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Buta Singh has a point on religious reservation

Buta Singh has a point on religious reservation

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: Organiser
Date: February 3, 2008
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=222&page=4

The de-legitimisation of the word 'dalit' (which means "broken, crushed") is a blow to the West-funded evangelical industry which has long promoted the term to forge separatism amongst the Scheduled Castes. The 250 million Scheduled Castes are a principal target of the conversion industry that has abused the caste system for discrimination against the SCs and promised them equality and economic enhancement.

In an era of craven hankering after communal and caste vote banks, Mr. Buta Singh, chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), has sounded a note of common sense by asking state governments not to use the word 'dalit' in official documents as it is "unconstitutional". Noting that 'dalit' is sometimes used as a substitute for Scheduled Caste in official documents, the NCSC made a legal study and concluded that 'dalit' is neither constitutional nor has it been mentioned in current laws.

The term 'Scheduled Caste', on the other hand, is both appropriate and notified as per Article 341 of the Constitution. Accepting the merit of this position, the Chhattisgarh government has directed district collectors and departments not to use the term 'dalit' in official documents. It is to be hoped that other state governments will follow suit.

The de-legitimisation of the word 'dalit' (which means "broken, crushed") is a blow to the West-funded evangelical industry which has long promoted the term to forge separatism amongst the Scheduled Castes. The 250 million Scheduled Castes are a principal target of the conversion industry that has abused the caste system for discrimination against the SCs and promised them equality and economic enhancement.

The promises, however, were never kept, and in recent times, the Church started clamouring for reservation benefits for so-called dalit Christians and dalit Muslims. The ingenuous argument forwarded was that in India it is impossible to escape the tentacles of the caste system, hence its so-called evils have crept into the egalitarian faiths of Islam and Christianity, and hence the SC converts to these faiths should enjoy the benefits extended to Hindu SCs in order to overcome their continuing backwardness.

The argument is dizzyingly circular. There must be a gross misuse of funds by the multi-billion dollar conversion industry if it cannot improve the economic situation of the so-called depressed castes. Worse, there must be a deep rot in the church if it cannot grant social equality and dignity to those whom it has pulled out of their traditional civilizational matrix, socially isolated by conversion, and then abandoned to wallow in fresh discrimination!

There is no excuse for SC discrimination in the church, and it is high time the Government of India invoked existing laws against church clergy and laity for persisting abuse. An immediate crackdown should be made against exclusively dalit churches, followed by an action against churches with segregated pews for sitting, separate water for communion, and separate burial spaces.

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes wisely asserted in December 2007 that dalit converts to Christianity and Islam do not suffer the same maladies as Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh dalits. In other words, Christianity and Islam must prove that they practice untouchability; that untouchability is valid in the theology of their respective faiths; before claiming the constitutional benefits reserved for former untouchables of Hindu society! And once they admit and prove that they uphold and practice untouchability, the law must crack down upon them.

Those who have been lured to abandon the Hindu fold cannot avail of constitutional guarantees intended to uplift depressed sections of Hindu society. It is pertinent to remember that the British Raj introduced the Ramsay MacDonald Award with separate electorates for SCs in order to fragment Hindu society; this ploy became infructuous once independent India adopted universal adult suffrage with reserved seats for SCs and STs.

Since then, the church has been actively agitating for converts to get access to the political and economic advantages now cornered by Hindu depressed classes. A common ruse is to maintain two identities-avail of Scheduled Caste benefits by not disclosing one's Christian faith. As this falsehood is now widely known, it should be mandatory for all district collectors to check if Scheduled Castes availing of constitutional benefits in their areas attend church services and have their children baptized. Legal action should be initiated against all those doing so, and the benefits diverted to bona fide claimants.

We need to recognise before it is too late that just as the Muslim League was used to partition the country in 1947, the conversion of SCs also has a political agenda. Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, who appeared before the National Human Rights Commission following the recent violence in Kandhamal, Orissa, warned that conversion is rampant in tribal areas and there is large-scale forgery of tribal certificates. He said converted Christians in his area forged Kui tribal certificates to get jobs, and the racket would be easily unearthed in any honest inquiry. He demanded a mechanism to regulate the flow of foreign funds to NGOs, and it is high time a law was put in place to ban the use of international funds to promote conversions.


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