Central to the issue of protection of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights from false claimants such as the so-called dalit Christians and Scheduled Caste Christians is the obvious fact that there is no caste system in Christianity. Now to trump up a case for the usurping of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights, the bishops are claiming that there is not only caste but also untouchability in Christ. This is nothing but the basest trickery. – Leela Tampi
- Scroll to the page bottom for “HOW CASTELESS MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS OBTAIN BENEFITS MEANT ONLY FOR CASTE HINDUS”
- Click here for “COMMUNAL DIVIDE IN SCHOLARSHIPS”
The two-day convention of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe parliamentarians held in Delhi in June 1992 has taken the dismaying decision to give all support to the unremitting campaign of the Christian ecclesiastical leadership for the sharing of the special rights and benefits, mandated by the Constitution only for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, also by all Christians claiming Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe origin. This convention, with unseemly alacrity to serve this crusade of the powerful Christian religious leadership to usurp Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights, has insidiously asked the Government to put an end to the discrimination against Scheduled Caste Christians by introducing a Bill in Parliament to include them also in the Scheduled Caste list .
This blatantly indefensible decision of the convention of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Members of Parliament which, if put into effect, will blight and doom for ever the still nascent advancement of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, deserves to be a matter of the gravest national concern. It also brings into tragic focus the lack of fealty of those Members of Parliament who supported the decision (mercifully there were many dissenters) to the sacrosanct cause of the welfare and progress of our Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, to protect which they were chiefly elected to Parliament.
What the Members of Parliament at this convention were advocating was the amending of the Constitution to suit the prelates who have been vociferously demanding for the last several years the lion’s share of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights and benefits for Christians. The Constitution has to be amended for their demand to be conceded because of the famous judgement of the full five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. In this final decision the Supreme Court had ruled that a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe lost his caste status—which pertains to the Hindu religion alone—upon his conversion to Christianity and therefore forfeited his entitlement to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe special rights and benefits. Because of this judgement the last census has listed only Christians and never Scheduled Caste Christians .
Therefore the incontrovertible truth is that appellations that claim Scheduled Caste status for Christians such as Harijan Christians, Dalit Christians and Scheduled Caste Christians that are annunciated by the prelates and their cohorts at every opportunity, besides being illegal, are a fraud perpetrated on the Constitution.
These terms, so evocative of suffering due to caste oppression, have been concocted by Christian vested interests in a consummate conspiracy to generate sympathy in the uninformed public mind for their cruel scheme of bilking the defenceless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the major part of their special rights and benefits; also to promote the idea that Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe special rights can be shared also by Christians claiming Scheduled Caste origin, these special Scheduled Caste rights being just an ordinary welfare measure for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
But these special rights and benefits of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not a welfare scheme at all. They are quintessentially a restitution, which, as laid down by the Supreme Court, only the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and no one outside the Hindu fold, can claim. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people from ancient times were the innocent victims of the all-pervasive stigma of low-caste: hence of discrimination, exploitation and oppression. It was as a minimal restitution for this deprivation and harrowing suffering directly resulting from their low caste status, of which vestiges still remain, that the special rights and benefits were mandated for them in the Constitution. It was hoped that the special rights and benefits would engender in them a sense of self-worth enabling them to compete with others in spite of the continuing handicap of low caste status. And indeed these special rights and benefits are acting as a tremendous help in their present arduous and dedicated struggle to rise towards equality with the rest of society.
Therefore it is scandalous that the elected representatives who should have been in profound empathy with the burgeoning aspirations of our Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and should have extended to them every protection and support in their hard struggle to lift themselves up from utter poverty, hopelessness and backwardness, actually did the very opposite by joining up with the opulent Christian establishment to dispossess their own people of the major part of their vitally needed special rights and benefits.
It is a tragic indication of the political degeneration that has set in at every level of this unfortunate nation that these so-called peoples representatives, who have all along been exhorting us lesser mortals to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and also drumming into our ears the vital need for every patriotic citizen to obey the law as clarified by the Court, had this sudden and convenient fit of amnesia on both these counts when it came to satisfying the demand of the prodigiously rich bishops-at the cost of the abysmally poor Dalits. What was done by these representatives without any compunction was to throw the interests of their trusting, helpless people into the jaws of destruction.
Central to the issue of protection of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights from false claimants such as the so-called Harijan Christians and Scheduled Caste Christians is the obvious fact that there is no caste system in Christianity. Bound as Christianity is by its strict theology and sacerdotal rules, caste is as permanently extrinsic to it as temple worship. Moreover, it was by ranting and railing against the oppression of caste and reviling the Hindu religion for permitting it; and also by holding aloft the wonderful prospect of equality and brotherhood in Christ that a number of Scheduled Caste persons were persuaded to convert by the agents of the bishops. Now to trump up a case for the usurping of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights, the bishops are claiming that there is not only caste but also untouchability (as the much-used term Harijan Christian implies) in Christ. This is nothing but the basest trickery.
It is well-known that worldly and concrete benefits such as money, free education and jobs among other things were routinely given as rewards for conversion for the last hundred and fifty years and more. The converts, with such generous help from the British-supported, powerful Churches, advanced tremendously and are now ensconced in high positions in every sphere of national life.
In stark and tragic contrast our own Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people were, till about forty years ago, sunk in the most abject poverty and backwardness arising from their low-caste disability with no help from anywhere for advancement. Theirs was a story of heartrending and ceaseless misery. Continuing to suffer from the effects of centuries of abasement such as grinding poverty and backwardness, the help of the recently bestowed special rights and benefits has not been sufficient to lift the mass of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes towards dignity and equality. Therefore the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes need the full quantum of restitution allotted to them to achieve equality which is the only means for benignant national reconstruction.
Hence it will be an intolerable betrayal of the cause of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes now engaged in a battle to attain dignity and equality, to allow millions of adherents of an alien, super rich, casteless religion to come crashing in and gobble up the largest part of the rights and benefits of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. And the onslaught of the new claimants will be uncontrollable for the simple reason that there is absolutely no foolproof method to verify any Christian’s claim to Scheduled Caste origin. Therefore practically all the Christians in India will be able to claim Scheduled Caste status and pocket the benefits. As it is, numberless Christians, even from the advanced sections, are nonchalantly pilfering Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights by use of spurious or forged records, causing grievous loss and injury to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
To reduce opposition among the public to their inhumane campaign the bishops and their henchmen are duplicitously spreading the impression that the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe benefits are something infinite and will expand limitlessly to accommodate even millions of new claimants with no loss to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
This is a pernicious falsehood. The quota of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe benefits such as job reservation is in strict ratio to their present population and cannot be expanded at all. Taking Kerala as an example, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Kerala, on the basis of their population ratio, have eight percent job reservation and twelve Members of the Legislative Assembly. If this claim of the Christian vested interests is enacted as law, nearly all the Christians in Kerala, who outnumber the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes many times and are incomparably more advanced, will at once snatch away all the benefits, leaving the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes out in the freezing cold to perish. Also the Christians, being immensely more powerful politically (being so well organised under the mighty Churches) will also bag all the twelve Member of the Legislative Assembly seats. Thus every avenue for the cruelly double-crossed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to progress, or even to voice their protest, will be closed for ever. Soon they will face a fate worse than in olden times. As planned by Christian interests, this will lead to a situation where the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have to convert or perish: which will open the floodgate of their cultural genocide.
This convention of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe representatives repeated the utterly false statement of the bishops in declaring that the Government was discriminating against the Scheduled Caste Christians. Firstly, there is no such entity as Scheduled Caste Christians. Secondly, the discrimination in India is in favour of the Christians of every type. Wherever Christians have gained majority and ascendancy in India as in the North-East, non-Christian minorities are being discriminated against most cruelly. In the rest of India all Christians, including the so-called Scheduled Caste Christians are being coddled and pampered in the name of minority rights. The truth is that globally Christians are the most powerful majority with the minority Christians in India making determined use of their extra-territorial affiliations to secure maximum political and financial clout.
In addition to these enormously lucrative minority privileges which the Churches receive and enjoy-keeping all of it to themselves exclusively with no thought of sharing with the Scheduled Castes or any one else-are the mammoth funds that are flowing from abroad into the coffers of the Churches and other Christian institutions. It is said that the Churches in Kerala alone are receiving nearly a thousand crore rupees every year in foreign funding. It should be noted that the declared purpose for much of the remittances is to render assistance to the needy among the Christians.
As the prelates, in spite of this, are constantly pleading the poverty of the Scheduled Caste Christians (and by implication their inability of help them) as the excuse to gouge the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, we are constrained to take a passing look, even if hopelessly perfunctory and incomplete, at the stupendous wealth of the Churches in order to demonstrate the deceit involved. The Roman Catholic Church, which spread all over the world under the aegis of the European colonial armies, is the most formidable accumulator of wealth the world has ever seen. And the Roman Catholic Church in India is an integral part of this Roman Catholic Imperium (for example, all the archbishops and bishops in India are appointed by the Vatican, and coded instructions are sent to them every day) whose stocks of gold ingots in the vaults of Fort Knox are second only to that of the Government of the United States of America. Experts on Vatican finances declare she has similar stocks in Europe also. And this is just the minutest part of the movable and immovable wealth of the Catholic Church which is stated to be so vast as to be beyond all rational assessment.
In India the Roman Catholic Church and other Churches taken together form the largest and richest landlord, second only to the Government. In British times with the patronage of the colonial rulers the Churches amassed vast fortunes in the shape of religious and institutional property and huge areas of priceless urban land; all this in addition to vast tracts of agricultural land and other assets. After independence, because of the continuing phenomenal influence of the Church leadership over the Central and State Governments, the wealth of the Churches continued to multiply. It will be scarcely an exaggeration to say that by now their wealth has increased more than a thousand times.
The Churches again have deftly and astutely established a stranglehold on education, raking in thousands of crores every year from the Government as well as public. In addition to the massive cathedrals and churches all over India whose value is beyond assessment, the Churches—especially the Roman Catholic Church—own thousands of schools, colleges, nunneries and monasteries and other institutions too numerous to mention. They also have vast holdings in real estate such as shopping complexes, office buildings and other commercial property. The extent of their movable property such as bank deposits, industrial stocks and shares—to mention just a few—naturally has to be equally impressive. And let us not forget the rivers of gold flowing into their coffers every year from the wealthy West. Altogether it can only be said that no matter how it is told, the list of the riches of the Churches will still only be the tip of a huge iceberg – an iceberg carefully kept submerged and hidden from view.
When all Christians, including those falsely labelled as Scheduled Caste Christians, are having exclusive enjoyment of this limitless wealth, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes existing in numbing poverty are not getting the tiniest benefit out of it. Thus those Christians who are bent on snatching away the meagre benefits of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes besides eating their rich cake and keeping it, are also trying to steal the gruel from the half empty bowls of their starving Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe neighbours. This is not loving one’s neighbours. It is destroying them out of sheer greed.
As for the bishops and archbishops, who are enjoying incomes running into millions and reside in palaces in the utmost pomp and luxury, to organise this unscrupulous, pitiless campaign at the cost of crores for the purpose of grabbing hold of the paltry benefits of the impoverished Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who are eking out a miserable existence in leaking hovels, is, to say the least, diabolical. It is in fact the second Inquisition.
At the same time we have to note that the prelates have never brought up the matter of Brahmin Christians or Kayastha Christians’ and demanded Brahmin and Kayastha rights for them. So it is plain for all to see that there is a well-calculated scheme behind this campaign to legalise the systematic plunder of Dalit rights and thereby cripple them forever. At present the law (as stated earlier) is that a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe person will forfeit his special benefits on conversion as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe caste status (and not poverty or anything else) is the only criterion for the benefits. This is perceived by the ecclesiastical leadership bent on aggressive proselytization as an irritating hurdle to their well-laid plans for mass conversions.
But if the law is changed (through Constitutional amendment) to entitle any Christian claiming Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe origin to receive the special Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe rights-which will of course be in addition to the munificent rewards paid out by the Churches for conversion-then conversion of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can take place all over India on a massive scale.
Then the vote banks under the command of the bishops will take a quantum jump. Vulnerable areas—assisted if need be by armed insurrections as in the North-East—can be turned into the fiefs of the prelates. And slowly but surely the ancient religion and culture of India and our precious national identity can be subverted, extirpated and supplanted by colonial Christianity, enabling the prelates to bask in even greater opulence, power and grandeur.
Here then the plain unvarnished truth is that it is the insatiable greed for dominion over ever larger territories in India through rapid evangelisation that is the far-reaching and sinister motive behind this perverse campaign of the Christian vested interests to usurp the rights and benefits of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This is religious corruption and banditry unequalled even in colonial times.
For Christians in need of financial assistance, the right course to follow will be to insist on the fair sharing of the mammoth funds and properties of the Churches among all Christians. While they are attempting this, they can obtain assistance, like other non-Dalit Indians, from Government welfare schemes. But most certainly it is not the responsibility of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes-the poorest of the nation’s poor-to undertake at the sacrifice of their welfare and also that of generations yet unborn-the task of making the followers of the Churches—the richest of the rich—richer. Thus it will be dishonourable and detestably wicked on the part of the Christians to snatch away the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which they need for their very survival.
The time has come for all nationalistic citizens of India, especially the Hindus, to acknowledge the immeasurable and eternal debt of gratitude they owe to their brethren of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who, even when suffering untold privation and humiliation, did not succumb to the enticements offered by a foreign religion implacably inimical to the religion of India; and chose with confidence and faith to remain in the Hindu fold: which has indeed been for the greater good of this nation.
Thus it is the bounden duty of all those who are devoted to our holy motherland -and all She signifies-to come forward with resolve and determination to protect the interests of our brothers and sisters of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which interests are now in such mortal danger, from inside as well as outside.
Similarly it is the first duty of all Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assemblies profoundly committed to the hallowed cause of the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes-the weakest and most vulnerable sections of our society-to throw aside all blandishments, and with probity and fidelity to work for this great cause by battling against the Christian vested interests who are waging this war of attrition on the helpless, defenceless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
When we watch, horror-struck, the stupendously rich prelates inflicting this new Inquisition on the abysmally poor Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, with the intention of snatching away their rights, we begin to understand that these prelates do not by any means subscribe to the exhortation of Christ to sell one’s riches and give the proceeds to the poor.
It is the most binding responsibility of the nation to protect and also ensure the sacred rights and benefits of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for as long as they are needed: not only for the benefit of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes but also for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
For the truth is that assured and continued welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is the very heartbeat of the nation.
How casteless Muslims and Christians obtain benefits meant only for caste Hindus – VIGIL REPORT
As of today, March 2010, Christians and Muslims remain excluded from the benefits extended to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Indians, as their respective ideologies do not recognise caste. However, to get around this constitutional obstacle, the majority or near majority of Christians and Muslims have been classified by their religious and community leaders as Backward Class (OB) or Other Backward Class (OBC) and are enjoying the benefits extended by the State and Central Government to these classes to the detriment of the Hindus in these classes. See the following table compiled by the political analyst and editor of the Internet website VigilOnLine, from the Census of India 1961 and the Sachar Committee Report 2006, Table 10.3 – Editor
- Around 40% of all Muslims are already enjoying the benefits of reservation under the OBC quota;
- The percentage of Muslims and Christians who are cornering the benefits of reservation in the BC and OBC quota vary from state to state;
- West Bengal – 2.4%;
- Uttar Pradesh – 62%;
- Kerala, where the Muslims constitute 25% of the total state population, 99% are classified as OBCs and are claiming reservation quota;
- In Tamil Nadu 93.3% Muslims have been notified as OBC by the state government in 2004-2005 whereas in 1999-2000 83% of Muslims were notified as OBC – a steep increase of 10% in just five years!
- All-India population as per 2001 Census – 2.3% or 24.2 million;
- 1/3 of all Christian population is tribal. Of the remaining 2/3, around 70% claim backward status;
- North-east – 5.3 million tribal Christians which is 1/4 – 1/5 of the total Christian population. The North-east Christians are all tribal people;
- Orissa – 8 lakh tribal Christians;
- Bihar and Jharkhand – 1.1 million tribal Christians;
- Of the remaining 16 million Christians, 60-70% of all Christians in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa are notified as OBCs with percentages varying from state to state as indicated earlier;
- Only 10% of all Christians in the country are not availing of any kind of reservation and these would be largely the Goan and the Syrian Christians.
Now let us look at some hard facts about the politics and religion behind reservations
- All-India reservation – total 50%. ST 7.5%, SC 15%, OBC 27.5%;
- All-India tribal population stands at 8.2% while all-India SC population is 16.2%;
- Christians constitute only 10% of the total tribal population but they corner 90% of all ST reservation quotas in higher education and government employment;
- J&K has 11% tribal population but they probably get nothing;
- Around 70% of Christians and Muslims have been brought into the quota regime as backward communities or backward classes;
- There is no category called Scheduled Caste Christians or Muslims. When the church demands reservation for so-called Dalit Christians and God forbid, that it may ever happen, then the church will de-notify large segments of the OBC Christian population and re-classify them as Scheduled Castes so that they can corner all the benefits of SC reservation just as they are cornering all the benefits of the ST reservation quota.
This cornering is made possible only because of the constitutional right provided to minorities to start and run educational institutions. There is a move now afoot to equate degrees obtained from Muslim madarasas to the CBSE board so that the Muslims in the OBC spectrum may be enabled to corner another major chunk of the benefits of reservation just as the Christians are doing now.
Tamil Nadu total 69% reservation
- 50% BC + MBC – 30% BC, 20% MBC;
- 18% SC – 15% + 3% exclusively for Arundhatiyar community;
- 1% for ST;
- About 90% of all Muslims and Christians have been included for reservation under the 30% BC category;
- 70% of all Tamil Nadu population is considered BC, a very unusual and high percentage;
- 50% of the 70% BC population is qualified for reservation.
Now let us see how this works in real terms by taking admission to medical colleges as an example. There are altogether 3000 medical seats of which 30% or 900 seats are allotted to the BC, 600 seats or 20% of the total are allotted to the MBC.
Christians constitute 6.5% of the total Tamil Nadu population while Muslims constitute 5.5%. Of the total 6.5% of Christians, 6.1% or around 80% of the total Christian population have been classified as BC. This is 1/9 of the total population. BC Christians were cornering 300 seats out of the 900 medical seats every year; that is 1/9 of the population was claiming 1/3 of the share of seats. And that is why Christian politicians and the Christian clergy met the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to ask him to rescind the order granting 3.5% reservation for Christians. The Tamil Nadu government promptly rescinded the order and allowed the Christians to come back into the 30% BC quota segment which was getting them phenomenal returns. Christians must be removed from the 30% BC quota unless we want a situation someday in the near future when they may rampage across the entire BC spectrum. Giving this super-forward religion even 3.5% quota is bad enough but allowing them to occupy the elephant’s space in the BC quota segment is willful betrayal of the cause of Hindu backward classes.
The same would be true of all professional colleges and in admissions to all under-graduate and post-graduate degrees too. We must not be beguiled into thinking that the remaining seats go to Hindu BCs and MBCs. If we consider the possibility that preference in reservation is given to anti-Hindu, irreligious Dravidian Tamils with marked political affiliations, then we begin to understand what is happening in the Madras High Court and in all other courts of Tamil Nadu. Reservation benefits are being hogged by the minorities and anti-Hindu Dravidian Tamils. Tamil Hindu SCs, BCs and MBCs are being increasingly marginalized and alienated from the mainstream.
The Tamil Nadu government had announced 3.5% exclusive reservation for Christians and Muslims. This 7% minority reservation quota was supposed to have been hived off the 30% BC reservation quota. In the beginning, the church welcomed the move but soon beat the retreat when it realised that under the 3.5% exclusive quota, Christian BCs were eligible only for 105 seats as against the 300 seats it was snatching from the mouths of Hindu BCs.
Now let us look at the last government deception which is proving fatal to Hindu Backward class and castes. According to the 2001 Census report which for the first time was collecting such data on the basis of religion, if we consider urbanization and literacy as indicators or indices of forwardness, then in Tamil Nadu:
- Male literacy is Christians 90%, Muslims also 90%, Hindus 81.5%;
- Female literacy is Christians 82%, Muslims 76%, Hindus 62.5%;
- Urbanized percentage – Christians 56%, Muslims 73%, Hindus 41%.
1. This article was written in 1994. The politicians and lawyers who support the Christian demand for caste identity are Ajit Jogi, Ex-Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Ram Vilas Paswan, JD Secretary General, Prakash Karat, CPI (M) Secretary General, Sitaram Kesari, deceased former Union Welfare Minister , and Soli Sorabjee, former Advocate General.
2. This was in 1994. The amount is vastly greater today in 2010.
3. Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, 14 January 2010: In a shocking case of caste discrimination, a Dalit has alleged that he was forced to eat human faeces by a group of “high caste Christians” for walking with shoes in their street in the district. The Dalit youth, in his complaint to the Batalagundu police inspector, said “a group of high caste Christians forced human faeces into my mouth after beating me for walking with chappals in their street”. Sadayandi, who is from Indhira Nagar in Meikovilpatti in Dindigul district, claimed the incident occurred on 7 January 2010 when a group of more than 10 “caste Christians” stopped him and asked if he was not aware of the “order” that Dalits should not walk with chappals in their street. Then they asked him to remove his chappals and slapped him with them, he said. – PTI
4. What can be inferred from this analysis is that Christians and Muslims who do not ideologically recognise caste divisions, have “stolen” most of the benefits meant for Hindu Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and Hindu Backward Classes and Other Backward Classes. If it comes about that “Dalit Christians” and “Dalit Muslims” are recognised by the Government as caste entities, then Christians and Muslims will hog all of the benefits with nothing left for Dalit Hindus. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Hindus will then have to convert to Christianity (or Islam) in order to obtain these benefits. The Indian bishops are aware of this and it is a part of their game plan to decimate the Hindu society in this way.
COMMUNAL DIVIDE IN SCHOLARSHIPS by Adithya Reddy
The UPA government’s minority-welfare measures have been criticised for obliquely re-enforcing existing communal divides in society. The centrepiece of the government’s efforts is the prime minister’s 15-point programme for welfare of minorities unveiled in 2005.
Few people would dispute the desirability of measures that address problems specific to minority communities. The question of appeasement and discrimination becomes relevant only when preferential treatment is sought to be given on communal lines on problems like education, which affect people beyond social barriers.
One component of the programme that has evoked protest from some political parties is the ‘scholarship for meritorious students from minority communities’. This consists of two schemes, one each for pre-matric and post-matric students.
The criteria stipulate that an applicant should have at least 50 per cent marks in the previous final examination and that the annual income of the parents should not exceed `1 lakh in the case of pre-matric students and `2 lakh in for post-matric students. The scholarship rates vary between `6,000 and `10,000 per annum.
The objective of the scholarship is to “encourage parents from minority communities to send their schoolgoing children to school, lighten their financial burden on education and sustain their efforts to support their children to complete school education…and to enhance the employability”.
Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before law to all persons and this guarantee embraces the entire realm of state action, including grant of privileges. The Punjab & Haryana High Court struck down as unconstitutional rules that made students eligible for scholarships on the basis of their place of study and their parents’ employment in a state government.
Equality, as enshrined in the Constitution, does not mean the state cannot classify people into groups and treat them differently. It only means that classification should be reasonable and should rest on ‘differences pertinent to the subject in respect of which classification is made.’
The most controversial and oft-litigated form of preferential treatment is reservation. The Supreme Court has said that reservation cannot be provided to a religious community, without a lawful determination of its ‘social and educational backwardness’.
In Triloki Nath Tiku Vs State of J&K, the Supreme Court struck down the policy of the state, whereby 50 per cent of government job vacancies were reserved for the Muslims of Kashmir for the entire state, 40 per cent for Hindus of Jammu and 10 per cent for Kashmiri Hindus. In the famous Indra Sawhney case, the Supreme Court held that just like caste, religion could also be an indicator of social backwardness.
However, the judges clarified that the authority surveying communities for determining backwardness cannot use a uniform yardstick for the whole country. The court observed that “in a particular State, Muslim community as a whole may be found socially backward… Similarly, certain sections and denominations among Christians in Kerala who were included among backward communities notified in the former princely State of Travancore as far back as in 1935 may also be surveyed and so on and so forth… The approach may differ from State to State since the conditions in each State may differ…Nay, even within a State, conditions may differ from region to region.”
By implication, no reservation can be provided to a religious community on a uniform basis across the country. The government needs to first establish ‘social and educational backwardness’ of each and every denomination, sub-sect of a religious community in every region. This principle will apply to any preferential treatment the government wishes to give to minorities.
Also, it is relevant to note that the government has introduced an economic criterion as well in determining eligibility for these scholarships. Therefore, it’s discrimination between the economically weak of different communities. How can Hindu children with families earning less than `1 lakh be any less eligible for scholarships than their minority counterparts?
One should not underestimate the impact such discrimination can have on the minds of children.
In 2005, the National Sample Survey Organisation released a detailed report on the education and employment situation among major religious groups. While Muslims do appear to lag in the field of education, the report states that the “proportion of persons with educational level secondary and above, was far greater among Christians” than Hindus.
This is significant as 30 per cent of scholarships are earmarked for girl students from minority communities. Even with regard to employment, the rates in urban areas were more or less same between Hindus and Muslims (4 per cent). Where are the facts to show that, on a pan-India basis, the minorities are in more need of ‘encouragement’ to educate and employ their children?
The recent decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court that struck down 4 per cent quota for ‘backward’ Muslims in government jobs has been stayed by the Supreme Court and has no legal value. However, one feature of the judgement deserves serious attention — it’s recognition of the ‘potential to encourage conversions’ as a legal ground for challenging reservations.
Scholarships and schemes that provide immediate financial benefits to people are bound to encourage religious conversions, if granted on communal lines. No one questions the need for efforts to educate minorities. What is unconstitutional is the exclusion of others from the same benefits. – The New Indian Express, Chennai, Sept. 3, 2010
› Adithya Reddy is an advocate at the Madras High Court.