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  Religious discrimination by Indian minorities  
 

 

By: Moorthy Muthuswamy PhD
May 08, 2005
V
iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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(The views expressed here are author’s own. The writer is a nuclear physicist based in America. He is also a director of Indian American Intellectuals Forum, a New York-based non-profit organization. His contact address: MoorthyM@comcast.net) 

In an earlier paper (Is America undermining religious freedom abroad?) I had discussed how some groups belonging to proselytizing religions such as Christianity or Islam are using blatant discrimination to garner wealth unfairly from majority community in India. This leads to impoverishment and illiteracy among the beleaguered Hindu majority, who can then be much more easily converted – by falsely claiming that Hindu religious practices make them destitute! These practices of religious discrimination thus are in violation of religious freedom.  

The United States State Department (USSD) and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) who lecture Indian governments the need to revoke anti-conversion laws (on the grounds of violating religious freedom) have turned a blind eye (due to a lack of knowledge) to religious discrimination by minority institutions in India. The USSD officials have even lobbied on behalf of these discriminating institutions, trying to nudge regional Indian governments to revoke anti-conversion laws! 

A survey of minority operated Institutions in India 

Note: The following statistics were extracted from institutions’ official web pages. Faculty religious affiliations were determined based upon their names. A more accurate religious determination will further skew the data toward religious bias. The faculty salaries appear to be State or tax-payer funded. 

  • American College, Madurai, Tamil Nadu (Christian missionary operated):

Total faculty members: 122
      Christian faculty members: 81; Christian percentage: 66%

            Total junior faculty members (junior lecturers): 22
            Christian junior faculty members: 21; Christian percentage: 95%

  • Stella Maris College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (Christian missionary operated):

Total faculty members: 118
      Christian faculty members: 71; Christian percentage: 60%

  • Union Christian College, Aluva, Kerala (Christian missionary operated):

Total faculty members: 93
      Christian faculty members: 77; Christian percentage: 83%

  • St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Maharashtra (Christian missionary operated):

            Total faculty members: 132
            Christian faculty members: 56; Christian percentage: 42%

  • Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi (A central university, but Muslim controlled):

            Total faculty members: 329
            Muslim faculty members: 288; Muslim percentage: 88%

Note: this total doesn’t include Jamia’s faculty of humanities and languages. Such an inclusion will only increase the religious bias. Although Jamia is not operated by a proselytizing Muslim organization, it broadly reflects the kind of employment discrimination that takes place in an educational institution operated by a Muslim proselytizing organization. 

Data Analysis 

Given that Christians in India constitute only about 4% of the population and Muslims, about 14% of the population this points to a severe religious bias and discrimination. The local Christian percentages do vary. In Kerala Christians constitute around 19% of the population and in Tamil Nadu, around 7%. In Maharashtra they constitute around 5%.  

What is also notable is the recent trend at least in one minority institution to hire almost exclusively young faculty of the same faith (American college). 

While this data is limited I have no doubt in my mind that minority run institutions have very high proportion of staff members belonging to their faith. The majority Hindu community has a significant population level of educated people – negating the possibility of a lack of qualified majority manpower. Also, most of the topics taught in these colleges are secular in nature – not requiring people of certain faith. Statistics have shown that proselytizing activity of the majority Hindu community in India is insignificant. This can be ascertained from Indian population census history as well as from the philosophy and practice of Hindu religious institutions. 

India needs civil rights laws 

India’s constitution has certain provisions whereby minorities are exempt from certain requirements in running their own institutions (http://www.legalservicesindia.com/articles/judi.htm). For instance, minority community may reserve up to 50 percent of the seats for the members of its own community in an educational institution established and administered by it even if the institution is getting aid from the State. But the data given above, in some instances, show hiring level well-exceeding 50%.   

However, these minority special privileges granted by Indian constitution are inconsistent with the ideas of religious freedom, as they provide grounds for unfair wealth transfer and violation of religious freedom. Below is a quote from an analysis by Prof. Issac (http://www.saveindia.com/for_hindus_in_kerala_it.htm). 

“The education scenario is one of the major sectors where the organised strength of the minorities in Kerala (where Christians and Muslims constitute around 19% and 25% respectively) is used in a covert manner. In this sector the majority (Hindu) community as well as the government altogether controls only 11.11 per cent, on the other hand the church controls 55.55 per cent and Muslim religious organisations 33.33 percent of the total institutions. At present the professional education sector of Kerala is somewhat under the full control of the minorities. About 12,000 engineering seats and 300 medicine seats are in the minority institutions and they are fully controlling the admissions. At present 60 per cent of the seats of the paramedical courses are controlled by the organised minority religious leadership. The minority managements deny the organisational freedom of teachers and students. Behind this undemocratic exercise, is there anything other than organised minority leadership's haughtiness? In this situation here, the successive governments are functioning as meagre onlookers.” 

Precisely for the above reasons, America doesn’t have these types of minority/religious preference laws and in fact, has laws that prohibit religious discrimination (the Civil Rights Act of 1964). 

Also, Indian Muslims already have 25% reservation for themselves (Muslim Reservation = Jihad) and in the state of Kashmir where they are majority they have used power to reserve jobs and educational seats for themselves unfairly at the expense of others (http://www.saveindia.com/woes_of_jammu_and_ladakh.htm). 

Clearly, to set its own house in order India must modify or remove the aspects of its constitution that give special privileges to minorities, as they lead to religious discrimination and violation of religious freedom. India also needs to enact new laws prohibiting violation of religious and other forms of discrimination.  

USCIRF should revisit these issues 

It has become quite apparent that many Christian or Muslims involved in religious-freedom violating activities have not only worked to shield their activities in India, but instead have exaggerated any acts of the majority in India to limit their unfair practices. These activists have falsely lobbied USCIRF extensively, and with the Hindu community in America not particularly well-connected or well-informed, it hasn't been able to give an alternate view or analysis to USCIRF.

Lacking in staff who specialize in India and relying on one-sided and falsified portrayals, USCIRF has produced reports and guidelines, that are in my opinion give a flawed portrayal of origin and the extent of religious freedom violation in India (as discussed in introduction).

While USCIRF has actively opposed the presence of anti-conversion laws (that adversely affect Christian interests in India) in some Indian states, it doesn't appear to have noted, let alone actively opposed the existence of Articles in Indian constitution (discussed above) that have led to unfair practices by minorities (and in particular Christians) in India and violation of religious freedom of majority in India. It strongly appears that USCIRF may have inadvertently acted to promote the interests of Christianity (the majority religion in America), while ignoring (perhaps inadvertently) the religious freedom of majority in India. This pattern of behavior by USCIRF, an US government body, may be seen as a violation of religious freedom and that of American constitution - that of violating the separation of Church and State.

Lack of objective reporting by USCIRF has led to even members of the US Congress siding with religious freedom violating proselytizers (perhaps unwittingly), on the grounds of trying to protect - religious freedom! Some of these unethical activists have been lobbying the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom, a coalition of about seventy organizations and religious leaders from various faiths launched under the leadership of Senator Rick Santorum and the House majority whip Congressman Roy Blunt.

There is a distinct possibility that, in addition to an already misled US State Department, a misled US congress may get involved in activities that promote violation of religious freedom abroad and thereby tarnishing America's integrity and reputation. This may be in violation of American laws and most certainly goes against the very spirit of the American constitution they are sworn to uphold.

Recommendations to USCIRF

USCIRF should institute a hearing specific to minority activities in India that are in violation of religious freedom. This alternate view is a must for the Commission to reach necessary levels integrity and objectivity in its reports and guidelines. It should release a report based upon these hearings.

While articulating the need for the removal of anti-conversion laws abroad to ensure religious freedom, the Commission should also give equal emphasis to enactment and enforcement of laws that prohibit religious discrimination. For instance, in the case of India, it has done the former and not the later. This has led to gross violation of religious freedom.

Moorthy Muthuswamy PhD

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