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There are occasional rays of hope amid the gloom but at the moment, there is reason to be pessimistic The fate of the 70-year-old struggle of India’s converts from its erstwhile “untouchable” castes in the Hindu hierarchy may well be in the hands of a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan while in office had asked Church leaders if they were willing to say on oath that they exercised caste discrimination in their congregations. There was silence in the courtroom. He was at that time hearing appeals against Article 341 Part 3 which assures affirmative action including scholarships, jobs and political representation to this group of citizens as long as they remain Hindu. If they convert to Christianity or Islam, they lose the benefits. The converts may also be jailed if the government discovers that they had studied in Church schools on scholarships given to Christian students. "Dalits who embraced other religions were denied the benefits of affirmative action by presidential order" Justice Balakrishnan was the first Dalit, as the former untouchable castes now call themselves, to become the chief justice of India. His elevation was the direct result of a question raised by former President K R Narayanan, the

NEW DELHI: Calling religious conversions by use of force or allurement a threat to national security, the Supreme Court on Monday sought a detailed affidavit from the government on steps being taken to curb this "dangerous trend." As solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that it is common knowledge that such conversions are rampant in tribal areas, the court asked what the Cenre and states have done to stop it. The Centre must step in and make its stand clear, the bench of Justices MR S hah and Hima Kohli said. Forced conversions a threat to national security, says SC Expressing grave concern over alleged religious conversions by use of force, allurement and deception, the Supreme Court on Monday warned that this posed "a very serious threat to the security of the country" and sought a detailed affidavit from the government on the steps being taken to curb this "dangerous trend". Hearing a PIL filed by advocate-petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay, a bench of Justices M R Shah and Hima Kohli told solicitor general Tushar Mehta that "everyone has the freedom of conscience to choose a religion. But religious conversions through force or any kind of temptation is a dangerous thing which must be stopped".

The church should have studied and discussed the judgment in detail before rushing to welcome it. India’s Supreme Court upholding the economic criteria for granting educational and job quotas to the privileged upper castes could be the final nail in the coffin for the country’s affirmative action program for historically disadvantaged groups such as the Dalits or former untouchables and the indigenous tribal people. The Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church deserves its share of the blame for missing the woods for the trees by welcoming the decision and expressing its readiness to ignore the historical injustices unleashed on the marginalized sections of Indians in the name of the caste system. For centuries, people in the lowest strata of Indian society were ostracized from public life. The idea of educational and job reservations for the ‘outcastes’ was to enable them to have a level playing field with the so-called upper castes. India’s constitution-makers, fully aware of the rampant poverty in the country, decided that the criteria for reservations should be the social poverty that a community faces, and not economic poverty. However, a 1950 presidential order limited the affirmative action program only to people from the Hindu religion on the grounds that casteism was practiced only by them.

New Delhi, Nov 3, 2022: Journalism now faces great challenges from inside the profession and outside, says veteran journalist John Dayal, after he was selected for a prestigious award by the national association of Catholic journalists in India. The Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) has also chosen a grassroots Jesuit activist and a Holy Spirit nun, besides Dayal, for its annual awards this year. The award was announced November 2 by the association’s president Ignatius Gonsalves and secretary Capuchin Father Suresh Mathew. John Dayal, who is also a writer and human rights activist, was selected for the Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism for his bold, continuous and consistent writing against communalism and fundamentalism gaining ground globally. The award citation hails Dayal as “a prophet of our times” who is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly on the persecution of religious minorities. “He has been a member of several government bodies, including the National Integration Council, and holds senior roles in numerous non-government organizations and networks, including as co-founder and secretary general of the All India Christian Council, 1999-2014, national president of the 1919-founded all India Catholic Union between 2004 and 2008, and a member of Justice and Peace Commission of

The narrative of Muslims and Christians being casteless is more significant to India’s handling of caste than we assume. After years of it remaining confined to academic discussions, the prospect of Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Muslims and Christians suddenly feels real. The last month has seen much activity on the question. The Union government’s appointment of a commission under KG Balakrishnan on October 8 has received much press coverage. However, it is not well known that the government did not set up the commission of its own accord but after the Supreme Court asked it to respond to an ongoing case. On August 30, the Supreme Court had listed the case of M Ejaz Ali vs Union of India, combining a batch of public interest litigations from Muslim and Christian groups demanding Scheduled Caste status. Some of these petitions go as far back as 2004. Denial and opposition While the anticipation of Scheduled Caste status brings hope for the most marginalised Muslim and Christian communities as it will allow them to access reservations in educational institutions and government jobs, it is also met with denials and opposition from several spheres. Predictably, groups the like All India Muslim Personal Law Board, who have claimed to represent

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