July  2004 
Year 10    No.99

Special Report


'Christians will support under-represented Muslimsí

John Dayal
Secretary general, All India Christian Council

Principally, I am personally opposed to religion-based reservations and believe that only poverty and caste should be the accepted criterion. However, as a member of another minority I am loath to oppose or take away what another minority (Muslim) has got (say, in Andhra Pradesh) especially when as we all know the socio-economic condition of the Muslim minority is in the pits.

Their representation or proportion in education, services, judiciary is sometimes as low as less than one per cent and hence it is clear that some pro-active affirmative action is necessary.

The Christian leadership, which finally opposed religion-based reservation at the conclusion of the constituent assembly debates, met over this issue and has resolved to support the Muslim community in their decision, whatever it may be.

More importantly, we have discussed how, independent of State and government, we must involve ourselves in the uplift of the Muslim minority in India. We have discussed with the leadership how more convent schools need to be opened in Muslim-dominated areas so that Muslim girls can attend school within the safety of the convent. We have discussed how we should join hands to exert pressure on the government for more government technical schools to be opened in Muslim-dominated areas and how Wakf Boards can be encouraged to not only support moneyed and fashionable medical and engineering colleges but technology-based and polytechnic institutions.

At the conclusion of the debates within the constituent assembly, Jerome DíSouza ultimately refused religion-based reservation, satisfied that the interests of a minority could be well served without religion-based services. Christian representation at 2.5 per cent overall has recently begun to decline, however. Within this there is a domination of the Kerala or Naga Christian. To respond to this trend we have prepared a memorandum for the government so that Christians remain, not simply cooks and mechanics, but owners of restaurants and hotels and professional outfits.

List of demands put before the new government by the AICC:

1. Urgent steps to ensure that minority educational institutions are assured their autonomy at all times.

2. A permanent empowered Equality Commission/Equal Opportunities Commission to deal with the issues related to exclusion and discrimination.

3. Commission on backwardness and representation of religious and linguistics minorities in national life.

4. Benefits of affirmative action of the State to be available to all persons belonging to SCs irrespective of faith.

5. A comprehensive Central Law on Communal Violence for (i) Prevention (ii) Control (iii) Prosecution (iv) Adequate Compensation & Rehabilitation as recommended by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal 2002.

6. Basic reform of the police system to make it function independently, accountable in law for impartial law enforcement on the lines suggested by the National Police Commission (NPC 1978-81).

7. Basic reform of the administration of the justice system especially of the subordinate judiciary for delivery of prompt untainted justice.

8. Use of force and firearms by the police to be brought into conformity with human rights standards.

9. A comprehensive Right to Information law to make governance transparent and accountable.

10.  Review of the electoral system introducing measures enabling under-represented segments like women, religious minorities and certain social groups to get due representation in legislatures and other elected bodies.


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