religion or caste which many thought would end discrimination against the poor among the minorities. But the ‘soft’ Communists or secularists or religious fanatics in the majority community are now said to have found another excuse to deprive the Christians of these facilities. The argument advanced is that the backwards having “un-Indian sounding or Anglo-Saxon” names cannot claim such benefits.4 They can afford to discriminate against Christians in this manner because they are a negligible “vote-bank”. This is the way our rulers create divisions, frictions and differences in our country.5
The other serious implication of the Presidential Order of 1950 is that it has also affected another fundamental right of the Dalit Christians, the right meant to protect their personal life as well as liberty. In the last 58 years of India’s independence, the country’s three largest minorities, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, have been targeted by fanatics of the majority community and other vested interests, on the basis of their religious identity alone, resulting in a serious assault on their basic rights, including the right to life itself. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution clearly stipulates: “No person shall be deprived of his right of personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” The fact that the Dalit Christians are not getting protection of life and personal liberty is manifest in the various government Acts and rules passed by Parliament to give special protection to the Scheduled Castes but these are not applicable to the Christians of Scheduled Caste origin during atrocities. These Acts and rules include Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955, Protection of Civil Rights Rule 1977 and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. All these Acts and rules are supposed to give the SC (Dalits) special protection and rights against various kinds of atrocities and oppressions meted out to them by the people of so-called upper castes of forward classes. But this protection is not made available to Dalit Christians.
Although under Article 21, the State is bound to protect the life and liberty of every human being, it has failed to protect this right. There are a lot of violations. Such type of violations threatens the very right to life, physical integrity and health of citizens. Here are some of the headlines in the national media: “Persecution—Christians are now being systematically targeted”. It referred to the recent move of the then BJP run Delhi Government to denotify churches in Delhi as places of worship on the ground that “wine was served there”. “Saffron Brigade strikes again in Gujarat”. “Christian missionary school attacked, copy of New Testament burnt”—flashed Hindustan Times on July 22, 1998.6
Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives all citizens the “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”. The Christians have almost always faced problems with this fundamental right specially with the last part of propagating its faith. A number of States such as Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu have passed Acts through their legislature severely curbing this right. In many States like Punjab, the concerned authorities refused to allow any venue and date for religious conversions or religious conventions for preaching the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is undoubtedly a violation of Article 25. Father T.K. John also expressed the feeling that the basic rights of the religious minorities are violated in a number of ways.7
(a) Although some Indian State governments did enact legislations entitled ‘Freedom of Religion Bill’, these were full of ambiguities which were utilised by the state machinery to practise discrimination against religious minorities.
(b) Refusal to grant official recognition to certain religious groups and religious communities.
© Legal bias against certain religious groups and religious communities.
(d) Restriction on public information about religious groups by describing only a preferred religion in official text books and ignoring the others. In Gujarat, the State’s BJP Government is also trying to impose some limitation on freedom of conscience and free profession of religion.
Although Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives wide opportunity to profess, practise and propagate any religion, from time to time it has been interpreted by the various Courts of law which have imposed many limitations. As the Supreme Court held in the case of Stainless versus Madhya Pradesh (1977), the right to propagate does not mean the right to convert others forcibly. However, he/she is entitled to accept or adopt another religion by his own choice and free will.8
In recent times, some Hindu organisations have raised a hue and cry over this matter, and are in favour of adding some amendments in Article 25. As L.K. Maitra said in the Constituent Assembly,
The very foundation of society in India being religion, it will lose all her spiritual values and heritage unless the right to practise and propagate any religion is recognised as a fundamental right.
But the States were practical enough to make it a conditional right. So, when propagation affects the religious sentiments of other communities or conversion involves some sort of force or fraud, it goes against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.9
An attempt was made in 1977, during the regime of the Janata Government through a Private Member’s Bill at the Central level, for prohibition of conversion which, of course, could not win legilsation sanction from the majority of members. In July 2001, Anant Gangaram Geeta, a Shiv Sena MP, moved a Private Member’s Bill named the Prohibition on Religious Conversion Bill, 2001 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill was opposed by the Opposition and the Sangh Parivar failed to muster enough support for it to get it through. Besides the above, the Christian Evangelists and Church workers had to face consistent opposition to practising and propagating their faith. They were also attacked physically many a time and harassed by the fanatic groups in a number of States such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, UP, Maharashtra and Punjab. In December 1999, non-Christians organised a rally at Ahwa in Dangs district in the Gujarat State on Christmas Day projecting the alleged conversion of tribals to Christianity by the missionaries.10 In Punjab, religious conventions were disturbed at various places by the Sangh Parivar during the Akali-BJP regime. But the government did not take serious note of this problem and even refused to accept the recommendations of the National Minority Commission.
Aritcle 26 of our Constitution has given to all the religious minorities the right
• to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes,
• to manage their own affairs in matters of religion, in any manner they wish to administer and maintain such property in accordance with the law.
In Gujarat, the State Education Department issued a circular to the government aided schools to subscribe to a Gujarati magazine, Sadhana, which is wedded to the ideology of the RSS and Sangh Parivar. This is a direct violation of Article 26 of the Indian Constitution.11 The violation of Article 26 occurs when the freedom to establish religious institutions is curbed. The local administration generally refused permission to build, enlarge or renovate places of worship of the minority religious groups. This has become a major problem for the Christian community. To get permission for building a Church has become a nightmarish experience for the Christian applicants.12 The recent destruction of churches in certain parts of the country has further aggravated the threat to the right, guaranteed in the Constitution, and granted to the Christian community, along with other religious communities, to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.13
Article 29 offers protection to the cultural rights of minorities and Article 30 (1) gives them the right to establish and administer educations institutions of their choice.
Clause 31(2) states that the state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
But with regard to the rights provided on Article 29 and 30 also, the Christians continue to face problems throughout the country. (Recently the Punjab Government enacted a law and imposed a lot of limitations on minority institutions. The first major problem which the Christian educational institutions are facing is the intervention of the State Education Department and Universities at different levels. Questions are being raised whether a special place can be offered to the members of the Christian community as students or trainees. The government not only discriminates against minority schools, colleges, nursing colleges, and hospitals in granting aid, but also imposes many rules and restrictions to prevent minority institutions from appointing their own candidates. When a vacancy comes up in schools and other institutions they are forced to accept the State’s choice to fill it and on many occasions Christian educational institutions have had to go to court to get justice.
Some of the fanatic groups are not in favour of a separate and distinct culture for minorities. They want that all minorities in India must give up their separate culture as India is one country and one culture. Prof Balraj Madhok suggested that the minorities must adopt Indian (Hindu) names. In short, they must adopt the Indian culture-the national culture—in their religion. Their religion should bend its loyalty towards Indian Nationalism.14
The suggestion made by Madhok is totally against the rights guaranteed under Article 29 of the Constitution which says:
Any section of citizens, residing in the territory of India, or any part thereof, having a distinct language or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same…all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate their religion.
In fact the Muslims, Christians and Sikhs each have their own separate and distinct culture. The above utterances negate the guarantee given by the Constitution to conserve the culture of the minorities. Such utterances have been in vogue for many decades. It is a shame that the leaders of the largest democracy with a large number of religions allow the propagation of such mindless thoughts (which clearly trample underfeet the constitutional rights) against such a minuscule section of the population as Christians.
The next problem is concerning Christian Personal Law which includes15 • the Indian Christian Marriage Act 1872, • the Indian Divorce Act 1869, and • the Indian Succession Act 1925.
These Acts were enacted under British rule and reflect the British point of view. Some contents and Acts have direct relationship to the English law and the Courts. For example, Section VIII of the Indian Dvorce Act 1869 says that for anything uncovered by this Act, the Indian courts shall follow the procedure of English Courts.16 Similarly the Christian Marriage Act 1872 has, at a number of places, references to the Churches of England and Scotland.17
The Indian Succession Act 1925 also has a number of weak points like the restrictions imposed on a widow’s right to property. All these discrepancies need immediate attention of both the Indian Christians as well as the Indian Government in order to introduce suitable amendments to these Acts. The Christian law is biased in circumstances of marriage, grounds for divorce, demand for damages and equitable relief. The need for a change has been widely recognised.
The campaign for changes in the Christian Personal Law was taken up at the Joint Women’s Programme (JWP) in 1983. Through several meetings held in different places, where Bishops, clergymen, lawyers, the laity of the churches and social activists participated, it came to a unanimous conclusion that the Christian Personal Law, as enacted and administered in India, was outdated, unjust and did not fairly meet the needs of the present generation. The Indian Christian Marriage Act 1872, the Indian Divorce Act 1869 and the Indian Succession Act 1925 had several sections that were discriminatory. The first two of these Acts were enacted more than a century ago and the third one is also almost three quarters of a century old. Women suffer and are treated differently from men. There is also a need to enable Christians to adopt children whenever the need arises.
The Joint Women’s Programme (JWP) along with the Church of North India drafted a new Christian Marriage and Maintenance Bill in 1985 with help of P.M. Bakshi, the then Member of the Law Commission. The Joint Women’s Programme also requested all the Churches to send in their consensus opinion and the Christian Marriage and Matrimonial Bill 1990, the Indian Succession Amendment Bill 1990, and the Christian Adoption and Maintenance Bill 1990 were formulated. Thereafter an economic committee for changes in the Christian Personal Law was formed. This committee studied the 1992 Bill and a draft was finalised to change the existing Acts covering marriage, divorce, succession and adoption. It also drafted a Christian Adoption Law 1994. The draft of the “Christian Marriage Bill” enabled the solution of cases of divorce on the grounds of cruelty by mutual consent and did away with the compulsion of restoration of conjugal rights. The Church leadership raised its voice to bring in changes in the Bill. The Fourth Law Commission studied the matter in its own free time. Matters moved in the late nineties and James Massey, a former member of the National Commission of Minorities, played a part in the formulation of another reformist draft which was submitted to the government in 1997 to replace the existing Acts covering marriage, divorce, succession and adoption.18
In April 2000, the Law Minister invited some Church leaders and women activists to discuss his proposed Christian Marriage Bill 2000. The Christian representatives demanded that if the Law Minister kept Sections 3 and 9 the same as were in the Bill of 1994, the proposed Bill will get the consensus of all churches throughout India. They would agree for the Bill 2000 to be introduced in Parliament. This bill, prepared by the Law Ministry with the consent of the community was passed by Parliament in 2001.19
The Christians take the Indian Constitution for granted to provide, protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of every citizen and every minority, including the Christians. However, the relevance and effectiveness of the safeguards are eroding fast, due to large scale saffronisation of the education system, the handiwork of the Sangh Parivar, to enforce its political ideology. These changes are bold enough to dream of saffronisation of all minority communities as well. Some organisations of the Sangh Parivar are so eager to threaten the very existence of the minority communities that they are moving in an extremely disruptive direction. These moves, sooner or later, will jeopardise the fundamental rights of the minority communities. The political thinking of the communal forces is moving towards the formation of a theocratic state, in which the goal and religion of the Sangh Parivar becomes the supreme force. This is creating a situation wherein the minority communities, especially the poor and downtrodden Dalit Christians, are feeling helpless. Minority and majority feelings still exist in the country even after 59 years of our freedom and every secular, democratic Indian citizen is bound to be appalled by such a development. The country’s identity and dignity are getting increasingly obscured. The apathy of the administration, the violation of minorities’ rights, the Presidential Order of 1950 and the Mandal Commission report have all cumulatively led to the evolution of an extremely helpless and frustrating situation for the minority community of Christians. The Christians just want a fair system to fulfil their basic needs and a chance to live an honourable life which can only be provided by the institutionalisation of minority rights in general and those of the Christian minority in particular for long ignored by the powers that be. n
1. See Editorial, “BJP Vs Dalit Christians”, Indian Currents: A Voice for Voiceless, Vol. VII, No.49, September 12, 1996, p. 2. 2. Massey, James, Minorities in Democracy (1999), Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, pp. 72-73. 3. See Editorial, “Well Done, Mr President”, in The Tribune, March 29, 1996, Chandigarh. 4. Sarto, Esteves (1996), Nationalism, Secularism and Communalism, South Asia Publications, Delhi, p. 190. 5. Ibid., p. 190. 6. See article John, T.K. (1999), “Minority Rights: Christian Experience and Apprehensions” in Sumanta Banjerjee (ed.), Shrinking Space: Minority Rights in South Asia, published by South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Lalitpur (Nepal), p. 178. 7. John T.K., op.cit., p. 177 and also see The Hindustan Times, July 22, 1998, New Delhi. 8. See Nirmalendu Bikash Rakshit, (2000) “Right to Propaganda Religion: Constitutional Provisions”, in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.XXXV, No. 40, New Delhi, p. 3565. 9. Ibid., p. 3565. 10. Indian Currents: A Voice for Voiceless, Vol. XI, No. 49, December 13-19, 1999, p. 15. 11. See The Hindu, January 19, 2001, New Delhi. 12. John, T.K., op.cit., pp. 177-178. 13. Ibid., pp. 177-178. 14. See Nizami, Zafer Ahmed (1999), “Plight of Minorities in India”, in World Focus (monthly discussion journal), Vol. 20, No. 4, New Delhi. 15. Massey, James, op.cit., pp. 70-71. 16. Mathew, P.D., and Bakshi, P.M. (1995), Christian Law of Divorce, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, pp. 3-4. 17. Ibid., pp. 3-4. 18. Dayal, John (October 2000), “Wedlock Deadlock”, see in Indian Currents: A Voice for Voiceless, Vol. XII, No. 19, pp. 9-11. 19. Joint Women’s Programme (JWP) (October 2000), New Brilliant Christian Personal Laws, published by CISRS, Bangalore, pp. 1-12
The Supreme Court will study the constitutional validity of the Ranganath Misra Commission recommendation for inclusion of dalit Christians and Muslims in the scheduled caste list to make them eligible for quota in education and jobs under the constitutional scheme.
“We want to examine whether the recommendation is valid under the constitutional scheme. A proper study has to be made,” an SC bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said on Tuesday.
Reacting to the apex court’s decision, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam said any amendment to identification of castes and the basis of the Presidential Order of 1950 providing for reservation to dalits among Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists has to be left to Parliament alone.
Petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which had filed the petition in 2004 in the apex court, argued through advocate Prashant Bhushan that the SC list should be prepared on the basis of the socio-economic conditions of persons and not on account of their religion.
“How is it that a dalit Hindu, Sikh or a Buddhist is eligible for reservation but not a dalit Christian or Muslim? Is this not discrimination on the basis of religion which is prohibited under the Constitution ?” wondered Bhushan.
He said the Presidential Order of 1950 had originally envisaged reservation for dalit Hindus. Later, in 1959 it included dalits from the Sikh community and for Buddhists in 1990.
“It is a bit of politically sensitive case and the government despite the recommendation from Justice Misra Commission, which was agreed to by National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC), had not acted on it,” the government counsels argued.
The SC, however, said: “We have to examine this very important issue. We are not worried about the political sensitivity involved in it. We want to examine whether the recommendations were constitutionally valid or not.”
The National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minority headed by former CJI Misra had recommended that dalits continued to face discrimination even after converting to Christianity and Islam and hence deserved benefit of social affirmative action.
The NCSC, however, said that though it had no objection to reservations being granted to dalits who converted to other religions, the Centre should ensure that it did not carve out quota for them from the existing 15 per cent for SCs.
In its recommendation to the Centre, NCSC had on Sep 18, 2007 said: “It was decided that quota should be extended to them but the share of 15 per cent of SCs should not be disturbed and the element of reservation for these communities (dalit Christians and dalit Muslims) should be determined by the government keeping in view their population.”
It also reminded the government about the SC mandated 50 per cent cap on total reservation.