MAY 23, 2007
What Next for Dalit Christians?
Finally, the Justice Mishra Commission has come out in favour of reservation for Dalit Christians and Muslims. The main argument, like the one in the petition before the Supreme Court, is that religion should not have been used as the criteria to determine Dalit reservation in the Presidential Order of 1950.
One member in the Commission, Asha Das, has dissented saying that the Parliament or Judiciary cannot change religious practice. Her argument is that Islam and Christianity as religions do not in principle have the caste system as part of their religious ethos. She is silent, however, on how Parliament was able to give reservation to Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhists when both Sikhism and Buddhism also do not allow for the caste system. Further, she is silent on the research data which reveals that the caste system and caste-based discrimination of Dalits has penetrated all religions in India. Those who perpetrate crimes against Dalits do not first verify if their victims are Dalit Hindus or Dalit Christians. The fact that they are Dalits is enough to abuse and discriminate against them.
I think that despite the Mishra Commission's recommendation, the Government is going to vacillate on the issue when the case appears for its hearing in the Supreme Court. The UPA Government has a strong upper caste lobby which is against any positive action or reservations for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. They are also against reservations for Other Backward Caste (OBC) students in higher institutions.
The extremist Hindutva lobby fears that if Dalit Christians are given reservations, then all Dalits everywhere will exit Hinduism into Christianity and other religions. They are going to try and block this initiative by any means necessary. Their agenda is to keep the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes trapped in the caste system. Their response to the Commission’s recommendation shows the hypocrisy of the anti-conversion laws forced into practice in state after state under the guise of preventing forced and fraudulent conversions. If anyone has used forced and fraudulent means to imprison and discriminate against millions of people (namely the 250 million Dalits) it is the Hindutva brigade. Instead of passing anti-conversion laws, why are they not working on laws that will abolish caste ideology and the practice of the caste system in India? It is caste slavery that is pushing Dalits and the Backward Castes into other faiths.
The fight for Dalit Christian reservation is largely led by Dalit Christian groups who are involved in the Dalit Freedom cause. Now non-Christian Dalit groups like Udit Raj's Confederation and others also support Dalit Christian reservation.
Upper caste Christians are not really in the forefront of the struggle, even though there are some exceptions. The question for the predominantly upper caste Christian leadership of the Church is: How long will it take before you proactively remove casteism and the caste system in the Church? The writing is on the wall. Dalits will not be denied their just rights anymore both inside and outside the Church. The caste system is being revealed for what it really is – India's Hidden Apartheid. How long before Church leadership removes this disgusting blemish of caste practice in the Church when it comes to marriage, community, leadership and fellowship? Will the Church in India (across denominational lines) split and break apart due to the unwillingness of the minority upper caste leadership in the Church to deal with the caste system within the Church? How can one argue for the unity of the Church based on the glaring unrighteousness and injustice within the Church?
I hope the international business community is detecting the major caste churning going on in India and is not fooled by the upper caste business community who live in perpetual self-denial about the caste system. The election of a Dalit as Chief Minister of India's largest state (Uttar Pradesh) is the loudest political signal coming out of India this month. Multinationals cannot afford to walk around blindfolded to caste realities even as they rush in to enjoy the profits of the new Indian economy
The 'India Rising' is but one small facet of the India mosaic. The larger face of India is of the majority oppressed and facing discrimination, the poor, the suicidal farmers and the abused Dalits.
Posted by klajja at May 23, 2007 01:21 AM
The Dalit Christian Dhobies of India
Slogans against Congress in Dalit Christian/Muslim Rally