Religious Apartheid in Modern India- Transforming of a Civilisation

Operation World which tracks the growth of Christianity around the globe lists up-to-date figures for India in its website. According to the website the annual Christian population growth rate in India at the present time shows a big jump at 3.7 percent compared to the overall annual population growth rate of 1.44 percent.[xxxii] Accordingly, while the Christian population percentage was just 2.3 percent in 2001,[xxxiii] it has more than doubled rapidly to 5.84 percent as of 2010.[xxxiv] Whereas the annual Christian population growth rate during the period from 1991 to 2001 was only 2.26 percent[xxxv] compared to the overall annual population growth rate of 2.13 percent[xxxvi] during the same period. 

So, why has the Christian population percentage in India increased so dramatically during the past decade? 

A graph shown in Operation World’s website reveals the reason that the dramatic growth in Christian population percentage is mostly due to conversion from Hinduism, as reflected by a drop in Hindu population percentage (note that the Muslim population percentage increased during this period, suggesting that the Muslims are not converting to Christianity in large numbers).[xxxvii] In the early 1990s, in a landmark ruling the Indian Supreme Court, on the basis of Article 30, allowed minority-controlled educational institutions to allot up to 50 percent of their seats on the basis of faith.[xxxviii] While in the immediate aftermath the Christian minority reservation percentages in missionary-controlled institutions remained small, over the next decade they increased to reach the ceiling limit of 50 percent. It took time for this new trend to sink in; impact of these reservations on demographics probably did not materialize until about the year 2000. Now, the trend appears to be full-blown in the form of a rapid rise in Christian population percentage. 

The Supreme Court’s decision and the willingness of the missionaries to discriminate by taking away up to 50 percent of the enrolments in over 20 percent of educational institutions controlled by them meant that it is disadvantageous to be a Hindu and far more beneficial to be a Christian in the secular and democratic nation of India. This is particularly true for lower income majority community families with young children and youths in need of education and employment. 

It is useful to quantify the implications of this decision. Assuming on the average a total of 300 students and staff in an institution, for the 40,000 institutions controlled by the missionaries, a grand total of 12 million seats is reached. Hence, a disturbing possibility has arisen as a result of the honoured court’s decision: It has empowered the missionaries to lawfully deny non-Christians from a few millions to about 6 million student enrolments and staff employments every year in institutions likely funded by the government. 

Governments both at the central and the state levels have setup an employment/education quota system for under-privileged lower caste Hindus in government and in the public sector units, and in all public and private educational institutions, except in the minority-controlled educational institutions.[xxxix] Admittedly, minorities such as the Christians and to some extent the Muslims have been largely excluded from this quota system; but then, so are the forward caste Hindus who are numerically more than both Christians and Muslims put together.[l] Still, the missionaries’ vastly disproportional control of educational institutions appears to give them the ability to selectively influence empowerment of communities on the basis of religion – and at the expense of taxpayers. The following examples elucidate this point.    

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.[li] 

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 of Kanyakumari 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:[lii]

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.[liii] 

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.[liv] 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.  

One such violent conflict has recently occurred in Khandamal district of Orissa, where tensions have been building up for some time between the non-tribal (Paanas) who converted to Christianity and the tribal (Kandhas) who remained in Hinduism.[lv] Those who converted found themselves selectively empowered[lvi] through education in missionary-controlled but government-funded schools and colleges, thanks in part due to Article 30-induced reservations. A Kandha complained in an interview: "We feel neglected here – even our political representatives are all Paanas. Paanas convert to Christianity and are well off."[lvii]   

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