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Conferring SC status to converts to Christianity and Islam: Some Pointers

The concept of identifying a caste or community as a backward class or scheduled caste has now become archaic and has created a vested interest in backwardness. There have been demands and efforts from time to time to get Scheduled Caste status to persons of Scheduled Caste origin professing Christianity or Islam in spite of the fact that their representation in services was adequate and that they were already getting the benefits of reservations as OBCs. The Ranganatha Misra Commission appointed by UPA government recommended extending SC status to the converts. The report and recommendations of the Commission were not accepted by the Modi Government and Justice Balakrishna Commission was appointed to look into the matter. Instead of waiting for the recommendations of the Balakrishna Commission, the Honorable Supreme Court wants to adjudicate a batch of petitions pending before it.

The term “Scheduled Caste” appeared for the first time in the Government of India Act, 1935. The Government of India Scheduled Castes Order 1936 was issued under this Act. Paragraph 3 of the 1936 Order explicitly states, “No Indian Christian shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.” The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 reiterates this and, in its present version, states that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”

Discrimination on the grounds of religion?

The Muslim and Christian political leaders lament that the converts from the SCs into their respective religions are deprived of the benefits of reservation, support, and development schemes formulated for their counterparts in Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist religions. They vehemently argue that the exclusion of Christianity and Islam from the purview of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 is discriminatory and unconstitutional, being violative of the provisions of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 14,15, 16, and 25 of the Constitution. In their view, this amounts to discrimination by the State on the ground of religion.

 The followers of these religions are now alleging that they are being discriminated against not only by the society but even by their own religious institutions like churches or mosques. They show as evidence the existence of separate churches/ mosques or separate prayer halls or prayer timings in the same church/mosque for them and earmarked areas for the burial of their dead.

Historical Context of the Constitutional Order

The Constitution (SC) Order,1950 confers a special status to the” Castes” discriminated against within the Hindu religious system for certain historical reasons. Parameters or criteria applied by the British authorities for identifying depressed classes (which later came to be known as Scheduled Castes) were largely related to the practices and prejudices associated with untouchability. Inclusion of all socially or economically backward classes, irrespective of religion, in paragraph 3 of the 1950 Order would be tantamount to a failure to recognise the specific historical discrimination suffered by these Scheduled Castes. Inclusion of all backward classes in the 1950 Order would constitute discrimination against Scheduled Castes by treating the experience of all sections of backward classes as similar to the historical discrimination faced by Scheduled Castes in India. Viewed from this perspective, The Constitution (SC) Order, 1950 is thus neither ultra-vires of the Constitution nor violative of any fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Even if persons of scheduled caste origin converted to Islam/ Christianity face discrimination within their own community, a pertinent question that needs to be answered is whether that discrimination is comparable in its oppressive severity to the discrimination faced by their counterparts in the Hindu religion. Separate enclosures in prayer halls of churches or burial grounds or the reluctance on the part of certain sections within their community to socialise with converts, though reprehensible, do not appear to match the oppression and consequential disability that untouchables in Hindu religion experienced in the past. Moreover, no documented research and precise authenticated information are available to establish such a narrative.

Conferring SC status tantamount to the introduction of caste in Christianity and Islam

Incidentally, available social indicators about Christians (separate figures for persons of Scheduled Caste origin converted to Christianity are not available) reveal that in terms of literacy and education levels, work participation rate, etc. Christians are way ahead of other major religious groups like Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, or Buddhists (excluding Jains). The social and educational indicators point to the fact that in terms of important indices, Christians are somewhat better off compared to their counterparts in other religions, while Muslims are by and large comparable.

 Both Islam and Christianity claim that these religions are egalitarian and afford equal status to all their followers. These religions also claim that they neither recognize nor approve birth-based caste identity of their followers. If followers of Islam and Christianity are now demanding SC reservation benefits based on social discrimination, there needs to be a deeper study on the origin and nature of this discrimination in both of these communities. The framework for SC reservation system was well known and there was broad societal consensus. In order to alleviate the suffering of the marginalized Hindu communities due to colonial subjugation and social upheavals, certain privileges were conferred to those communities. Extending them to Muslim and Christian communities at this stage is unwarranted and premature without a thorough understanding of the origin and nature of discrimination in those communities as that might warrant a different kind of governmental interventions.

Identification of SCs among converts

Both Islam and Christianity which originated in the middle East entered Indian soil through traders, invaders, preachers, and missionaries over a period of 800-900 years. These religions firmly established themselves in India as more and more indigenous people got converted to these religions either by force or allurement. During Islamic and British colonial misrule, there were thousands of forced conversions, abductions, rapes  and marriages. A lot of intermingling has happened by virtue of intra marriages: marriages between indigenous people and foreigners. In the past 70-80 years, a different kind of intermingling took place as marriages between people of different castes are quite common amongst Indians who subscribe to Christianity and Islam. Identifying the original caste of the present generation of Muslims and Christians is nearly impossible task as they are the progenies coming from centuries of mixed marriages. There would be enormous difficulty in identifying the original caste of those who got converted because there are no authentic records. Then, how to identify such Muslims/ Christians who were originally of SC origin?

Any procedure adopted to identify the SC converts to Christianity and Islam at this stage, even if a cut-off date is fixed, poses innumerable problems. The probability of abuse and ineligible persons siphoning off the benefits at the cost of the deserving is very high. Even for the listed castes, there is enough evidence that false certificates are being obtained, and many a time, undeserving are found enjoying reservations.

Retrograde moves undermining the ongoing social change

Those in favour of conferring SC status to converts should ponder whether enlargement of the list would bring to naught all initiatives taken so far to change the age-old social structure and whether it would be a retrograde step. Untouchability was abolished by Article 17 of the Constitution, and its practice in any form was forbidden. Enforcement of any disability arising from untouchability was punishable under the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955.

 There is enough evidence to establish that ‘untouchability’ is declining due to society’s crusade against untouchability. The increase in the level of education and spread of awareness among the people, assertiveness by scheduled castes of their status and rights, etc., had a definite impact on people’s thinking and behavioural patterns regarding untouchability. As a result, the rigidities of the system and the severities of the practice have been diluted. The Caste distinctions have eroded, and the behaviour towards Scheduled Castes has changed tremendously. Caste distinctions have largely transformed into class distinctions, especially in urban and semi-urban areas. Inter-caste marriages have become the order of the day. Unfortunately, a few honour killings are being highlighted for sensation. A good number of persons belonging to the marginalised sections are working as priests in Hindu temples.

Granting Scheduled Caste status to converts by the Government is equivalent to the formal introduction of the caste system in Islam/Christianity. This raises a very important question of whether the Indian Parliament and the Judiciary are competent enough to change the basic tenets of those religions and whether such interference in the internal affairs of those faiths attracts relevant blasphemy laws. 

As has been pointed out rightly by the Member Secretary of the Ranganatha Misra Commission, “notwithstanding that the religious tenets of Christianity and Islam do not permit it, and notwithstanding the fact that the very competence of the State – executive, Parliament, or even judiciary – to introduce ‘caste’ into religions that profess egalitarian regime” is questionable.

Real measures required to address the issues

Separate enclosures in Churches for “Dalits” or separate Cemeteries – are issues to be addressed primarily by the Christian religious leaders through reform within their system and through welfare and legal measures. In the case of Muslims, the non- adherence to the small family norm and abysmally low female work participation are responsible for the Muslim community’s relatively lower per capita income. The solution lies in rescuing the community from the clutches of the fundamentalist clergy. As The Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 is a religion-neutral Act and applies to all religions and religious denominations throughout India, Christian and Muslim converts can fight against discrimination under this Act. The positive discrimination that was granted to certain Jaatis professing Hinduism categorized as Scheduled Castes was aimed at achieving the constitutional guarantee of equality. This must not be extended to other groups on any ground. The churches and mosques must be made accountable as they collect huge amounts of money from their followers. In view of the complaints by their followers, the State must intervene to end social discrimination and prevent the misappropriation of enormous financial resources at their disposal.

The following are some of the issues that are to be debated across the society before any hasty conclusions are drawn-

  • Christianity and Islam proclaim that they are egalitarian and do not have castes. So, what explains the terms “Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims”?
  • Both Christianity and Islam lured a large section of the SC population that there would be no caste discrimination. If a “Dalit Christian or a Dalit Muslim” continues to feel discrimination, what purpose did the conversion serve?
  • Will the high and mighty of these religions admit that these religions are no different when it comes to social discrimination?
  • Why are Islam and Christianity not held accountable for their discriminatory practices?
  • The Abrahamic religions are playing both sides of the argument. They blame Hinduism for casteism, but until now, they are not accepting that casteism is there within their religions also. Do they accept that conversion does nothing to solve this social evil? Are they willing to give up their minority rights if SC status is extended to them?
  • Discrimination against SCs in Islam and Christianity is for those communities to solve in their context. What is the role of the State in their internal affairs?
  • How does extending SC status to converts solve the discrimination they face in their religions?
  • Will not extending SC status to the converts usurp the privileges and special rights given to a section of the Hindu Society?

The REAL issue is about dismantling Hindu society, not social justice. Those who believe in Wokeism are spreading false narratives and creating confusion. It is not difficult for the Supreme Court of India to see the evil designs of those Breaking-India forces and protect the interests of millions and millions of innocent Scheduled Caste Hindus.

                                                                                         Dr. Bommaraju Sarangapani

                                                                                       Former Professor of Economics                                                                                         Machilipatnam,Andhra Pradesh

A Mission to Unsave the “SAVED” : An Account of Homecoming Journeys

It is both my honor and privilege that I and my family got to spend two days with the Samarasata Sewa Foundation (SSF) team traveling to some remote villages in both Krishna and Guntur districts in Andhra Pradesh during my past trip to India to see the work done by the foundation. Many core team members of SSF including the president Mr. Vishnuvu Talluru Garu and the long-term visionary of SSF Dr. Sarangapani Garu were gracious enough to accompany us on this trip. My dear friend Esther Dhanraj joined us on this 2-day tour. Before I even write about our 2-day hectic trip, I would like to write a little bit about SSF team members who were an absolute delight to be around. Genuineness and personability are the core traits of every SSF team member that we met. Dharma Parirakshana is not just a job or a hobby, but it is the very breath of these fabulous people. Their actions speak much more than their words and the spirit of service or Sewa bhava shines bright through their actions.

I am not a novice to the so-called “spiritual work” done by religious organizations. All through my growing years, I have been around people who claimed to be on a mission to “save” people. “Save from what?” – Save from sin, eternal damnation, and the horrors of hell – a hell where the maggots that are feeding on the decaying bodies of the dead never die and the fire that burns the dead never ceases nor is quenched as described in bible. One would think that people who claim to be on a mission to “save” others from the horrors of hell would be the very personification of love and compassion. But alas…it is seldom the case. SSF team members who do not make any tall claims such as “saving” people’s souls from hell and eternal damnation but spend their time helping simple folks to take care of their basic needs are who I found to be the very epitome of love and compassion.

During our 2-day trip, we participated in Pratyeka pujas in two villages, visited two temples that are constructed and managed by SSF team. We also visited two Bal Vikas Kendrams that are affiliated with these temples and spent time with children who attend these schools. We participated in a medical camp organized by SSF in our ancestral village. We joined in two Saamuhika Aartis and accompanied the local Dharma pracharaks in a door-to-door Dharma pracharam.

Pratyeka Pujas:

  The word “Pratyeka” has no equivalent in English lexicon, and it can be loosely translated as special. Calling such a puja just “special” is an understatement.  Participating in this puja helped me realize the importance of the work undertaken by SSF. I am no stranger to religious “conversion” ceremonies – dedication services to baptisms – I have seen them all. People being dunked into water tanks in the name of baptisms is something that I watched all through my growing years. The idea of getting dunked in the water to symbolically “rise again in christ” was so terrifying to me that I managed to not go through this baptism ordeal all through my journey as a Christian that lasted for over 3 decades. Only when I saw the warm celebration of coming home of these people to Hinduism through ceremonious Pratyeka puja did I understand the real meaning of “coming” home. What I once was made to believe was homecoming as part of converting to Christianity was anything but coming home. As a matter of fact, it was departing from the home. In more ways than one, it was a way of removing a person from his home. A home that was part of their identity and ancestry. A home that was part of their cultural and spiritual legacy. Snatching people away from their natural homes with the promise of a home in heaven is what Christian “homecoming” is all about. This “homecoming” of people who briefly got lured away from their natural homes due to false promises of miraculous healing and golden mansions in an imaginary heaven by Christian proselytizers through Pratyeka puja is the real homecoming. The setting of where these Pratyeka pujas were conducted made all the difference. The scents from the flowers, the burning camphor and the lighted incense sticks which were used during the puja filled the air with positivity. The chanting of mantras interspersed with the chimes of temple bells is a perfect setting to welcome anyone home, especially those who for a little while were led astray. Seeing women who were part of the Pratyeka adorned in colorful sarees with symbols of auspiciousness such as bangles, flowers, sindoor and chandanam made me shed silent tears of joy thinking of what these women must’ve been made to do as part of their ordeal of becoming Christians. Who knows better than me what each of these women was made to do to proclaim to the world that they were now “born-again” Christians? In most cases, women will be made to wear white colored clothes while taking baptism.This and the mandatory removal of sindoor to identify themselves as Christians are the hardest thing to do for most women who suddenly got lured into the Christian camp as the removal of sindoor and wearing a white saree have a different connotation for a Hindu woman. I have seen and known Hindu women converts who break down and cry when they narrate their “conversion” stories of how they sacrificed these symbols of mangalyam to become Christians. 

The first Pratyeka puja was in Mulasthaneswara Swamy temple in a village called Tadikonda near Amaravati and the second one was in the Grama Devata temple of my ancestral village. A group of 7 people were warmly welcomed home to Hinduism in Tadikonda amidst chanting of mantras in front of the presiding deity of this historical temple which is believed to have been a place where Maha Shiva self -manifested (Swayambhu) Himself to Agastya Rishi. A group of 50+ plus SSF members took part in this Pratyeka puja. The pure love and affection that the SSF team members showered on these people who found their way back home to Hinduism was deeply felt and appreciated.

The second Pratyeka puja was conducted at Muthyalamma temple in Malkapuram (a village close to Jaggaiahpet in Krishna district) to bring 6 individuals back into Hindu Dharma. Conducting a puja such as this in a 2-year old Grama Devata` temple is no mean task. I had the humble privilege of taking part in the consecration of this temple which I did in the memory of my grandparents who were once patrons of the Grama Devata. This village has been an easy target to many Christian evangelical proselytizing groups. Conversion of my father to this alien religion some 40+ plus years ago flung the doors of this village wide open to Christian groups of various shades and shapes. Many conmen found their way to this village and each of them set a shop called church in this tiny village of 5000 odd people. This village is home to 10+ churches and the natural consequence of this is the breaking of people into factions with people from same families ending up in two warring factions. This small temple right in the middle of a community of people who have fallen prey to these divisive forces was a bold attempt by 10+ plus families left in Hindu fold out of about 500 families which took Christianity in the past 2-3 decades.

What SSF team members did after these Pratyeka pujas that ceremoniously welcomed both groups of people in these two villages is a testament to the labor of love of these incredible group of people. Each of these people had a story to tell as to how cheated they felt when they realized that the people who lured them away from their Hindu families with false promises of health and prosperity did so with an agenda of isolating these gullible people from their families to turn them into cash cows to support the greedy pastors and their families. Seeing SSF leaders lovingly embraced these people who broke down sobbing while narrating how they have been manipulated and exploited while in Christian fold made it clear that these hurt people who  found their way back home are in safe hands. I could see that through their kind words backed with actions, SSF leadership assures people who are coming back to Hinduism that they were, are and will remain as integral and valuable members of Hindu society. The sensitivity that each of the SSF team members showed while taking care of the unique needs of these broken people who are homebound is what makes SSF’s work unique.

Visit to Temples, Bal Vikas Kendras, Dharma Pracharam and Saamuhika Aaratis

 One can appreciate the work SSF has been doing for the past six years only by visiting the temples that are built and managed by this dedicated people. SSF has built 502 temples in a short span of two years in all the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh. We were fortunate to visit two of these temples. Both temples had a Bal Vikas Kendra in the temple premises.

The first temple we visited was in a tribal hamlet in a village called Munugodu near Amaravati. We were welcomed by a huge group of devotees in the temple for us to come join them for Aarti. A group of 40+ plus children ranging from 4 yrs to 12 yrs were also patiently waiting for us to come and spend some time with them. There were two priests in that temple who hail from the tribal community. The sense of reverence and pride with which they conducted the puja and gave us all Aarti demonstrated how much they value having a temple in that not so developed hamlet. The hamlet mostly had thatched-roof homes, but it is the way they were singing Bhajans and offering the prayers to Deity in the temple that proved to us that these people are far richer than many so-called rich people. The children from these tribal families are well-mannered and respectful. Each of those children eagerly listened to us speaking to them. When asked what they want to become when they grow up, a bunch of them said that they want to grow up and become soldiers to fight for Bharat. What a contrast this was…!!! I grew up in Christian circles where Sunday School was major part of my life. What did we Christian children sing when we were growing up in the church? We sang songs announcing to the world that we will never march in the army, join the air force, or become part of a cavalry in the land that we live in as we are all soldiers in christ’s army. Such was brainwashing I was subjected to from the time I was a small child. I was thrilled to see SSF’s vision to ensure that the young children get trained in our samskaras which I am sure will solidify the children’s identities as Hindus. After interacting with children, we joined the SSF team in door-to-door Dharma pracharam. This community outreach is an integral part of an endeavor to strengthen the fabric of the society and SSF is doing a commendable job in reaching out to people who live in the most remote parts of Andhra Pradesh. SSF teams do door-to-door Dharma pracharam three times in a year which is going a long way in building strong and sustainable relationships with community members. Our next stop was at a Ramalayam where people were gathered for a puja followed by saamuhika aarati. SSF has incorporated this activity in all the temples and all the devotees gather at the temple on pournami days for this very vibrant event. The temple reverberated with the chimes of temple bells and chants of Jai Shree Ram. It was a beautiful sight to see everyone in the temple holding lighted Diyas in their hands. It was a treat of a special kind as the sky in this remote village looked like it was under the canopy of millions of twinkling stars along with the moon casting its cool light. The positive atmosphere in the temple truly uplifted our spirits.

The following day, we traveled to the farthest end of Krishna district to the villages bordering the newly carved out Telengana state. In addition to visit to a SSF temple and the attached Bala Vikas Kendram in a village called Kakaravai, we also took part in a medical camp organized by SSF in my ancestral village. A dedicated team of doctors did free checkups and distributed free medicines to close to 100 villagers who have limited access to quality medical care. The day ended with Prathyeka puja and Saamuhika aarati in the Muthyalamma temple that is built two years ago in the heavily christianized part of the village.

I and my family cherish the memories from this two-day trip. I urge each one of you to do all that you can to support SSF’s work. It is indeed a worthy cause that aims at rebuilding Hindu ecosystems amongst these humble people who are constantly bombarded with vicious forces that pose a threat to weaken the strong familial bonds which are essential for smooth functioning of larger societies in Bharat.

By Mary Suresh Iyer
(Mary Suresh Iyer is an ex- Christian who grew up in an evangelical church in India. Her journey out of Christianity started on seeing the pain of families which lost their precious children to the church. She is Human Resources Professional with over 20 years of experience in the teaching industry in the USA. She runs a coaching center for college entrance exams in addition to two non-denominational childcare centers.)

Islamic empathizer Amnesty India calls on K’taka govt, asks to allow cow slaughtering

The anti -Hindu Human Right Organisation, Amnesty International India’, which is facing heat from the Central agencies over allegations of FCRA violation, now has asked Karnataka’s Congress govt to take action against its anti Hindu demands to uphold “human rights”.

Taking a social media site, the Islamic empathizer organisation, Amnesty said, “The incoming state government must prioritize and uphold human rights for all in the state. We call on @INCKarnataka to take three priority actions for human rights. “

In its first demand, Amnesty India asked to revoke the ban on women wearing hijab in educational institutes. As per the organisation, the ban forces Muslim girls to choose between their rights to freedom of expression and religion and their right to education, hindering their ability to meaningfully participate in society.

It should be reminded that following the Hijab controversy which was started in early 2022 in the state, the BJP government had banned Hijab in the educational institute. However, the court upheld the government’s decision to ban hijab in classrooms.2

In a next tweet, the organisation has asked govt to revoke the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020 and the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2022 and allow cow slaughtering in the state. It claimed that a ban on slaughter and religious conversions can be “misused and weaponised against minorities”.

In its last tweet, it demanded action against the Hindus who call for an economic boycott and violence against Muslim people. It has asked the congress govt, to ensure accountability for such advocacy of hatred and end hate crimes that are motivated by religious and caste-based discrimination.

Courtesy: NewsBharati

Travancore Devaswom Board bans RSS Sakhas on temple premises

The Devaswom Board is headed by CPM leaders who control the Kerala govt. The circular has been issued again pointing out that the officials are not following the order issued two years ago. The new order comes amid the inclusion of party leaders in the advisory committees of the Devaswom Board and the deliberate capture of other temple committees by the CPM.

Many temples, including the great temples in Kerala, were restored as part of the Hindu renaissance. At that time, the CPM demanded that the temples should be demolished and agriculture should be done there. CPM’s approach was that temples are the centre of superstitions.

The temple restoration efforts led by the Kerala kshetra SamrakshanaSamithi  and its former form, the Malabar kshetra SamrakshanaSamithi  brought the temples of Kerala to their present state. Sangha Sakhas are held in some of these temple sanctuaries. As the temples were renovated and the revenue increased, the government continued to take over the temples through the Devaswom Boards in anticipation of financial gain.

The decision of the Travancore Devaswom Board will not adversely affect the Sangha sakhas in any way. The vast majority of sakhas in Kerala are held in public places, private places and our own places. A few sakhas are held on temple grounds under the Devaswom Board with the full cooperation of local devotees. The current circular of the Devaswom Board aims to take over temples, cover up corruption in temple administration and engage with Muslim communal organizations under the guise of taking action against the RSS.

Karnataka Elections and BJP

Source twitter by Eminent Intellectual @total_woke_

Vote share of BJP & Congress in the Vidhan Sabha elections since 2003.

201319.90 36.60
2018 36.3538.14

Many on the so-called right are saying BJP lost Hindu vote because of Pasmanda, Maulana Modi etc. Is it true? Fact is Karnataka, especially rural Karnataka has a fixed Congress vote because of caste equations in the state. BJP has NEVER won more votes in Karnataka state elections than Congress. NEVER. So this election was always going to be tough. We all know their local performance and messaging strategy did not do as well. Congress OTOH had a clear attack strategy. They had pulled Muslim vote away from JDS using blatant communal pandering. Their calculation was it would not polarise Hindu votes beyond the 36% BJP achieved in 2018. Caste equations would hold. It worked. In 2018, 5 INC and 2 JDS Muslim candidates had won, this time 9 INC Muslim candidates won, but none from JDS. In the end Caste & Islam was a stronger factor than Hindutva. Hindutva failed to destroy caste in Karnataka. Funny thing is most who keep calling Maulana Modi are blatantly casteist themselves. Make this make sense.

Taking Hindutva to the less sophisticated is BJP’s job. And Modi is the leader. So I’m not giving a free pass to anyone and blaming the people. It’s exact opposite.