Kerala High Court unseated CPM’s A Raja MLA for manipulating his religion and caste in the nomination paper. He was elected to the Kerala Legislative Assembly in the elections that took place in April 2021.
Devikulam assembly constituency is in the hilly district of Idukki and is reserved for SC/ST. Justice Somarajan’s order says that Raja is not eligible to contest from a ‘Reservation’ constituency. D Kumar of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the defeated candidate, filed a petition before the HC, arguing that Raja is a Christian and hence not a member of the Hindu Paraya community, an SC caste.
A Raja had argued that his ancestors belonged to the Hindu Paraya community in Tamil Nadu, an SC caste. His ancestors came to Idukki as tea plantation labourers. He maintained that Hindu Paraya, like in Kerala, is an SC caste in Tamil Nadu.
A Raja and D Kumar were born and brought up in neighbouring places and grew up as leaders of CPM and Congress, respectively. D Kumar had been stating since the very beginning of the election campaign that he knew the family of Raja from his childhood. So, was sure, Raja’s family were converted Christians. He had drawn the attention of the Election Commission to this issue but in vain. Therefore, he moved to HC in June 2021 after the Assembly elections.
HC stated that even though Raja’s ancestors had reservation rights in Tamil Nadu, he cannot claim the same in Kerala. Because, Rashtrapathi determines, in consultation with the State Governors, which community belongs to SC or ST. The caste certificate, stating that he belonged to Hindu Paraya, attached to the nomination paper is not right. Raja claims that his wedding was as per Hindu rituals. He cited the presence of traditional lamp (nilavilakku) and thalikettu (golden chain the groom ties in bride’s neck). But there is no evidence to substantiate it. The wedding album shows that the wedding was conducted as per Christian traditions. Raja had replied that he did not remember whether Bible was read on the occasion, who handed over the thali chain and whether there was a priest to solemnise the wedding. When asked whether his mother marked ‘cross’ on his forehead with finger (a Christian wedding tradition), he replied that she had touched his forehead to bless.
Raja had submitted, before the Court, Kundala CSI Church Family Register, etc. It was noticed that his parents’ names had been changed, from Antony and Esther to Anpumani and Elsy, respectively. Grandparents’ name had been changed, from Lakshmanan and Pushpa to E. Remanan and Pushpamani, respectively. It proves that the names are amended to establish that it was not Raja’s family register. Raja said, his father was Antony and mother Eashwari.
Now, it is clear that there were deliberate efforts to hide the truth. Naturally, HC could assume that Raja had embraced Christianity long before and had been following that tradition. The verdict is based on the Representation of the People Act.
In Kerala and other parts of the country, converted Christians have been trying to get reservation rights for SC/ST, which they belonged to before embracing Christianity. In fact, the PV Narasimha Rao and H D Deva Gowda regimes had piloted bills in this regard. But, it did not work, thanks to the procedural technicalities. The idea was to get SC/ST reservations for education and employment for converted Christians. Almost all political parties, except for BJP, have been in favour of this. RSS and Sangh-inspired organisations are always against it. Such legislation will definitely serve as a shot in the arm for the conversion drive of the Church.