"Jatiya mislead Parliament in issue of Dalit-Christian's demand for reservation," says AICC

AICC leaders has condemned Union Minister Jatiya's action and will take seek judicial review
Jan 08, 2004 08:51 PM EST

New Delhi, India., Jan. 7 - The All India Christian Council (AICC) has denounced the Union Social Justice Minister Satya Narain Jatiya for misleading Parliament by his series of untruths on the issue of Dalit Christians.

The Christian Council is approaching the Lok Sabha Speaker and major political parties in this matter.

Christian Council President Dr. Joseph D Souza and Secretary General Dr. John Dayal said Jatiya has committed a breach of the Privilege of the Lok Sabha by withholding vital information and concocting half-truths to hide the real motives of the Government and the NDA in denying to Dalit Christians the benefit of reservations in education and government employment currently given to Dalits professing Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions.

Jatiya is incorrect in saying that there will be an international controversy if Dalit Christians are given the rights of equality with other Dalits that they have been demanding for 53 years. In fact, the Dalit Christians have generated national and international support for their demand as a matter of natural justice. The issue was agitated at the UN sponsored World Conference against racism and discrimination at Durban, South Africa, two years ago, and Dalit forums all over the world have been making similar demands.

The matter is not of imposing the caste system on Christians. Christianity denounces any system that discriminates between human beings because of their origins of birth. But Dalits who become Christians continue to suffer social and official discrimination because of their origins. Worse, the existing laws are coercive and punish converts to Christianity by robbing them of the privileges. This is keeping Christians poor, jobless and landless in many states. As a matter of record, Sikhs and Buddhism, which also abhor the Caste system and are themselves as egalitarian as Islam and Christianity, have been given these privileges of reservation after a long agitation recognising the social ground reality.

The Dalits themselves see religion-based discrimination as an assault on their Freedom of Faith and a ploy to keep Dalits in the social and religious captivity of one religion under fear of severe punishment of losing their civil and economic rights.

The government has taken refuge in the mischievous reports of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes as well as the Registrar General. It will be recalled that the National SC and ST Commission is dominated by the Sangh Parivar and has been misleading Hindu Dalits that their privileges will be eaten away by Christians and Muslim Dalits.

In fact, the National Commission for Minorities has repeatedly urged the Indian government to restore equality and give Dalit Christians all rights and privileges given to Dalit Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists.

The Central Government had in fact once itself moved a Bill to give Dalit Christians all rights of Government reservation in jobs, education and other spheres. The Bill was moved by the then Welfare Minister Sitaram Kesri after being cleared by the Union Cabinet and the Law and related ministries. It was not taken up eventually as the Speaker held it was being brought too late in the Session.

The Christian Council held that the Registrar General of India, who conducts the ten-yearly Census, has no locus standi in this matter. The Census operations have been challenged in the past for not accurately reflecting the populations of native tribal religions and several caste groups and for withholding population details of religion because of political reasons.

The Christian Council, together with secular Civil Society groups and Dalit Organisations, is contemplating taking recourse to judicial processes to redress this bigotry and discrimination which aggravates the historical disparities brought about by the heinous caste system.

- by our Special Correspondent