There Is No Case For Quota Benefits To Dalit Christians; Here's What Hindus Must Tell SC Bench

by R Jagannathan - Aug 31, 2022 11:37 AM +05:30 IST
There Is No Case For Quota Benefits To Dalit Christians; Here's What Hindus Must Tell SC BenchThe Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice U U Lalit.
Snapshot
  • Ghar wapsi is the remedy, not an extension of quota benefits for those who left Hinduism in the belief that the grass was greener on the other side. It obviously wasn’t.

The new Chief Justice of India, U U Lalit, appears to be in a tearing hurry to settle some constitutional issues pending before the Supreme Court.

It is, however, worrisome, that on his priority to-do list is something that can do huge damage to Hindu interests, if the verdict goes the wrong way.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has asked the Centre to give its views on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Hinduphobic social justice warrior (SJW), Prashant Bhushan, to strike down paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950.

This order excludes people professing any religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism from quota benefits.

The order says, inter alia, “no person professing a religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism shall be deemed to be a member of a scheduled caste.”

That the highest court should take up a case that has huge implications for Hindu demography is telling, when larger issues involving equal rights for Hindus (like freeing temples from state control, or establishing denominational status to sampradayas and affirming deity rights) are still left in cold storage.

The SJW gene in the apex court is acting up again.

But since the issue has indeed come up, the Centre, and various Hindu organisations, including SC/ST ones, must make their case forcefully before the bench.

Here is what the bench needs to be told.

First, the issue of affirmative action for sections of Hindu society who were negatively impacted by the caste system is essentially an internal Hindu issue.

Quotas are a way of compensating those who lost out by reserving seats in educational institutions in public sector and government jobs. They are not meant to address the inequities inherent in Christianity and Islam.

An analogy will help clarify the issue. Let’s say you are an Indian student seeking quality higher education, and believe that MIT is better than IIT.

But after paying through your nose for an MIT degree, you find that IIT engineers are doing just as well. You can’t now ask India to compensate you for the higher fees you paid at MIT, or demand an honorary IIT degree for MIT alumni.

Second, offering quota benefits for those who left Hinduism is like incentivising conversions. This cannot ever be a right.

The court should not handicap Hindus any more than what they are already subjected to by being designated as a privileged “majority”, especially through a Euro-centric interpretation of constitutional ideas.

Third, the logic of including Sikhs and Buddhists (and not Dalit Christians and Pasmanda Muslims) in this affirmative action programme is simple: as part of the larger Dharmic system, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are deemed to have been impacted by caste-based inequities.

This is why Article 25, which promises freedom of religion, says specifically in section (2) (b) that freedom of religion does not mean that the state cannot intervene to render social welfare and reforms in Hindu religious institutions of a public character, adding:

“Explanation II: In sub-clause (b) of clause, reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.”

Even though this intervention is about religious institutions, the logic applies equally to public institutions in general.

So, unless the bench wants to include the right to interfere with caste-based discrimination in Islam and Christianity as well, it cannot just extend the benefits of social welfare to them and hold back the disabilities imposed by Article 25 (2)(b) only on Hindu/Dharmic religions.

Fourth, the Supreme Court has already pronounced a verdict in the matter of conversion and reconversion in relation to quota benefits.

In a case decided by a two-judge bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and V Gopala Gowda in 2015, it was held that if someone who converted to Christianity reconverts, and his old community accepts him or her, quota benefits cannot be denied.

The case involved K P Manu, who was born in the Pulaya community of Kerala. His father had converted to Christianity, but Manu, born in 1960, decided to reconvert to Hinduism in 1984 and the court allowed him to reclaim his SC status on reconversion.

The simple point: there is no case whatsoever for extending quota benefits to Christians or Muslims.

The remedy is reconversion and acceptance within the castes that they previously left.

The first question the Sanjay Kaul bench must ask the petitioners is this:

“Do you affirm, and affirm on oath, that the church and the mosque too discriminate on the basis of caste? That conversion to Christianity or Islam is no better than staying within Hinduism? And if the answer is yes, why do you still remain Christian or Muslims and still demand quota benefits?”

Those who chose to leave Hinduism and become Muslims and Christians, whether in this generation or previous ones, in the hope that the grass was greener on the other side cannot now, after enjoying the benefits offered by the other side, claim additional quota benefits on this side of the fence.

Hindus cannot be asked to pay double the price for those who left their portals in the name of social justice.

If those who left Hinduism now think they made a mistake, the simple way to address the issue is by returning to the Hindu fold to claim these compensatory benefits of affirmative action.

Ghar wapsi is the remedy, not an extension of quota benefits for those who left Hinduism in the belief that the grass was greener on the other side. It obviously wasn’t.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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