Plea of ‘reservation for Dalit Christians’ is a dangerous and divisive move – Seshadri Chari



Seshadri ChariThere is an attempt by a section of the Church to usurp the political, economic and employment privileges guaranteed to a section of the Hindu society. The Supreme Court must thwart this dangerous and divisive move. – Seshadri Chari

The Supreme Court has sought the government’s opinion on a case file that was gathering dust for nearly two decades and pertaining to a matter that is as old as the Constitution. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to take a stand on the sensitive issue of allowing Christian converts among the Dalits to enjoy reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. The Supreme Court is all set to hear the petition seeking to determine the status of Dalit Christians. Nothing can be more farcical than this epitome of all oxymorons— “Dalit Christian”.

The need to take up this issue at this stage, according to the Supreme Court bench, is that many old matters had been kept pending “because of their social ramifications”. There is little doubt that any issue that relates to the entitlements of the Dalit community will have serious socio-political consequences. But the logic behind getting the government’s view on the issue is baffling. No government would want to commit itself one way or the other on the issue of reservation, the same being true of extending reservations to Christian converts, the so-called Dalit Christians.

Instead of putting the ball into the political court, the SC should deal with the wider issue of political reservations, making it mandatory for political parties to increase provisions that will help affirmative actions.

There is also an urgent need to reconsider the prevailing idea of “once a backward is always a backward” just because one happens to be born in a particular caste. This was extensively discussed in R. Balaji v. State of Mysore case.

The reservation question

The political reservation was to be made available for ten years, after which it was to be reviewed and discontinued. Reservation is political representation based on caste and not religion. In the background of the tragic Partition, Ambedkar wanted the Constitution to guarantee equality of opportunity to the religious minorities but not reservation on the lines of what he envisaged for the Dalits among the Hindu society.

Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 categorically says, “… no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”. The obvious logic behind this was the fact that discrimination based on birth and caste was a peculiar social ill that afflicted Hinduism and its off shoots. Christianity and Islam proclaim that they are egalitarian and does not have castes. So, what explains “Dalit Christian”?

Going by the clarity and finality with which the Constitution has clarified this point, the Supreme Court does not need to seek any political opinion. The petition seeking extending SC/ST status to Christian converts is blatantly ultra-vires to the Constitution. The Supreme Court should dismiss the case and not waste its precious time over such ostensibly divisive matters with a clear political agenda.

The classification of Hindus into castes and classes has its origin somewhere in the historical evolution of the society probably post-Magadh Empire. There is no scriptural sanctity to castes, nor is the classification of people as Dalits and untouchables mandated by the scriptures.

In fact, one of the pioneers of the movement to provide social dignity and justice to the so-called Dalits, Ambedkar had himself mentioned about this in many of his writings and speeches. “The outcaste is a by-product of the caste system. There will be outcastes as long as there are castes. Nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the caste system. Nothing can help to save Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle except the purging of the Hindu faith of this odious and vicious dogma.”

The despicable practice of untouchability and treating someone as belonging to a lower class appears to have crept into the Hindu society as a complex system of relegating people to an unalterable social status. According to some researchers, Hinduism—its Vedic and classical variants—did not support the caste system; it rigorously opposed it in practice and principle.

According to a section of historians, when Islamic invaders resorted to forcible conversion, many communities/groups of people among the Hindus resisted conversion. These groups were either mercilessly killed or banished to remain outside the area of their normal dwelling. They were made to do scavenging and live away from the “converted elites” of the society. Gradually, these groups got organised and began life afresh in ghettos. “It was only after the Islamic atrocities during the medieval times that the untouchables and Dalits emerged”. Historians like H.V. Srinivas, S.V. Kamath and K.M. Panikkar too have written extensively on this issue.

Where Christianity is at fault

Whatever be the origins of the caste system, it was the collective fault of the Hindu society that it allowed a large section of its adherents to remain confined to a life more downgraded than that of the animals. Questioning this abhorrent practice, Ambedkar had asked “how is it that even the animals in our households can partake the water from the ponds which are denied to us, owners of those animals?”

But, by law, much of all these obscurantist practices were consigned to the dustbin of history once the Constitution came into existence. Ambedkar, who piloted the bills on reservation for the oppressed classes of the society, had clearly indicated the need for such a Constitutional provision but for a limited period. His firm belief was that equality of economic and political opportunities will bring the historically marginalised communities to the forefront of progress.

Both Christianity and Islam lured a large section of the Dalit population with a promise that these two religions are egalitarian and do not recognise caste discrimination. But ironically, the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) reported that nearly 70 per cent of the Christian population in India are from the Scheduled castes background. If a “Dalit Christian” or a “Dalit Muslim” continues to feel discriminated, what purpose did the conversion serve?

Only 11 out of the nearly 170 Catholic bishops are Dalits, resulting in lack of representation and participation in Church affairs. The influential upper caste Christian converts are accused of cornering school and college admissions in institutions run by the Church. Recently, when the Vatican promoted Bishop Marampudi Joji of Vijaywada, a Dalit, as the Archbishop of Hyderabad, his predecessor Archbishop Arulappa, an upper caste convert, publicly condemned the Vatican’s decision. Will the high and mighty of these religions admit that their religion is no different when it comes to discrimination? Some Churches are said to be considering separate “Dalit rites” to segregate them from “Upper Caste Christians”.

There seems to be an attempt by a section of the Church to usurp the political, economic and employment privileges guaranteed, as an affirmative action, to a section of the Hindu society. The Supreme Court should thwart this dangerous and divisive move. – The Print, 2 September 2022

Seshadri Chari is the former editor of  the Organiser.

Church demanding reservations for 'Dalit' Christians and Muslims.

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One Response

  1. Dalit Christians demand reservations.

    How Casteless Muslims And Christians Obtain Benefits Meant For Caste Hindus – Vigil Review

    As of today, Christians and Muslims remain excluded from the benefits extended to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Indians, as their respective ideologies do not recognise caste. However, to get around this constitutional obstacle, the majority or near majority of Christians and Muslims have been classified by their religious and community leaders as Backward Class (BC) or Other Backward Class (OBC) and are enjoying the benefits extended by the State and Central Government to these classes to the determent of the Hindus in these classes. See the following table compiled from the Census of India 1961 and the Sachar Committee Report 2006, Table 10.3:


    • Around 40% of all Muslims are already enjoying the benefits of reservation under the OBC quota;
    • The percentage of Muslims and Christians who are cornering the benefits of reservation in the BC and OBC quota vary from state to state;
    • West Bengal – 2.4%;
    • Uttar Pradesh – 62%;
    • Kerala, where the Muslims constitute 25% of the total state population, 99% are classified as OBCs and are claiming reservation quota;
    • In Tamil Nadu 93.3% Muslims have been notified as OBC by the state government in 2004-2005 whereas in 1999-2000 83% of Muslims were notified as OBC―a steep increase of 10% in just five years!


    • All-India population as per 2001 Census – 2.3% or 24.2 million;
    • The Christian population is 1/3 tribal. Of the remaining 2/3, around 70% claim backward status;
    • North-East – 5.3 million tribal Christians which is 1/4 – 1/5 of the total Christian population. The North-east Christians are all tribal people;
    • Orissa – 8 lakh tribal Christians;
    • Bihar and Jharkhand – 1.1 million tribal Christians;
    • Of the remaining 16 million Christians, 60-70% of all Christians in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa are notified as OBCs with percentages varying from state to state as indicated earlier;
    • Only 10% of all Christians in the country are not availing of any kind of reservation and these would be largely the Goan and the Syrian Christians.

    Some hard facts about the politics and religion behind reservations

    • All-India reservation – total 50%. ST 7.5%, SC 15%, OBC 27.5%;
    All-India tribal population stands at 8.2% while all-India SC population is 16.2%;
    • Christians constitute only 10% of the total tribal population but they corner 90% of all ST reservation quotas in higher education and government employment;
    • J&K has 11% tribal population but they probably get nothing;
    • Around 70% of Christians and Muslims have been brought into the quota regime as backward communities or backward classes;
    • There is no category called Scheduled Caste Christians or Muslims. When the Church demands reservation for so-called Dalit Christians and God forbid that it ation and re-classify them as Scheduled Castes so that they can corner all the benefits of SC reservation just as they are cornering all the benefits of the ST reservation quota.

    This cornering is made possible only because of the constitutional right provided to minorities to start and run educational institutions. There is a move now afoot to equate degrees obtained from Muslim madrasas to the CBSE board so that the Muslims in the OBC spectrum may be enabled to corner another major chunk of the benefits of reservation just as the Christians are doing now.

    Tamil Nadu total 69% reservation

    • 50% BC + MBC – 30% BC, 20% MBC;
    • 18% SC – 15% + 3% exclusively for Arundhatiyar community;
    • 1% for ST;
    • About 90% of all Muslims and Christians have been included for reservation under the 30% BC category;
    • 70% of all Tamil Nadu population is considered BC, a very unusual and high percentage;
    • 50% of the 70% BC population is qualified for reservation.

    Now let us see how this works in real terms by taking admission to medical colleges as an example. There are altogether 3000 medical seats of which 30% or 900 seats are allotted to the BC, 600 seats or 20% of the total are allotted to the MBC.

    Christians constitute 6.5% of the total Tamil Nadu population while Muslims constitute 5.5%. Of the total 6.5% of Christians, 6.1% or around 80% of the total Christian population have been classified as BC. This is 1/9 of the total population. BC Christians were cornering 300 seats out of the 900 medical seats every year; that is 1/9 of the population was claiming 1/3 of the share of seats. And that is why Christian politicians and the Christian clergy met the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to ask him to rescind the order granting 3.5% reservation for Christians. The Tamil Nadu government promptly rescinded the order and allowed the Christians to come back into the 30% BC quota segment which was getting them phenomenal returns. Christians must be removed from the 30% BC quota unless we want a situation someday in the near future when they may rampage across the entire BC spectrum. Giving this super-forward religion even 3.5% quota is bad enough but allowing them to occupy the elephant’s space in the BC quota segment is willful betrayal of the cause of Hindu backward classes.

    The same would be true of all professional colleges and in admissions to all under-graduate and post-graduate degrees too. We must not be beguiled into thinking that the remaining seats go to Hindu BCs and MBCs. If we consider the possibility that preference in reservation is given to anti-Hindu, irreligious Dravidian Tamils with marked political affiliations, then we begin to understand what is happening in the Madras High Court and in all other courts of Tamil Nadu. Reservation benefits are being hogged by the minorities and anti-Hindu Dravidian Tamils. Tamil Hindu SCs, BCs and BCs are being increasingly marginalised and alienated from the mainstream.

    The Tamil Nadu government had announced 3.5% exclusive reservation for  Christians and Muslims. This 7% minority reservation quota was supposed to have been hived off the 30% BC reservation quota. In the beginning, the Church welcomed the move but soon beat the retreat when it realised that under the 3.5% exclusive quota, Christian BCs were eligible only for 105 seats as against the 300 seats it was snatching from the mouths of Hindu BCs.

    Now let us look at the last government deception which is proving fatal to Hindu Backward Class and Castes. According to the 2001 Census report which for the first time was collecting such data on the basis of religion, if we consider urbanization and literacy as indicators or indices of forwardness, then in Tamil Nadu:

    • Male literacy is Christians 90%, Muslims also 90%, Hindus 81.5%;
    • Female literacy is Christians 82%, Muslims 76%, Hindus 62.5%;
    • Urbanized percentage – Christians 56%, Muslims 73%, Hindus 41%.


    What can be inferred from this analysis is that Christians and Muslims who do not ideologically recognise caste divisions, have “stolen” most of the  benefits meant for Hindu Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and Hindu Backward Classes and Other Backward Classes. If it comes about that “Dalit Christians” and “Dalit Muslims” are recognised by the Government as caste entities, then Christians and Muslims will hog all of the benefits with nothing left for Dalit Hindus. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Hindus will then have to convert to Christianity (or Islam) in order to obtain these benefits. The Indian bishops are aware of this and it is a part of their game plan to decimate the Hindu society in this way.


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