christanity in india dalit christians

“India is one of the biggest secular countries” is actually a fabricated statement, to be genuine; India witnesses multiple violations of secularism in every nuke and corner. Two of such violations of secularism in India include 1950 scheduled caste order para 3, which is a clear violation of secularism in India. Secularism implies unconditional freedom of religion or unconditional ignorance of religion. But this impugned 1950 scheduled caste order, para 3 directly or indirectly imposes a punishment on the scheduled castes if they profess any other religion other than Hindu. With this presidential order, the axe is levied hardly on Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, that orders abolition of the discrimination. This para 3 clearly discriminates by imposing such orders only on the members of the scheduled castes. It is a purely caste discrimination. And another side, allowing Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh religions and declaring members of other religions is another form of religion based discrimination.

Another Violation of Secularism and Personal freedom has taken place in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the form a Circular Memo issued in February of 1998. Either it can be 1950 scheduled caste order or it can be 1998 memo, or any other such memos, circulars, GOs, orders etc, are being issued by the authorities with envious and biased mind. They miss the secular, moral and ethical logic, yet their hearts are hard enough to impose such memos or orders on the members of the scheduled castes. 1998 Circular Memo Clause 8 had mentioned four statements in the memo under the conversion and reconversion heading. First two statements were imported from 1975 central government guidelines. The problem developed when the memo continued to add two more paragraphs 3&4, with their own interpretation and biased and envious belief system. The Circular memo via 10956/CV.1/97-2 dated 16th February 1998 actually issued in the name of Principal Secretary, Social Welfare Department. The memo clearly dictates its objective to scare the Scheduled Caste Church Visitors. The religious cruelty of the authorities and the inbuilt caste discrimination on the scheduled castes are clearly exposed with this memo.

Though it is Just a Circular Memo, it went on violating multiple rights especially few GOs and guidelines and constitution values. The memo empowers the revenue authorities to declare the applicant as converted Christian based on the spot enquiry, even not baptized and based on the traditions and customs. It is a violation of the fundamental rights of the members of the scheduled castes. With this memo, the members of scheduled castes lost the freedom of exercising their personal freedom through Article 14,15,17,19,21, 25 of the Indian Constitution. This memo clearly exposes its intention to threaten the members of the scheduled castes not to attend any kind of Christian Meets, Sunday Worships, not even to participate in Christian Festivals. The memo misses the logic of constitutional freedom granted to the citizens of India.

Article 21 clearly states that the citizen has the liberty to go anywhere. Mere going to a church, attending a Christian meet, celebrating a Christian festival doesn’t make some as Christian. Recently many court judgments have come up in support of church visitors not to be declared as Christian just based on the attendance, Christian Material and Personal behavior. The church visitors can be of multiple objectives. Few visitors may be visiting the church just to get healed, few may by accompanying a friend or relative, few may attend for time pass and peace of mind. But this memo empowers the government authorities to declare all these visitors as Christians and reject the SC caste certificate. It also violates Baptism Principal of Christian Faith. The memo clearly mentions, though Baptism is required for conversion, even without baptism, based on life style and traditions, the applicant can be declared as Christian and reject the scheduled caste status. The authorities didn’t consider the value of the baptism. Baptism is a wall between conversion and non-conversion. Churches won’t consider a visitor as member of a church unless he is baptized, nor allow him to be part Holy Communion to take part in bread and wine, but this memo utterly ignores the mandatory requirement of a conversion process either through Baptism or through voluntary public confession or oath. If a church doesn’t consider a visitor as a Christian without baptism, if a revenue authority don’t consider him as Hindu because he is a church visitor, then what is the religion of a church visitor without taking baptism?

The memo violates many previous GOs. It violated 1975 Central Govt Guidelines and 1980 and 1997 G.Os of AP Govt (United AP). Due to these violations, the reservations, benefits, government affirmative programs etc, of scheduled caste members are taken away, in AP and Telangana more than 1.5 crore members of Scheduled Caste Members just because of mainly targeting Church Visitors. According to the Central Government Guidelines (No.35/1/72-R.U.(SCT.V) dated April 1975), the verification should be done by birth to issue caste certificate. According to G.O.M.S NO. 89, Dated 03.04.1980, if a Harijan applies for Harijan Caste Certificate and if the Harijan Caste was recorded throughout his school records, without any further enquiry, the Harijan Caste Certificate to be issued. According to GO.M.S. No. 58, Social Welfare (J), dated 12th May 1997, In case of incorrectness of documents of submitted, and then launches verification of School Records, Birth Certificate and Parents Caste Certificate to issue caste certificates. If not satisfactory, then enquire from the people who are well-known to the applicant. If any neighbor or a member of the scheduled caste colony objects the member who is objecting should produce documentary evidence in front of the authority and the applicant. But the authorities using this circular memo, the movement one applicant applies for certificate, the revenue authorities directly invade the house of a applicant and do search operation for Christian photos, Christian calendars, Christian books etc., and they do take witness from neighbor without proper evidences, in the name of Panchanama.  They collect from the members of scheduled castes lot of promise statements forcing the applicants that they worship only Hindu Gods, the women in the family wear bangles, none of the family members converted to Christianity etc.,.

In 1997 GO, anthropological and ethnological traits, rituals and customs are instructed to be verified in case of Scheduled tribes. There is a difference between scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The scheduled castes are listed based on the communities which are treated as untouchables in the society. But Scheduled Tribes are not untouchables. They are geographically away from the society and each tribe has a separate culture. Hence the GOs clearly mentioned that anthropological and ethnological traits, Deity, method of marriage and method of Burials need to be verified in case of scheduled tribes. But this memo, either intentionally or by mistake, they instructed to verify traditions, customs, festivals, anthropological and ethnological traits to the scheduled castes. It is theoretically and technically error.

Due this erroneous circular memo, the revenue authorities do harass members of scheduled castes who attend churches though they are not actually converted to Christianity through baptism. Because of the raids done by the revenue department to verify customs, life style, festivals etc., and reject caste certificates, the members of the scheduled caste are in constant fear and feel no freedom to live their life with their own consciousness. This is utmost inhumane and unconstitutional harassment on the members of the scheduled caste. Most of the revenue authorities, government servants are not well equipped with laws and rules, sometimes, they do reject caste certificate if the applicant has just Western Fancy Names like Grace, Mercy, etc.,, saying they are Christians by name. The authorities behave as if Indians don’t have freedom to name themselves whatever they want.

This memo is being misused to blackmail government employees, students, and politicians, to threaten them not to attend churches so as not to lose their job, if the job is on SC reservations. Few of upper caste communities are using this circular memo as cause to forcible declaration of someone as non-SC member to avoid SC,ST Atrocity cases filed by Scheduled Castes members. Few complaints rose to take revenge on one another, to put into trouble, if someone goes to the church.

This memo also leads to Hindus being forced to convert into Christianity by Government Officials, force out to another religion though having interest to stay back in Hinduism, to fall on obsessive compulsive disorder to adopt non Hindu Religion, and to proactively make someone to leave Hinduism though they are indecisive at that point.  This is injustice to Scheduled caste members who like to be part of Hindu community.

When the research launched by to figure out actual reason behind these revenue raids scheduled caste church visitors, after doing research on about 100 to 150 government GOs, we identified this 25 years old circular memo which is issued in the 1998 year. Immediately, we have filed PIL in AP High Court, We have lodged RTI to the Government of AP asking for the number of victims due to this circular memo, and We have given representation to the Honourable Governor, and Governor has forwarded our request to the chief secretary to the government of AP. We have given representation to the Minister, Social Welfare department and we have given letters to Advisor to the government.

We have lodged complaint with Social Welfare Principal Secretaries and sent recommendation letter to repeal the memo by AP SC Commission Chairman, and forwarded to Chief Secretary to the government of AP. We have announced Ethnic Costume Protest in this state capital Vijayawada on 20.06.2022, requesting the government to Repeal Para 3&4 of Clause VIII of 1998 Memo. We are demanding the government to revise the memo by adding the statements like Make Baptism and Self Affidavit mandatory for conversion certificate, and in other cases, original religion to be maintained and to rectify the online portals, and to stop raids on the houses of scheduled castes.

These forcible conversions from SC to BC will damage the country. The Dalit community will vanish on paper but discrimination remains. The population will overflow in BC Community who are already majority with 52% population but just are allowed 27% reservations. If this transfer from SC to BC continues, the BC Communities continue to suffer more. SC members lose reservations, jobs, government benefits and they go into poverty again, ultimately India fails in achieving elimination of poverty objective. Any government should hold the common objective of poverty and unemployment elimination. The Orders and GOs like 1950 President’s scheduled caste order and 1998 AP Circular Memos are very harmful to the development of the country since these laws will provide upliftment to only the members of one particular religion and the members of other religions will remain in poverty and hunger. If these kind of GOs continues, one religion may be progressive but not India.

We are seeking support from National and Telugu states Dalit and Christian organizations to support out fight with the state government to repeal its local circular memo issued on church going scheduled castes.

Ramesh Babu Kakumanu is Educationalist, Academician,  Entrepreneur and Dalit Activist. He has submitted PhD to the Jawharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad. He has worked as a Management Professor for about 21 years and presently working with his own private limited company as Founder Chairman to MiTia Traders Pvt Ltd..


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