Church takes Converted Christians for a ride

via R L Francis published on July 26, 2011

Church leaders have started pressurizing government to implement Rangnath Mishra Commission Report in order to include converted Christians in scheduled castes category. This demand is not new and it has met with resistance by the Hinduss. Even Christians have protested against this demand. The first such demand was raised during Puna Pact in the year 1936 when the first list of scheduled castes had been published during British regime that had rejected this demand saying, “No Indian Christian is entitled to demand for scheduled castes status.”

This issue was raised again during discussion of the constitution committee as this issue was associated with ‘Communal Award’ of 1935 under which certain seats in the legislature were reserved for few religious sects. Most of the members of constitution committee such as Dr. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal L Nehru, Sardar Patel, C. Rajagopalachari and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had rejected this proposal saying except lower strata of Hindus as these so called lower castes have been facing social discrimination of worst kind since ages.

Constitution committee accepted, in principal, to provide reservation to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes with unanimity. Majority of the society also accepted the policy of reservation. They sacrificed ‘Right to equality’ in favour of such castes as compensation to bad behaviour meted out to these castes by their ancestors. Nehru government had kept Muslims and Christians out of the ambit of reservation for scheduled castes. Nehru government had entitled President of India to notify a specific caste as scheduled caste. Amendments made in section 341 says that only  Hindus will be included in scheduled castes and will be entitled to take benefits of reservation. In 1956, lower castes in Sikh community and Neo-Buddhists in 1990 were included in the list.

Many lower castes, during British period, converted in the hope of getting rid off from the caste system. Millions of people converted into the Christianity with the dream of getting environment where there will be no discrimination at all. This situation changed once India got independence. Church leadership started playing double game. On the one hand, they continued converting those scheduled castes who had already reservation and on the other hand it started demanding job reservation for converted Christians. 

In the year 1959, during Jawaharlal Nehru period, in a circular issued by home ministry (Govt. of India No-18458-S C T-1V Dated 23 rd July 1959) directed all state government to upheld the status of converted Christians. However, in another letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru, to all the chief ministers of states, bluntly refused to provide reservation on the basis of religon.
In 1996, former Prime Minister, Narsimha Rao just before the Lok Sabha elections brought an ordinance to bring converted Christians into the domain of scheduled castes but then President Shankar Dayal Sharma had refused to sign on it. Deve Gowda government also wanted to bring constitutional amendment bill in order to bring converted Christians under the ambit of scheduled castes in 1997 but he could not succeed because of stiff resistance from the Opposition parties. Most of the state governments had resisted this move. 

Hanumanthaappa, Congress leader from Karnataka, who led Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission, had rejected the demand of including converted Christians in the list of scheduled caste. Later, successive chairmen, Dr Surajbhan, Shri Vijay Sonkar Shastri and Buta Singh, of the Commission continued this policy.

On January 4, 2008, Converted Christian Organisation ‘Poor Christian Liberation Movement’ (PCLM) in an open letter had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a copy to the Leader of opposition, 200 MPs from various parties, 250 Bishops of Catholic and Protestant Churches.

In the said letter, PCLM had asked certain questions such as why Church is demanding for reservation instead of giving converted Christians a place in the administrative set-up of Church. Those lower castes who had been converted few hundred years ago in the hope of getting rid off from the caste system of Hindus; why they are still in the same position? During the last three hundred years, what the Church has done for the social and economic upliftment of converted Christians? If the status of converts has not changed during the course of three hundred years and if Church has failed to free them from the fetters of social and economic discrimination; then ultimate fault lies with the Church leadership. How many converted Christians have been able to earn name for them? 70 percent of Christian population comprises converts from lower caste, but can Church dare to tell what is their representation in the institutions run by the Church? What is their representation in Church administration? And, why converted Christians are still facing discrimination within the Church?
Church wants to leave the converted Christians on the mercy of government. Most  Christian intellectuals term it ‘Betrayal’. PCLM has sought compensation in this regard from the Church. We have also demanded the Church to issue a White Paper in order to know what has been the parameter of development of converted Christians.

Even Supreme Court has left the decision to include converted Christians in the list of scheduled caste on central government. In the nut shell nobody is in favour of this demand of Church leadership. Now, time has come for converted Christians to ask Church to accept their demand. Lower caste converted Christians should understand that Church is fighting a lost battle. Their intention is not the welfare of converted Christians but they are looking for new battle ground to shift the attention of the converted  Christians from the real problem. Church does not want reservation in jobs for the converted Christians. Their only demand is to include converted Christians in the list of scheduled caste.  This will pave the way to increase their support base and will help it politically. Lower caste converts had opted for Christianity in the hope of getting equal status in the society. Church should not try to push them in the age-old caste system. Converted Christians should oppose this conspiracy of the Church.

The writer is President of the Poor Christain Liberation Movement
Email:[email protected]

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