Hindu Vivek Kendra
Politicisation of issues

The way the Christians politicise issues is also exposed in the way they have handled the issue of the so-called dalit Christians. They are seeking to get the facility of reservation in jobs and education similar to ones that are available to the Hindu dalits. We posed the following four points to the Christians and to the so-called secular press in this demand for reservations:

1. In an editorial in The Examiner ("matters of Concern", June 18, 1994), it was said: "The majority of Catholics in India have always been poor, and have been kept at a distance by their better-off co-religionists. Since a few years ago, they have been designated as Dalits, thus emphasising and perpetuating a shameful caste distinction.... They are considered as members of an inferior Church.... To agitate for their being included in the list of Scheduled Castes, as the All India Catholic Union (a laity organisation) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India have promised to do, for the sake of economic aid, is no service to them. It is only deepening the stigma of inferiority that will mark them for generations. Instead, if a massive effort is mounted to educate them and provide for their social needs, we would only be working out our mission as Christians." There needs to be a statement why the above sentiments are no longer valid.

2. The Dalits were converted to Christianity on the basis that they would be no longer treated as such in their new religion. However, the practice continued and therefore would it not be right to say that the conversions were made on the basis of false promises?

3. What is being done about discrimination of the Dalits within the various churches, where there are separate entrances, separate seating and separate graveyards for the Dalits? 

4. Large sums of money are being sought by various Christian missionaries all over the world for the purpose of converting Hindus. Is it not desirable to use this money to first uplift the Dalits and make them economically sustainable?

In the scheme of vorbeireden, such awkward questions are best left unanswered. But the campaign for the demand of special benefits to be given by the government continues. As usual, most of the so-called secular English press and the intellectuals are on the side of the Christians in this case. There seems to be a sustained campaign of ensuring that debates do not take place at the intellectual level, particularly where Hinduism is involved.

Another issue of politicisation is the opposition to the nuclear tests. A joint statement by various churches and secular bodies was issued criticising the tests on moral grounds. At the same time, this statement congratulated the scientists for their brilliant technical performance! The statement was silent on the fact that the first four nuclear powers are all Christian countries, and did not mention about the efforts made by the same churches to get them to disband their arsenal. The silence of the churches when France conducted tests just prior to signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is deafening. This statement and other similar pronouncements were clearly against the BJP and not the tests.

Old issues, long settled, are raked up again and again. An example is the forged letter written in the name of Shri Padmanabh Acharya, the BJP co-ordinator for the Northeast. This had first surfaced in Assam in the late 1980s, and the fact that it was a forgery was conclusively established then. The Christian group that had a dialogue with us gave a copy for our comments. In January 1995, we gave the reasons why the whole thing is a forgery, and said, "After having come in contact with us for a considerable period, the AICU should not be so gullible as to believe such material deliberately planted."

In March 1998, at the time of the general elections, this letter makes the round of Delhi once again. We understand that the mastermind behind this is one of the national secretaries of the AICU. (He was not a member of the Christian group in the dialogue that we had.) He is the same person who piloted the statement condemning the nuclear tests and is also prominent in politicisation the issue of the attacks on Christians. A national English weekly, Outlook (June 22, 1998), in an article on the alleged targeting of the Christians, mentioned this forged letter. This confirms the collaboration of the Christian lobbyists and the so-called secular media.

In contrast, the issue of changes in the Christian Marriages Act has not received a fraction of the recognition that these political issues have. The present act as applicable to the Christians in this country is against the interest of the woman, and does not meet any of the criteria of normal humanistic principles. A man can divorce his wife by proving adultery on part of the latter. For a woman to seek a divorce on the same ground, she has to prove an additional charge like desertion, mental or physical cruelty, etc. The daughters have very little rights in terms of inheritance, and the wife even less so. There is no provision for adoption by Christians, and the adults at best become guardians. This creates problem in issues relating to inheritance.

In a three-part article in The Examiner starting in issue dated October 11, 1997, Smt Rita Monterio ("Gender justice in Christian personal law") gave a detailed exposition about the whole process of bringing about the changes. A group of concerned Christians of all sects came together and made a detailed proposal about the desirable changes. They even gave a draft bill to the government in February 94. This group had discussions with the various churches, and was able to convince them about the desirability of the changes.

When the issue came up in the Parliament in March 1996, the then Law Minister said,

"As the policy of the government has been not to interfere in the personal laws of the minority community, unless the initiative came from the community concerned, the government has requested the National Commission for Minorities to assess the views of the Christian community by interacting with different sections of it, before the matter is processed further. Hence, it is too early to set any time-frame for undertaking any legislation in this regard."

Smt Monterio lamented,

"Thus, in one fell swoop, the Government obliterated the concerted efforts of the Christian community leaders who had worked for four years through peaceful dialogue to arrive at unanimity among themselves in support of reform of the Christian personal law."

The issue of changes in the personal laws finds no mention in the discourse either by the Christian laity or by the so-called secularists. They have not organised any protest marches or held any well-publicised programme on it. While this issue has merit for politicisation, all the groups are conspicuously silent. The reason for the inaction of the 'secular' governments is obvious - changes in the Christian laws will automatically trigger a demand for changes in the Muslim laws. This is something to be avoided at all costs, since that is what secularism means in India. The Christian hierarchy and laity are permitting themselves to be pawns in this game of vote bank politics.

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