CSIS

Center for South Indian Studies

DEMAND FOR SCHEDULED CASTE STATUS TO CONVERTS INTO CHRISTIANITY

-Sahadev

 

The demand for extending Scheduled Caste status to converts out of SCs into Christianity and Islam has been growing day by day. This is a direct fall out of large-scale conversions to Christianity from the Hindu religion. A massive Christian evangelist infrastructure has been set up in the country, funded by humungous inflows from various countries abroad. Islamic organizations have also stepped up their efforts to convert Hindus into their religion and have strengthened their existing infrastructure for this purpose. While Islam demands strict adherence and open declaration of faith upon conversion, there is no such compulsion in Christianity. This has led to a massive spurt in the number of people declaring themselves as Hindus but practising Christianity.

In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the government announced a monthly honorarium for religious workers. Though the scheme is yet to be operationalized a one-time payment was made to such religious workers as part of Covid relief measures. A total of 29841 Christian religious workers were paid an amount of Rs. 5,000/- each. Data of 347 Christian religious workers obtained by the Legal Rights Protection Forum, through the RTI Act is as follows:

SUMMARY:

CHRISTIAN 39.19%
HINDU-SC 42.94%
ST 1.44%
HINDU-OBC 9.51%
HINDU-OC 4.32%
NA 2.59%
TOAL 100%

As one can see, out of the sample data, only 39.19 % of Christian religious workers are having Christian community certificates. The number of Christian converts who are hiding it and declaring themselves can be easily imagined. Claims made by Christian leaders themselves that in AP, Christians are now 25 % of the population and the number of religious workers is around 2 lakhs. According to the 2011 Census, the number of Christians in the state of AP is 6.82 lakhs. Strangely, the Christian population has declined by 54.13 % between 1971 and 2011 whereas the number of churches, Christian prayer houses, Christian theological institutions has witnessed an astronomical rise. Thus it is very clear that the demography of Andhra Pradesh has undergone a massive change on the ground but the same is concealed in official records. The reason for this is that upon conversion of Scheduled Castes/ OBCs from Hindu religion into Christianity, those SCs enjoying constitutionally safeguarded benefits will lose them. To legitimize the concealed Christian identity of SC / OBC, the Christian organizations have coined the term ‘Dalit Christian’ and are pushing for constitutional amendments to extended benefits of reservations to Christians converts.

MISUSE OF THE WORD PROPAGATE:

The Constitution of India guarantees the right to propagate the tenets of one’s religion subject to conditions of public order, morality and health. Of the three pre-conditions, morality is the most difficult to define. In addition, the word ‘propagate’ has a variety of meanings, one of them beings to multiply. The inclusion of this word in the Constitution of India was extensively debated in the Constituent assembly. Sri Lokanath Mishra, a member of the Constituent Assembly spoke strongly against its inclusion and said that:

“ In the present context what can this word propagation’ in article 19 mean? It can only mean paving the way for the complete annihilation of Hindu culture, the Hindu way of life and manners. Islam has declared its hostility to Hindu thought. Christianity has worked out the policy of peaceful penetration by the back door on the outskirts of our social life. This is because Hinduism did not accept barricades for its protection. Hinduism is just an integrated vision and a philosophy of life and cosmos, expressed in organized society to live that philosophy in peace and amity. In no constitution of the world right to propagate religion is a fundamental right and justiciable.”

Sourcehttp://164.100.47.194/loksabha/writereaddata/cadebatefiles/C06121948.html

Within 10 years of the Constitution of India coming to force, the inclusion of the word ‘propagate’ was to have disastrous consequences for Hindus as Christian evangelists merrily went around converting lakhs of poor Hindus through allurements and inducements by way of rice bags, free education upon conversion, free medical treatment upon conversion, magic miracle cures for various ailments, etc. Matters became so worse that, the state of Orissa (1967) and the state of Madhya Pradesh (1968) were forced to enact laws to put an end to conversions through allurements and inducements. The acts were given a strong legal challenge by Christian evangelist organisations. the constitutional validity of the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968, was challenged in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and the constitutional validity of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act,1967  was challenged in the High Court of Orissa.

Appeals in the Supreme Court against the judgments of the two high courts in the landmark judgment of Supreme Court in what is popularly known as ‘Rev Stanislaus case’. In this case, Counsel for the Christian evangelist organizations had argued that the right to ‘propagate’ one’s religion means the right to convert a person to one’s own religion. On that basis, counsel has argued further that the right to convert a person to one’s own religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25 (1) of the Constitution. It was next been argued by counsel for the Christian evangelist organizations that the Legislatures of Madhya Pradesh and the Orissa States did not have legislative competence to pass the Madhya Pradesh Act and the Orissa Act.

The stand taken by Christian evangelists in their appeal in Supreme Court has completely vindicated the fears expressed in the Constituent Assembly debates by Sri Lokanth Mishra who predicted that inclusion of the word propagate in fundamental religious rights will ‘Pave the way for the complete annihilation of Hindu culture, the Hindu way of life and manners’. How prophetic his words turned out to be..! On a few occasions, Christian religious workers and Christians in Andhra Pradesh have even demanded another partition of the country and the creation of a separate Christian nation.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not agree with the argument of Christian evangelist organizations and declared that the word ‘propagate’ is limited to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenet.

Court: ‘We have no doubt that it is in this sense. that the word ‘propagate’ has been used in Article 25 (1), for what the Article grants is not the right to convert another person to one’s own religion, but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets. It has to be remembered that Article 25 (1) guarantees “freedom of conscience” to every citizen, and not merely to the followers of one particular religion, and that, in turn, postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion because if a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the “freedom of conscience” guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.’

However, by the time Supreme Court judgment came out in 1977, Christian evangelists had a field day for 30 years from 1947. During this time they set up countrywide evangelist conversion infrastructure which is rolling on like an unstoppable juggernaut.

While the legislation and subsequent judicial pronouncements had a salutary effect on Christian evangelist conversion of Hindus, the Scheduled Tribes were left at the mercy of the conversion lobby. As Scheduled Tribes were legally defined as not belonging to any religion, their conversion/adoption of any religion did not deprive them of Scheduled Tribe status. This loophole was fully exploited by Christian evangelist organizations. The Religion Data Census of 2011 by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) show that Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland have now become almost entirely Christian. The Christian population among STs in Mizoram is 90.08% and in Manipur and Nagaland is 97.42 and 98.21%, respectively. This trend continues among STs in various other parts of India as well.

Such a development was foretold by late Sri Kartik Oraon. A highly qualified engineer and a tribal himself, he saw with his own eyes the destruction of tribal society, its beliefs and customs at the hands of Christian evangelists. In his book “Bees Warsh Ki Kali Raat”, Shri Kartik Oraon has observed that rituals followed by tribals and Hindus are not placed in contradiction but are complementary. Citing the examples of Nishadraj, Shabari, Kanappa, etc., and various anecdotes mentioned in the ancient Indian texts, he said tribals were Hindus since time immemorial. In his book, he further observed that the conversion of tribals into Christianity has taken place on a massive scale in independent India rather than British rule. As a social activist and parliamentarian concerned for the cause of tribals, he insisted on the converted tribal people to be put outside the Scheduled Tribes category.

He was a member of Lok Sabha from Lohardaga constituency in present-day Jharkhand during 1967-76 and in 1980. He made a pioneering effort to protect Scheduled Tribes from the scourge of Christian conversions. As a part of his fight against attempts to convert tribals, he submitted a memorandum to the government of India signed by 322 members from Lok Sabha and 26 members from Rajya Sabha in 1967. The suggestions in the said memorandum were countered by 50 members of the Lok Sabha in Indira Gandhi’s government who were acting at the behest of Christian missions in India. Despite Kartik Oraon’s relentless efforts, the recommendations in the memorandum could not be implemented as the Christian missions put tremendous pressure on Indira Gandhi not to implement them.

The suggestions in the memorandum were absolutely in line with the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 1967. The committee had recommended the following amendment:

 

“2A. Notwithstanding anything contained in the parliament in Paragraph 2, no person who has given up tribal faith or and has embraced either Christianity or Islam shall be deemed to be a member of any Scheduled Tribes ( Vide Para 2A, page 29, line 38 of the Schedule II of the report).

 

The insurgency in northeastern states like Nagaland and Mizoram instigated by Christian missionaries led to huge loss of life on the civilian side as well as the side of Indian security forces. A big part of northeast India faced the threat of secession from India. Though the insurgency has died down and a number of peace accords signed between the Government of India and the Naga, Mizo insurgents, remnants and splinter groups of insurgents still exist and make occasional attacks. These secessionist fights have delayed the integration of North East India with the rest of India. With the breakdown of the tribal societies, the youth have become addicted to drugs and substance abuse.

 

Scheduled Tribes across the nation face the brunt of Christian conversions even today as the loophole left by the Constitution that tribals have no religion is being extensively exploited by Christian evangelists. The entire tribal belt of Dandakaranya in Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are hotbeds of conversion activities. In these areas, even the Islamic religious organizations have pitched in with their ‘Dawah’ activities. Under the garb of ‘Liberation Theology’, Christian evangelists have been playing a big role in instigating innocent tribals, lending tacit support to armed struggles of Maoists, stalling mining and other development projects in these areas. While the ostensible reason for implementing liberation theology is the emancipation of tribals, Christian missionaries have not shied away from converting tribals on a large scale.

 

Of late, false and mischievous propaganda that ‘ caste does not change on conversion as per Supreme Court judgment has been extensively propagated through social media. The case being quoted is – CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4870 OF 2015, Mohammad Sadique … Sri Mohammed Sadique Versus Darbara Singh Guru … Respondent. The line quoted from the judgment is ‘It is settled law that a person can change his religion and faith but not the caste, to which he belongs, as caste has linkage to birth’

However, the facts of the case and the judgment given are contrary to the line quoted above. The case involved a dispute revolving around the election of Sri Mohammed Sadique from the SC reserved constituency. Sri Sadique’s parents practised Islam and originally were from the Hindu SC community. In 1939, Sri Mohammed Sadique was born in the ‘Doom’ caste in Punjab. Sri Mohammed Sadique’s parents were Muslims by birth. However, Sri Mohammed Sadique even before his conversion to Sikhism had a complete inclination towards Sikhism and was a ‘Ragi’and used to perform Kirtan at Alamgir Sikh Gurdwara. Sri Mohammed Sadique has throughout been raised as a Sikh. He has professed the Sikh religion and performed the ceremonies, rituals and rites of Sikhism. He has never offered prayer in a mosque, or kept Rozas, or offered Namaz, or had never been to Haj. He has never lived nor considered himself a Muslim, nor was he so considered by others. Though the appellant had always been raised as a Sikh and had followed Sikhism, he formally embraced Sikhism on 13.04.2006. He gave a public notice of this, which was published in leading newspapers namely Hindustan Times, Chandigarh and Daily Akali Patrika, Chandigarh on 04.01.2007. Since the appellant had become famous throughout Punjab and indeed all over India as a singer, he retained his Muslim name and did not change it.

 

The most important part of the judgment is as follows:

In the above Kailash Sonkar (supra) this Court further discussed the issue relating to reconversion into Hinduism by the members of the community whose forefathers converted to other religions. Applying the doctrine of the eclipse, this Court observed as under: –

In our opinion, when a person is converted to Christianity or some other religion the original caste remains under eclipse and as soon as during his/her lifetime the person is reconverted to the original religion the eclipse disappears and the caste automatically revives.

The Kailash Sonkar v. Maya Devi which is quoted in the judgment of 2015 was decided in 1983. In other words, courts have held a consistent view from the 1st case in 1983 onwards that caste goes into eclipse on conversion out of Hindu religion and revives only upon re-conversion. During the period a person belonging to Scheduled Caste converts remains outside Hindu religion and practices any religion other than Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion, he or she cannot make use of caste for any Constitutionally guaranteed benefits in education, jobs or any economic development schemes meant for the uplift of SCs. The court accepted the Scheduled Caste of Sri Mohammed Sadique only after confirming that he had re-converted to the Sikh religion.

Thus the highest court in the country has upheld the principle that the caste system exists only in the Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist religion. But the judgments are being misquoted to mislead the common man that ‘ caste does not change even upon conversion’ whereas the sum and substance of SC judgment are that  ‘ caste does not change upon conversion, but remains in eclipse so long as the person is outside Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist religion and revives upon reconversion to original religion’. Where there is no caste, how can there be discrimination? The very word ‘Dalit Christian’ is an oxymoron.

 

In retrospect, one can see that the word ‘propagate’ as enshrined in the fundamental rights guaranteed by The Constitution of India has travelled a long way. Today a fresh demand is being made to amend the Constitution and Presidential Order – Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and extend Scheduled Caste benefits to Christian/ Muslim converts. This shows that the Christian evangelists have made deep inroads into Hindu society and succeeded in converting a big chunk of them into Christianity. Their huge success has now emboldened them to put forth this audacious demand and they find ready support from parties practising vote bank politics. Time is ripe to review the right to propagate as well a sharper definition of who is a Hindu and at what point of time a Hindu is deemed to have converted to Christianity or reconverted to Hinduism. This is all the more necessary as a peculiar situation is being witnessed in Andhra Pradesh where there are a dozen churches in villages with zero Christian population..!

  • The author is a senior associate at the Centre for South Indian Studies, Hyderabad

 

ANNEXURE – 1

Speech of Shri Lokanth Mishra on the inclusion of the word ‘propagate’ as a fundamental religious right.

 

http://164.100.47.194/loksabha/writereaddata/cadebatefiles/C06121948.html

Shri Lokanath Misra: Orissa: General): Sir, it has been repeated to our ears that ours is a secular State. I accepted this secularism in the sense that our State shall remain unconcerned with religion, and I thought that the secular State of partitioned India was the maximum of the generosity of a Hindu-dominated territory for its non-Hindu population. I did not of course know what exactly this secularism meant and how far the State intends to cover the life and manners of our people. To my mind live cannot be compartmentalized and yet I reconciled myself to the new cry.

Gradually it seems to me that our ‘Secular State’ is a slippery phrase, a device to bypass the ancient culture of the land.

The absurdity of this position is now manifest in articles 19 to 22 of the Draft Constitution. Do we really believe that religion can be divorced from life, or is it our belief that in the midst of many religions we cannot decide which one to accept? If religion is beyond the ken of our State, let us clearly say so and delete all reference to rights relating to religion. If we find it necessary, let us be brave enough and say what it should be.

But this unjust generosity of tabooing religion and yet making propagation of religion a fundamental right is somewhat uncanny and dangerous. Justice demands that the ancient faith and culture of the land should be given a fair deal, if not restored to its legitimate place after a thousand years of suppression. We have no quarrel with Christ or Mohammad or what they saw and said. We have all respect for them. To my mind, Vedic culture excludes nothing. Every philosophy and culture has its place but now (the cry of religion is a dangerous cry.) It denominates, divides and encamps people to warring ways.

In the present context, what can this word propagation’ in article 19 mean? It can only mean paving the way for the complete annihilation of Hindu culture, the Hindu way of life and manners. Islam has declared its hostility to Hindu thought. Christianity has worked out the policy of peaceful penetration by the back door on the outskirts of our social life. This is because Hinduism did not accept barricades for its protection. Hinduism is just an integrated vision and a philosophy of life and cosmos, expressed in organized society to live that philosophy in peace and amity.

But Hindu generosity has been misused and politics has overrun Hindu culture. Today religion in Indian serves no higher purpose than collecting ignorance, poverty and ambition under a banner that flies for fanaticism. The aim is political, for in the modern world all is power-politics and the inner man is lost in the dust. Let everybody live as he thinks best but let him not try to swell his number to demand the spoils of political warfare. Let us not raise the question of communal minorities anymore. It is a device to swallow the majority in the long run. This is intolerable and unjust.

Indeed in no constitution of the world right to propagate religion is a fundamental right and justiciable. The Irish Free State Constitution recognizes the special position of the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens. We in India are shy of such recognition. U. S. S. R. gives freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda. Our Constitution gives the right even to propagate religion but does not give the right to any anti-religious propaganda.

If people should propagate their religion, let them do so. Only I crave, let not the Constitution put it as a fundamental right and encourage it. Fundamental rights are inalienable and once they are admitted, it will create bad blood. I therefore say, let us say nothing about rights relating to religion. Religion will take care of itself. Drop the word `propagate’ in article 19 at least. Civilization is going headlong to the melting pot. Let us beware and try to survive.

ANNEXURE-2: KARTIK ORAON

He will always be remembered for his most significant contributions to save tribals from evangelical missions. As a part of his fight against attempts to convert tribals, he submitted a memorandum to the government of India signed by 322 members from Lok Sabha and 26 members from Rajya Sabha in 1967. The document unequivocally asks for putting restrictions on the reservation benefits to converted individuals.

The suggestions in the said memorandum were countered by 50 members of the Lok Sabha in the Indira Gandhi government who were acting at the behest of Christian missions in India. Despite Kartik Oraon’s relentless efforts, the recommendations in the memorandum could not be implemented as the Christian missions put tremendous pressure on Indira Gandhi not to implement them. The suggestions in the memorandum were absolutely in line with the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Bill, 1967. The committee had recommended the following amendment:

“2A. Notwithstanding anything contained in the parliament in Paragraph 2, no person who has given up tribal faith or and has embraced either Christianity or Islam shall be deemed to be a member of any Scheduled Tribes ( Vide Para 2A, page 29, line 38 of the Schedule II of the report).

 Such an amendment had already been done in the case of Scheduled Castes (SCs) in 1956 which reads as under –

“3. Notwithstanding anything contained in Paragraph 2, no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu or Sikh Religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Castes”

The timely implementation of the recommendations mentioned in the memorandum submitted by Shri Oraon and the Joint Parliamentary Committee would have proved a step in the right direction.

According to the latest published note on the Religion Data Census of 2011 by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland have now become almost entirely Christian. The Christian population among STs in Mizoram is 90.08% and in Manipur and Nagaland is 97.42 and 98.21%, respectively. This trend continues among STs in various other parts of India as well.

Their conversion to Christianity essentially alienates them from their cultural heritage and indigenous faith. Moreover, the newly converted Christians have started persecuting those who continued to follow their indigenous faith.

In his book “Bees Warsh Ki Kali Raat”, Shri Kartik Oraon has observed that rituals followed by tribals and Hindus are not placed in contradiction but are complementary. Citing the examples of Nishadraj, Shabari, Kanappa etc. and various anecdotes mentioned in the ancient Indian texts, he said tribals were Hindus since time immemorial. In his book, he further observed that the conversion of tribals into Christianity has taken place on a massive scale in independent India rather than British rule. As a social activist and parliamentarian concerned for the cause of tribals, he insisted on the converted tribal people to be put outside the Scheduled Tribes category.

On December 8, 1981, Shri Kartik Oraon fell on the floor of the corridor of Parliament House. He was admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for treatment but his condition deteriorated and he breathed his last. He is no longer in our midst, but his thoughts and actions must serve as guiding principles for those who work for the tribal cause. His battle for the rights of the tribal people who still adhere to their ancestral faith has remained unfinished which needs to be carried forward.

 

https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/revisiting-kartik-oraon-3030368.html