A recent Madras High Court judgement comes dangerously close to indirectly encouraging crypto-Christians from passing off as Hindus for retaining their reservation benefits. Crypto-Christians are converts from Hinduism who fail to declare their change in faith for fear of losing quota and reservation benefits.
The judgement, delivered by a two-judge bench comprising Sanjib Banerjee and M Duraiswamy, involves a case in which one P Muneeswari, born to Hindu Pallan parents, lost her Scheduled Caste (SC) certificate after she married a Christian, apparently agreed to bring up her children as Christian, attended church and had the cross displayed in her clinic.
It seems that the government authorities in Ramanathapuram district, who cancelled her SC certificate, noted the cross displayed on her clinic wall, and concluded that she may have converted.
The judgement, according to a Times of India report, noted: “There is no suggestion in the affidavit that she has abandoned her faith or that she has embraced Christianity. It is equally possible that she, as a part of a family may accompany her husband and children for Sunday matins, but the mere fact that a person goes to church does not mean that such person has altogether abandoned the original faith to which such person was born.”
Look at the dubious and iffy nature of the logic of this judgement’s assertions. It is “possible” that Muneeswari may attend church because her family goes there. And going to church does not mean she has “altogether abandoned” the faith she was born to. Nor does her decision to let her children be raised Christian. Which Hindu who has not abandoned her faith will want her children to be raised Christian?
One wonders what proof can ever be adduced to show that one is still a Hindu, since being Hindu does not require the kind of religious narrow-mindedness that Abrahamic religions demand of their followers – no display or worship of any other god but their own.
If a woman marries a Christian and apparently agrees to raise her children as Christian, and hangs a cross in her workplace, has she not effectively decided that the faith of her husband matters more than her own in such matters? At the very least, this is patriarchy masquerading as religious freedom. And we know how the church makes a big issue of raising the children of mixed-faith marriages to sign affidavits in which the Hindu partner can retain his or her faith as long as she/he agrees to a Christian upbringing for their children. This is 'love jihad', Christian style.
And yet, the High Court judgement has the gall to claim that the withdrawal of the SC certification was somehow “narrow-mindedness” on the part of the Tamil Nadu district authorities, who are seldom favourably disposed to Hindus and their culture. Now, which district authority will ever withdraw the caste certificates of converts?
The judgement said: “The acts and conduct of the authorities portray a degree of narrow-mindedness that the constitution does not encourage”.
What this implies is that crypto-Christians can in future boldly follow their new faith and the judiciary will look the other way. Judges claiming to protect the Constitution can conveniently claim that just because they hang a cross at home, worship Jesus or go to church, they cannot be called Christian. Wonder which Christian would agree to this definition.
This is not just an insult to our intelligence, but an asymmetric application of the tolerance rule to only Hindus. Since Hindus usually have no objection to the worship of other gods or displays of Christian symbols, they will be held up to tolerance norms that will effectively not be applied to the really intolerant faiths.
This judgement must be vigorously challenged by all Hindu organisations for it will indirectly encourage conversions away from Hinduism. Next, a woman forcibly converted to Islam will claim quota benefits and a judge will claim that the mere reading of the Quran, reciting the Shahada, or praying to Allah five times a day does not mean the person is a convert to Islam.
Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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