Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy is an unlikely author of a book titled “Defeating Political Islam” since he is a nuclear and radiation physicist. But there you have it. That book has received glowing reviews from some of the most serious scholars and activists engaged in studying the impact of political Islam and Islamic terrorism on the world, including Robert Spencer. We have to take what Dr. Muthuswamy writes very seriously. We may have a vague sense that all is not well in India when it comes to state-sanctioned religious discrimination against Hindus. But to truly understand the scope and intensity of that, I had to read his article on “Religious Apartheid in Modern India: Transforming of a Civilization.”
Did you know St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi is setting up a quota system that allots 50 percent of its student enrolment for the Christians? Did you also know that “About 95 percent of the college’s expenses are paid by the taxpayers, with the majority community [i.e., Hindus] contributing most of it”? Did you know that Article 30 of the Indian Constitution permits such discrimination and the government forces non-Christians to pay for a Christian institution which discriminated against non-Christians?
Non-Christians paying for the benefits of Christians. Does this amount to the state providing a financial incentive for non-Christians to convert to Christianity?
If the percentage of missionary-controlled educational institutions is proportional to the Christian minority population percentage, these discriminations, while hardly justifiable for a nation that calls itself “secular,” are unlikely to have an adverse impact. However, here’s the gist of the problem: the 2.3 percent (2001 census figures) Christian minorities control over 22 percent (almost ten times their population percentage) of all educational institutions in India (i.e., over 40,000 of them).
In combination with Article 30, the above statistics state the obvious: The Christians are a privileged minority in India, with the government’s resources — inadvertently, it seems — allocated for their preferred empowerment. Not surprisingly, literacy rate of the Christians in India stands at 80 percent, compared to 65 percent overall. With the missionaries providing nearly 30 percent of the healthcare services in India, employment possibilities for those who convert to Christianity are significantly more than those of non-Christians. In addition, the minority status of missionary-controlled institutions helps them get tax, land allotment and many other benefits.
Does it matter that non-Christians are systematically discriminated against in India? Here’s Moorthy:
The magnitude and scale of these discriminations are staggering. If each missionary-controlled institution has on the average a total of 300 students and staff, and if it discriminates on the average against 10 non-Christian student enrolments and youth employments every year, it translates to about a quarter million discriminatory acts every year. For instance, St. Stephen’s, which has an incoming class of about 400 students every year, allots nearly 200 of these seats exclusively for Christians — i.e., nearly 200 acts of discrimination every year [in just one college alone].
There is a word for this kind of thing. Apartheid.
It is pertinent to contrast here the scheme implemented in South Africa by the ruling white minority during the apartheid era. The black majority was deliberately denied education and employment opportunities through a racial system designed to favour the whites. This, in a nutshell denied the black majority empowerment in their land. Of course, in the case of South Africa, the white ruling class’s apartheid practices were deliberate and by design, in order to keep the black majority away from power. However, in the case of India, the egregious religious discriminations are an unintended consequence of Article 30 of the Indian constitution. Or so it seems.
World over, people began to raise their voices against the cruelty and immorality of the apartheid practices in South Africa. But in India, the larger-than-life implications of similar practices have yet to be realised — and, let alone be addressed. Indeed, best-selling author Ramachandra Guha himself an alumni of St. Stephen’s gets it only half right when he calls the reservation policies of his former college, “unethical.”
The discriminatory policies induced by Article 30 of the Indian constitution, arguably, violate Articles 23 and 26 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Charter) to which India is a signatory. Specifically, “the right to work, to free choice of employment,” mentioned in Article 23 and, “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit,” mentioned in Article 26 appear to be violated. Therefore, Article 30-induced discriminations constitute human rights violations as well.
How is it that in Hindu majority India, Hindus are discriminated against like this?
The Hindu majority has become under-privileged in part due to centuries of alien rule in which they were shut out of power and were discriminated against. It is indeed true that at the present time the Muslim minorities are relatively under-privileged compared to the Hindu majority. Even still, one has to wonder how much of that is self-inflicted, considering the well-established reluctance of the Muslim community in India to embrace modern education by choosing madarasa (Muslim religious school) education. The regressive evolution of the Muslim majority Pakistan, despite sharing much with India also substantiates the role of self-infliction.
Moorthy presents chilling evidence of discrimination and its effect.
Article 30-Induced Deprivations
Post 1990s, the religious apartheid practices permitted by Article 30 of India’s constitution have played a primary role in devastating the majority community economically in the southern Indian state of Kerala by marginalising their educational opportunities. The article has given minority-controlled institutions in Kerala legal power to discriminate and to regulate educational access at the expense of the taxpayers. According to Indian academic C. Issac:
“[The] 55 per cent of Hindu population of Kerala controls 11.11 per cent of the state’s bank deposits. On the other hand, the 19 per cent Christian community commands 33.33 per cent and 25 per cent Muslim population retains 55.55 per cent…. The education is one of the major sectors where the organised strength of the minorities in Kerala is used in a covert manner. In this sector the majority [Hindu] community as well as the government together control only 11.11 percent, on the other hand, the church controls 55.55 percent and Muslim religious organisations 33.33 percent of all institutions. At present the professional education sector of Kerala is almost under the full control of the minorities. About 12,000 engineering enrolments and 300 medicine enrolments are in the minority institutions and they are fully controlling the admissions. At present 60 percent of the enrolments in paramedical courses are controlled by the organised minority religious leadership…. In this situation the successive governments are functioning as mere onlookers…. A lion’s share of these aided [government-funded] schools is under minority management.”
Can a parent belonging to the majority community expect his/her sons and daughters, even if they are well-qualified, to receive college education in Kerala? Difficult as it is to get admission in a college, it is unlikely to be lost on many Hindus that they stand a much higher chance, should they convert to one of the privileged minority faiths.
A resident of Kanyakumari — a southern district in the state of Tamilnadu that has newly become Christian majority — has commented below on the infringing of the rights of the Hindu community. Here again, the issue of concern is enhanced government-sponsored empowerment opportunities available for those who belong to minority religions through Article 30, and their denials to the majority community:
“There are so many scholarship programmes for minorities and backward classes, but there is no such scholarship for Hindu students. The poor are not able to afford children’s education. We will have to vote for Radhakrishnan [a Hindu legislator contestant] to get our rights back.”
Not surprisingly, in many parts of India, there have been anecdotal instances of entire families converting to Christianity in order for their children to receive education and scholarships. This is creating destabilising social tensions, with the ill-informed majority community unable to enact measures to modify the existing minority-favouring system of quotas, and instead, directing anger unfairly at the minority Christians.
In other words, Hindus are forced to pay (through taxes to their government) for their own religious conversion. As a Hindu, I find this unacceptable.
Evidence-based reasoning suggests that India is undergoing a civilisational transformation – a process of de-hinduising, powered by Article 30-induced egregious deprivations. This shows that the majority community in India has not yet matured enough to protect its core interests from being unfairly trampled. While the minorities’ politisation of their religious institutions have helped them mobilize their community to vote and to leverage the voting power to advance their interests, the lack of politisation of the majority community’s religious institutions has not helped. These contrasting roles played by the religious institutions of the minority and majority communities can be traced to centuries of rule by alien powers. In order to mitigate potential challenges to their hold on power, the alien entities ensured de-politising of the majority community’s religious institutions.
It’s a long article — and rightly so since it touches on a important matter which cannot be discussed meaningfully in sound-bite sized pieces. Here is a bit more from it.
Among the capable segments of India’s population, the middle class, upper middle class, and even the rich members of the majority community have remained apolitical — by largely shying away from voting — due to their disappointment with the political process in the nation. They could afford to, as the booming economy of the past two decades has created educational and job opportunities for them. . .
It has become quite clear that the apolitical, and yet the capable segments of the majority community now have to involve themselves in the political process, in order to ensure a future for themselves and their progenies. . .
Clearly, modern and “emergent” India has to do away with Article 30 in the present form. The question remains what should replace it. A window into answering this question comes from the United States of America, arguable among the most developed secular democracies and home to a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Discriminations faced by the black minorities and to a lesser extent by non-Christian and non-white immigrants from abroad (in employment, educational, social and professional settings), compelled the United States to enact the cornerstone anti-discrimination legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. . .
This article shouldn’t be viewed as an attack on Christian minorities or a call for undermining their rights, or an effort to stop conversions altogether. The focus of this analysis is about the egregious human rights violations of the 80 percent majority community. By tracing these violations to Article 30 of the Indian constitution, this piece offers ways of addressing this issue objectively and fairly without infringing on anyone’s rights. As a modern and free nation, India ought to uphold the right of its people to practice and importantly, change a faith as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, . . .
One could justifiably argue that India doesn’t deserve to be called a modern democracy unless it takes steps to stop the constitution-based egregious discriminatory practices and unfair denial of empowerment of one eighth of entire humanity. . .
If biodiversity is viewed crucial for the well-being of humanity, so should cultural-religious diversity. For instance, India’s western neighbour Pakistan’s relentless drive to eradicate cultural-religious diversity within may have left it highly vulnerable to dead-end ideologies. It is incumbent on humanity to ensure that ancient ways of life are allowed to evolve, and not be extinguished by apartheid practices.
 I have not read Dr Muthuswamy’s “Defeating Political Islam” yet. It is on my reading list though. I am a very slow reader, unfortunately. Last year, I had mentioned the book in a blog post in May 2009. After that, I had the privilege of speaking to Dr Muthuswamy over the phone.
Categories: Random Draws