India’s Supreme Court has ruled that people who ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism from Christianity and are from a Dalit background can received scheduled caste benefits. This decision comes at a time during which Hindu nationalist groups are attempting to convert Christians from Dalit backgrounds to Hinduism in mass across India. Will the allure of scheduled caste benefits, comparable to affirmative action in the U.S., be enough to get Christian Dalits to embrace Hinduism?
2/27/2015 India (The Indian Express) – Amid the controversy over “ghar wapsi”, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a person who “reconverts” from Christianity to Hinduism shall be entitled to reservation benefits if his forefathers belonged to a Scheduled Caste and the community accepts him after “reconversion”.
Citing articles by B R Ambedkar and James Massey, and reports by Mandal Commission and Chinappa Commission, the court said: “There has been detailed study to indicate the Scheduled Caste persons belonging to Hindu religion, who had embraced Christianity with some kind of hope or aspiration, have remained socially, educationally and economically backward.”
The bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V Gopala Gowda held that a person shall not be deprived of reservation benefits if he decides to “reconvert” to Hinduism and adopts the caste that his forefathers originally belonged to just because he was born to Christian parents or has a Christian spouse.
Expanding the scope of a previous Constitution bench judgment, the bench said the reservation benefits for the castes recognised under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, could not be confined to only those whose parents had converted to Christianity. “If a person born to Christian parents, who had converted to Christianity from the Scheduled Caste Hindu, can avail the benefits of the caste certificate after embracing Hinduism, there cannot be any soundness of logic that he cannot avail similar benefits because his grandparents were converted and he was born to parents who were Christians,” it said.
The bench, however, said the person must fulfill three mandatory conditions to avail such benefits after “reconversion” — there must be clear proof that he belongs to a caste duly recognised as a Scheduled Caste, that he has “reconverted” to the original religion to which his parents or earlier generations belonged, and that he has been accepted by the community.
The bench further clarified that marriage to a Christian person would not entail disqualification. “As far as marriage is concerned, in our considered opinion, it should not have been considered as the central and seminal facet to deny the benefit. When the community has accepted and the community, despite the marriage, has not excommunicated or expelled, the same would not be a disqualification,” it said.
The court ruling came on an appeal filed by a person whose caste certificate was cancelled in 2006 by the scrutiny committee, set up under the Kerala (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Regulation of Issue of Community Certificates Act, on the ground that he was born to Christian parents and was not following the traditions of the community.