Colombo, June 21: Ram Nath Kovind, candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a Hindu Dalit, one of India’s most depressed communities. But he is no friend of the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, who are also equally disadvantaged, writes P.K.Balachandran in Daily Express.
in the July 17 Indian Presidential election, is a sound choice from an electoral point of view. He is a “Dalit”, an all-India depressed caste, which, despite its economically and social disadvantaged position, is a critical factor in Indian politics.
Given the norms of Indian politics, few political parties will dare to oppose a Dalit for such offices for fear of being dubbed “anti-Dalit” or “anti-social justice”.
But despite his Dalit affiliation, Kovind is no friend of India’s minority Christians and Muslims, who are also disadvantaged, writes P.K.Balachandran.
Muslims get discriminated against more than Christians because of their religious affinity with Pakistan–India’s arch enemy.
Kovind is a dyed in the wool adherent of the BJP’s Hindutwa ideology which considers Christianity and Islam “alien” or “non-Indian” religions to which Indians were converted during alien rule either by force (during Muslim rule) or by dangling economic benefits (as during British rule).
Therefore, one of the major programs of Hindutwa is Ghar Wapsi or the re-conversion of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. The Hindutwite campaign against Love Jihad is aimed at preventing Muslim men from marrying Hindu women and converting them. These movements have reached new heights under the rule of Narendra Modi.
Kovind made his stand regarding minorities pretty clear at a press conference he addressed in in New Delhi in 2010, as the new spokesman of the BJP.
He unhesitatingly called for the scrapping of the Ranganath Misra Commission report because it recommended 15% quota in government jobs for socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities, principally, Muslims and Christians.
The National Commission on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by Justice Ranganath Misra, former Chief Justice of India, had recommended inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians (Hindu Dalits who had converted to Islam or Christianity but remain Dalit in the eyes of the rest of the society) be given reservations as Hindu Dalits are.
Hindu Dalits get 15% reservation in government jobs, state-run educational institutions and elected bodies including parliament.
Objecting to the report, Kovind said: ” Including Muslims and Christians in the Scheduled Castes (Dalit) category will be unconstitutional.”
Asked how Sikh and Buddhist Dalits are re enjoying quotas applicable to Hindu Dalits, Kovind shot back: “Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation.”
Going further he said: “It is very well known that Dalit convert to Christianity and Muslims get better education in convent schools.”
“The educational level of Hindu Dalit children is much lower than that of Dalit Christians and Muslims. The children of converts will grab a major share of reservations in government jobs. They will become eligible to contest elections in constituencies reserved for Dalits. This will only encourage conversion and fatally destroy the fabric of Indian society.”
“The Misra commission report should be scrapped because its recommendations will jeopardize the interests of Hindu Dalits,” Kovind said.
Of India’s 1.2 billion population, Muslims form the largest minority at 14 per cent, followed by Christians at 2.3 per cent, Sikhs at 1.9 per cent, Buddhists at 0.8 per cent, Jains at 0.4 per cent and others including Parsis, at 0.6 per cent.
The Ranganath Mishra panel had recommended that within the recommended 15 % earmarked seats in institutions, 10% should be reserved for the Muslims and the remaining 5 per cent for the other minorities.
The recommendations have triggered a row, with Hindu parties severely opposing it. The government itself was doubtful about the implementation of the recommendations.
However, the Supreme Court gave legitimacy to minority reservation by allowing 4% quota in jobs for backward Muslims in Andhra Pradesh. Several states, particularly those in South India where Hindutawa has not made inroads, have earmarked quotas for Muslims and non-Hindu Dalits.
(The featured picture at the top shows Ram Nath Kovind meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi)