By Bansi Lal Katyal
It is not surprising that following the Congress-led Andhra Pradesh Government provided reservation to Muslims, the Central Government led by the Indian National Congress, is pushing for providing the (constitutional) concession for extending reservations to Dalit Scheduled Castes even after their conversion to Christianity which at present is not available under the Indian Constitution under Article 342.
In the Christian community in India the caste bias against the Dalits has persisted even after their conversion to Christianity. There are instances of separate churches for exclusive communities. Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity are provided rear seats in the Church gatherings, and there are separate cemeteries for the Christian converts from the erstwhile Dalits or Scheduled Caste Hindus.
The Church in India and other non-Government Christianity-promoting organisations in India are estimated to receive from foreign sources annually nearly Rs. 2,500 crore. Not even one per cent of this large dole or donation, extended to them by foreigners, is spent or used for the benefit of converted Dalit Christians of India.
A Dalit Christian orginisation-Poor Christian Movement-holds the view that a sea-change is feasible in the social and economic conditions of the Dalit Christians of India, if only the concerted efforts of the Church in India are focussed on improving their social and economic status.
However, the truth is otherwise. The highest concern and priority of the hierarchy of the Church is to maximise the number of the Christians in India as also elsewhere.
The proportion of Dalits converted to Christianity forms 70 per cent of the entire Indian Christian community, yet the Dalits converted to Christianity are subjected to exploitation by the 30 per cent minority Christians who got converted to Christianity from erstwhile higher castes or communities amongst Hindus. Dalit Christian children cannot secure admission to missionary educational institutions and schools put up with foreign aid.
It is noteworthy that out of a total of 156 Catholic Bishops in India, 150 belong to the higher caste converts to Christianity with a meager six coming from the Dalit Christian segment.
There are estimated to be 12,500 Christian priests in India but only 600 of them come from the predominant section of Dalit Christian converts.
The continued urge of the Church for securing the privileges and concessions of reservations to be continued to the Dalit converted to Christianity even after their conversion, is to give a massive push to conversions. Christian Church tempts Hindu Dalits for conversion with the allurement of a higher social status and an attractive magnet of the glamour of the Western Christian civilized world, which eludes them. They are left yearning to see the Christian community to rise for their elevation.
But converts from Dalit community to Christianity get alienated from their mother country without any tangible substantial social, economic or political dividends to themselves. Both they and the country get scourged in such contrived conversions, ensured only by allurements, springing not in the least from any changes in religious beliefs or faiths, which is the usual advanced platform of those advocating freedom of religions in practice and propagation.
It can be asserted without fear of any contradiction that both the Protestant and the Catholic churches and clergy in India have never concerned themselves with the Dalits beyond their possessive urge to push for and manage their conversion to Christianity with all sorts of manipulations to boost the Christian population in Asia as repeatedly exhorted by Pope John Paul II and other Christian faith big-wigs.
Instead of creating a scientific, rational temper and awakening the Church is enmeshed in propagating superstition attracting people with religious bent of mind to the myths of miracles of the saints. No reasonable scientific mind can relish or easily endure such old outmoded impossible beliefs masquerading rational thought. The miracles of the church are surprisingly a great calumny perpetrated even on seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people. No substantive rise in the condition of the converted Christians is likely without first ensuring an effective participation for them in the set-up, operation and hierarchy of the churches in India and outside India. There is no redemption in sight for the Dalits converted to Christianity who were lured into such faith-change by the assurances of social rise besides substantial economic boosts, promises that quietly vanished as soon as the conversions got effected. This is no less than a trickster'sfraud upon the credulous converts who again failed to escape from their miseries despite flight from their Hindu environs and communities. They become aliens to their own Hindu faith, land of this country and her people without finding any solace in their new Christian surroundings, which they ardently wished only to find their aspirations ditched. They did not get any social and economic betterment and their condition continues to remain as before.
The political executive at the Central Government'slevel stands effectively debarred from treating Dalits converted to Christianity as Scheduled Castes by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had clearly declared that in exercise of its powers under Article 341(1) of the Constitution of India the Dalit Hindus converted to Christianity cannot justifiably be allowed to continue enjoying the benefits and concessions otherwise admissible to Scheduled Castes. This was a well-reasoned judicial articulation by the Supreme Court in the case of Soorai vs. Union of India, AIR 1986 SC 733.
(The writer is a retired Executive Engineer, Haryana Public Health, and can be contacted at 117, Sector-8, Faridabad-121006)