Having Christian Minorities Finance Corporation and allowing Hindu SCs to avail several non-statutory benefits even when they convert to Christianity, reflect how minority appeasement politics is ending up in favoring some specific religions in Telangana. Andhra Pradesh though is not far behind
Imagine if any of the BJP ruled states starts a government owned Finance Corporation whose mandate would be to give financial support exclusively to the Hindus of that state. No prize for guessing how (in that case) the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of secularism in Indian news channels, academia and civil society would start howling and would accuse it as an agenda for saffronisation of India and promotion of Hindutva. In other words, nothing exclusively for the majority community is allowed in this country. Anything of that nature is challenged in the name of Secularism. With minority projects, the same people though, have no problems.
Almost all states of India and even the Central Government have Finance Corporations for catering to the financial needs of religious minorities of India, (such as the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation).
A Christian Agenda? Why have separate Minority Finance Commissions for Christians?
However, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have even gone one step ahead with creation of separate state owned Finance Corporations for providing financial support and income generation schemes exclusively to the Christians of the respective states. The names of the respective finance corporations are Telangana State Christian Minorities Finance Corporation (http://tscmfc.in/) and Andhra Pradesh State Christian Minorities Finance Corporation (http://christianminorities.ap.nic.in/).
Interestingly, as per available data, both the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana already have Minority Finance Corporations. The names of the organizations are Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Finance Corporation (http://www.apsmfc.com/) and Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation. Their objective is to take care of all minorities of the respective states and yet, separate Finance Corporations were created for the Christian community of the two states. Why so?
The key unanswered questions are thus the following
- When both the states already had Minorities Finance Corporations respectively, why was there a need to have specific finance corporations for a particular minority community i.e. Christianity?
- If the concerned state governments felt the need for religion specific finance corporations, why are there no Finance Corporations separately for other minority communities like Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains and also for Hindus?
- Is the whole concept of creating specific state owned Finance Corporation to cater to people of a particular religion constitutional?
- Aren’t the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh thus promoting a particular religion at the cost of others?
- Would it be too wrong to say that this kind of a biased and arbitrary approach of the states may end up in indirectly promoting religious conversions to avail benefits?
Where is the proof of backwardness of Christian Communities of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana?
Is there any study to prove that Christians of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in particular, or India in general, are economically and educationally deprived or discriminated against? On the contrary, Christianity flourished under the British Empire in India and got all kinds of institutional support to convert the native populace into Christianity.
Further, issues of evangelism, proselytism and conversion have been extremely prevalent in India. Poor people from the native communities (especially the tribal communities) have for long been converted by evangelists to Christianity with promises of great lives and dreams of instant vanishing of poverty (from their lives) once they convert.
The schemes mentioned in the website including those for financing business start-ups makes it clear that the applicant has to be necessarily a Christian. No prize for guessing that if someone converts to Christianity, he too would get the same benefits. Is it not akin to promoting conversion?
Recipe for Conversion?
Take for instance the screenshot posted above. Now if a poor Hindu youth who does not fall under the category of SC (those from SC community may approach Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Caste Cooperative Finance Cooperation or its Telangana counterpart), wishes to start a business and chances upon this website, what would he perceive? Would he not start believing that he would get all kinds of financial subsidies and help from the Telangana Government if he converts and becomes a Christian? Would he also not perceive that the state is promoting Christianity and that he would benefit more by converting?
Convert to Christianity but keep the Scheduled Caste status to avail all non-statutory benefits. That’s exactly what Telangana Government has allowed!!!
A particular aspect of what Telangana State Christian Minorities Finance Commission does raises quite a few eyebrows. It states that “Government of Telangana has extended all non statutory benefits to converted Christians on par with SCs” ‘read here’
First convert and then seek same benefits given to SC Hindu Communities?
For long, evangelists converted people belonging to Hindu Scheduled Castes communities by stating that conversion would give them equality and also by stating that conversion to Christianity would end their misery. Now the Telangana Government has decided to provide all non statutory benefits “including economic support schemes sanctioned by Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Castes Cooperative Finance Corporation to be extended to Scheduled castes converts to Christianity and to Buddhism.” ‘read here’
Thus, Key Points to Ponder are these:
- A Poor Hindu just became a poor Christian after Conversion in spite of all the dreams promised to him by evangelists
- Now if conversion to Christianity relieves the convert of the erstwhilecaste stigma, as always preached by Christian evangelists, then why should they be accorded the same non statutory benefits after they converted to Christianity?
- Thus, if Conversion did not help then why convert and then seek the same benefits accorded to SC Hindus?
- If poverty is the reason for starting such corporations, why not then have finance corporations for Hindus as well, irrespective of caste?
- Would it be too wrong to say that potential conversion targets have been reluctant to convert for fear of losing several benefits and thus the push for providing the same benefits to Christian converts so that the conversion machinery can run smoothly?
If there are some poor people among the Christian communities, then such proportion of poor people exist among all communities including the majority Hindu community and it is not that every poor person among the Hindu Community necessarily fall under SC or ST category. There are many poor people in India who are from Brahmin, Kshatriya and other OBC communities.
Are these not reflections of Hypocrisy of a Pseudo Secular State?
Telangana Government’s blatant communal agenda of providing 12% religion based quota to Muslims or allowing Christian converts to continue with their SC status for availing all non-statutory benefits and having specific finance corporations for funding Christians exemplify what has essentially gone wrong with India’s secular democracy. It has become nothing but a divisive tool now with nefarious end objectives of garnering community votes at any cost, national interest be damned!
Far from the Ideal Secular State
In an ideal secular country, the objective of every state should be to help and support every citizen in financing education or giving financial support if anyone wants to start a business. Instead, what has happened is the division of the population first into majority and minority communities, followed by further dividing the majority community into SC, ST, OBC and then into specific minorities (read Christianity) which becomes mandatory to obtain financial help from state funded institutions like Telangana State Christian Minorities Finance Corporation or its Andhra counterpart. In a hypocritical secular state all these are fair. In an ideal secular state being an Indian would be good enough to seek financial support for self employment and other things.
What happens when Hindus are minorities? Are there separate Finance Corporations for Hindu Minorities in J&K or some of the Christian Majority NE States?
On a concluding note, one wonders if there are similar organizations in J&K to take care of or in some of the Christian majority states of North East India, to take care of Hindu Minorities there, and their right to seek financial benefits by virtue of being minorities in those states. It does not seem so. “Helping of Hindus, even if they are a minority in state? Come on!! For our Secular Champions, that is a taboo. What happens to Hindus when they are a miniscule minority has been exemplified by Kashmir and its treatment of Kashmiri Pandits.
Pathikrit Payne is a New Delhi based Research Consultant and Columnist