The politics of the suo motu reverse conversion

Those Dalit Christians reconverted (reverse conversion or ghar wapasi) to their earlier dharma/faith enjoy the maximum benefits of Kerala’sreservation policy. Most of the good ranking higher officers in the Scheduled Caste (SC) categories of Kerala are either re-converted from Christianity before joining in the government service or the procedure of re-conversion happened one generation before. The parents of the 27 percent of the SC officers of Kerala State Services were once Christians and now in the label of SC after their re-conversion (converted to Hinduism). (UGC Minor Project No. F. 5-2 (040)/2003 (MRP)/SWRO dated 06-08-2003). Such officers with Christian background occupying ‘glamourous’ posts in the State Service, judiciary and Central Service is an interesting phenomena.

The post-independent period witnessed the birth of immense job opportunities for the SC categories but there were no sufficient educated persons amongst the SC categories. The Church identified this shortcoming and the available opportunities were tapped by these sections through their re-conversion through a simple juridical action of gazette notification. In almost all occasions the Church helped or forced these educated Dalit Christians to reconvert through the official procedure of gazette notification. Such converted occupied all the key positions including the higher judicial offices of India.

Paradoxically, even after their re-conversion they are finding solace in the altars of the church, is not a secret to the common man anywhere in India. In the near past, one of the State Minister of Kerala who was in charge of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (ST) portfolio as a Hindu SC was a Dalit Christian. His SSLC certificate is attesting this fact. The column to denote caste and religion in his certificate says he is a Christian from Dalit jati. Even today also his wife and children are in communion with C. S. I Church (Central Kerala Diocese) is no more a secret. Another Dalit Christian secured a birth in Central cabinet as SC representative from Kerala. Both represent the SC constituencies, is the paradox of the affair. In future also this sort of bogus SC representation will repeat. All these occurrences are taking place with the knowledge of Church and political parties in power. Such types of gimmicks are annihilating the chances and opportunities of genuine SC sections. Here one can see church-political nexus that protect all these illegal taking away of SC opportunities through dejure practice of re-conversion all over the nation. (UGC op cit). Thus the traditional SC categories are lagging in the wake of the newly re-converted in the highly competitive and particularly scarce field of government jobs opportunities.

The conventional SCs of Kerala are the most unorganized social groups (jatis) and above all the politically marginalized sections as compared to the ST categories everywhere in our country. In the contemporary political situation of our nation they fail to function as votes banks in the power politics. It is the main trouble that haunts them. Instead of functioning as vote banks they are living as subalterns or slaves of the political leaderships. In addition to it, there are various raison d’êtres (reasons) behind the state-of-art of the Dalit (SC) marginalization.

The Tribal Paradigm and the Betrayal of the Saviours

“The cornerstone of the earlier evangelical arguments was the egalitarian and progressive nature of the message of Christ which the downtrodden, the Dalits and the tribal should accept against the tyranny of the caste-bound inequality practiced by the Hindu social system. Most of the conversions in India, it has been argued, have been on account of this hierarchical structure sanctioned by the orthodox Brahminical religion” (Rakesh Batayal, Debate Proposal, A Mere Political Rhetoric, The Hindu, 9th February 1999). But what happened in the later years is that the ‘Nobilian Syndrome’ of ‘Vedicization’ haunted the native Christianity. The result was the Christian Church of Malabar Coast became the prey of jati ghost, which haunted the Hindu society for more than three millenniums. The Christian social fabric is still reluctant to absorb the so-called Dalit Christians in their mainstream. One of the chief constitutive factors of this dichotomous phenomenon was the Dalit Christian’s economic backwardness. Let us examine this aspect.

Above all the reservation policy of the successive governments adversely affected the overall progress of this poor Dalit Christians. Under this juridico-political situation they cannot rise at any level near to Savarna Christians. Due to historical reasons they are still forced to live at the periphery of the societal economic prosperity. Therefore the gulf between the Dalit Christians and Syrian and Savarna Christians is still amplifying day by day. Reasons behind this phenomenon are pointed out earlier in this treatise. On the other hand the ST sections even after their conversion to Christianity enjoyed all benefits of the tribes offered by the government. Due to this the tribes even after their conversion to Christianity can enjoy the benefits of the reservation policy of the Government of India better than their Hindu counterparts. The Church’s super guidance helped them to tap its (benefits of statutory reservation) potential at its maximum. Because of it the tribal Christians all over India became sufficiently competent community along with the other communities, very specifically to the Syrian and Savarna Christians. Therefore no barrier or discrimination prevails over between the tribal Christians and the traditional Syrian and Savarna Christians. Nowadays both sections are without any reservation or hesitation entering into wedlock also. (UGC op cit).

Catastrophe of Law

This dramatic change that happened amongst the tribal and traditional Christians’ social relations, became an eye opener to the Dalit Christians. The tribal paradigm turned down as an imitative role model to the Dalit Christians of Kerala and elsewhere in India. The Church and the Dalit Christian leadership in turn together prepared the strategy to overcome the catastrophe of law (exclusive SC reservation benefits to Dalit Hindus). (UGC op cit). Hence the observable fact of suo moto re-conversion is that the major loser in this deal is the unorganized Hindu or primordial worship pattern following Dalits. The result is that the real Dalit Hindu coming under the purview of SC communities are missing about 25 percent of the officer cadre vacancies or opportunities at the present-day level. In the near future the equilibrium level may change more favorably to the interest of the Church-sponsored re-convert to Hinduism. Hence in future the Dalit Christians through the bogus process of re-conversion may occupy all these posts.

The government and other agencies failed miserably to check this erosion or deception. The principal difficulty behind this total failure is that the frontiers between Dalit Christian and Dalit Hindu are marginal or tender. Primordial value systems are still influencing them. Thus the conversion never alienates the Christian Dalits from the space of the common social structure of the Hindu Dalits. In fact even after the conversion they continue at the same space of the socio-cultural domain. Thus they are sharing the same legroom of socio-cultural transactions. The religion never forbade them even from entering into marriage alliances. (UGC op cit).

The Tribal Christian Experience

For instance contemporary ST Christian experience justifies this aspect. The tribal Christians in the early decades of the last century were looked upon by the traditional Savarna and Syrian Christians with contempt. Now this situation has totally changed. The tribes attained it through politico-juridical sponsored education and job reservations. (UGC op cit).

In the forties of the last century the tribal Christians of Kerala and SC Christians started entering into marriage relations. But later ST Christians came under the purview of State’s Reservation policy and they acquired good mileage in the socio-economic scenario of Christendom. As a result ST Christians of Kerala, nowadays, deliberately keep a distance from the SC Christians and have curtailed all their social relations including marriage with them. (On the basis of survey conducted in an exclusive Tribal Diocese of the Church of South India).

Faith Status of the Reverse Converted SC Officers in the State and Central Services* 

Faith status percentage
After Re-conversion (reverse conversion) continuing in communion with the Church 95%
Atheists 0.5%
Religious identity not traceable 2%
After Re-conversion live as Hindu 2.5%

(*The above data is collected from the Church sources)