Vituperative outbursts by the alumni of Delhi University's St. Stephen'sCollege notwithstanding, the management is bent upon using its vast resources and facilities to the advantage of the Christian community though it is entirely funded from the tax payers money. The church doesn'tfoot the bill for the running of the institution.
While it is true that the Indian Constitution nowhere defines what a minority is, the fact remains that Articles 29 and 30 provide special provisions for religious and linguistic minorities, and it is under these provisions that many religious groups are operating educational and other institutions.
In an era in which there are growing doubts about the efficacy of reservations in general, and the socially divisive impact of quotas for increasingly smaller castes and sub-castes, there is a need to re-examine every aspect of the reservation debate with an open mind. While there may be merit in doing away with government-ordained quotas that are driven by political considerations, it may not be necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater by doing away with reservations altogether. My point is that quotas can be made optional and voluntary.
To begin with, it needs to be recognised that the Constituent Assembly debates came loaded with a lot of colonial cultural and political baggage. As a result, the authors of the Constitution believed that the only way to ?uplift? the lot of the disadvantaged groups that the British Raj had listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, was by giving them reservations in politics and employment. This was later extended to higher education though commensurate measures were not adopted to ensure cent per cent primary and secondary school education for either SCs, STs or other sections of the society. The subsequent extension of quotas to other Backward Castes and the current attempt to introduce quotas for religious minorities has since inflamed public opinion.
One of the fallacies of the reservation debate is that religious minorities are either necessarily backward and that they need some form of constitutional protection. The crux of the problem here is that while some Muslim religious leaders are opposed to the division of the community on the basis of their former Hindu castes for quota benefits, though almost 80 per cent of them are covered under the caste-quota, the Church is anxious to procure quotas and other benefits for what it calls Dalit Christians.
It is this attempt to give admission benefits to Dalit Christians and other (upper castes) Christians that has made St. Stephen'sthe recipient of the rage of former alumni who find themselves losing the British Raj-Upper Caste Brand Equity hitherto bestowed by the college! Not one of the commentators has railed against the Church of North India which owns St. Stephens for bestowing a social stigma and a historical disability upon the flock it was mandated to protect and uplift when it converted SCs or STs to Christianity. The church has been practicing and perpetuating inegality and alumni are worried about its impact upon their snob value!
Rather than waste time on legalese, we may take it that the term minority in all practical respects refers to religions originating outside the territory of India, which have come to this land either as refugees (Parsis, Bahai?s, Jews, Tibetans) or as invaders/rulers, who then made local converts. Whether these groups require or desire special privileges or protection is a different matter.
However, since the Constitution has provided facilities for setting up minority institutions (i.e., set up and managed by religious minorities), there is no reason why these should be denied the right to function as wholly minority-serving bodies. There is actually no justification for religious organisations using minority provisions to set up schools, colleges, professional colleges, and then using them as money-making organisations. While hospitals set up by religious foundations may not wish to turn away patients from any religion, I strongly feel that schools and colleges set up under minority provisions of the law should cater to the community in whose name they have been set up. If Dalit Christians have low literacy and employment, the converting organisation should be called to account.
Christian religious and so-called secular organisations are richly funded from western countries (for non-altruistic purposes), yet most money is spent in making fresh converts rather than raising the level of those already in the fold, a point made by the Poor Christian Liberation Movement. That is why the Dalit and Tribal Christians have come to be a kind of voiceless majority whose chief characteristic is an imposed deprivation by the Church hierarchy.
I am aware that concerned Hindus will promptly warn that these new religion-specific quotas will be used to win converts by allurement. This is certainly not a possibility to be ignored.
Secondly and more importantly, wherever an organisation by a religious minority comes up, government must provide the majority community a parallel facility so that conversions by allurement cannot take place. Thus a Christian dental college or a Muslim engineering college must be accompanied by the licensing of a Hindu/general dental or engineering college(s) in the same region. Nowhere should minority organisations be allowed to have a monopoly over any educational sphere to the disadvantage of the Hindu community. With private sector anxious to enter the educational sphere, this could adequately accommodate the legitimate aspirations of all communities and groups, without creating unnecessary competition and bitterness. Our national goal is education for all, and not this much percentage for that sub-group. With good intent, there is room for all.