The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

For Hindus in Kerala it's now or never

Author: Dr C.I. Issac
Publication: Organiser
October 31, 2004

Now the minority institutions are possessing enormous wealth. At present, the minorities or their religious institutions possess key places in all cities and towns of Kerala. The leadership of the minorities fears the proposed census of their religious institutions, because their exact economic status will get published. At the same time the census of Hindu institutions are completed without any protest from the respective community. Why are the minorities objecting/ fearing the census? The present economic situation of Kerala is much worse than the eighteenth-century France. Then, in France, 20 per cent of the wealth was in the hands of the commons/bourgeois. Now 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. This immense disproportionate wealth of the minorities has been generated through their organised bargaining power and undue influence exerted in the politics of the state. But their counter argument that this heaping of wealth happened through expatriate remittance is baseless vainglory because all communities of Kerala utilise foreign opportunities. This economic disparity is due to undesirable means that are employed by the minorities under their organised leadership at various levels of governmental structure. With undue preferential treatment received from the administrative machinery they were able to encroach forestlands, able to bid various contract works under government, able to harvest from the commercialised education, etc. that made them a fast running section in the contemporary society. In short 90 per cent of the economic scenario went into the hands of 45 per cent of the minority communities. All this happened through any magic? No, it is the outcome of the power of their vote bank and coercive strategies.

The education scenario is one of the major sectors where the organised strength of the minorities is used in a covert manner. In this sector the majority community as well as the government altogether controls only 11.11 per cent, on the other hand the church controls 55.55 per cent and Muslim religious organisations 33.33 percent of the total institutions. At present the professional education sector of Kerala is somewhat under the full control of the minorities. About 12,000 engineering seats and 300 medicine seats are in the minority institutions and they are fully controlling the admissions. At present 60 per cent of the seats of the paramedical courses are controlled by the organised minority religious leadership. The minority managements deny the organisational freedom of teachers and students. Behind this undemocratic exercise, is there anything other than organised minority leadership's haughtiness? In this situation here, the successive governments are functioning as meagre onlookers.

In the 48 years of the formation of Kerala state, who controlled the portfolio of education? For 25 years it was under the control of the Muslim League and for another 10 years and three months in the hands of the Catholic-controlled Kerala Congress. National and secular parties managed the portfolio only for 10 years and in this duration only four years and three months were the share of a Hindu minister. Is it not really shocking information to a nationalist? In fact, without any intermission, from granting of pension to mullahs and peons (mukris) of the madrasa to the indiscriminate establishment of Arabic colleges, all were carried at the expense of the state exchequer. Several posts of Arabic high school teachers were created in the aided and government schools and illiterate Muslims were appointed as teachers on the basis of the certificate issued by mullahs. In the state school youth festival, inferior religious art forms like Mopila song (Muslim) and Margamkali (Christian) were introduced as events of competition by the Muslim Education Ministers as part of their Islamisation of education. Then another traditional Hindu art form, Kolkali, an event of competition in the youth festival, was transformed into an Islamic one by introducing a new dress code, i.e. the country Moplah dress like lungi, belt and banian (vest) as the costume of the event.

Those Muslim League ministers of the state who are even in charge of the educational portfolio of the state are counting lighting of lamp as an unIslamic or a haram ritual. Muslim ministers of other secular parties are lighting lamps without any hesitation. Those people’s representatives, who had taken their oath of allegiance contrary to the constitutional directive, i.e. in the name of Allah and Infant Jesus, are continuing as ministers, MLAs and MPs. A Hindu if he takes the same oath of allegiance in the name of any one of his personal deities, then it would be termed unconstitutio-nal. All sorts of impertinences that are based on religion mentioned above are the outcome of the coercive tactics employed by the organised minorities in the state over the years. No doubt, this sort of unchecked wantonness that is still being enjoyed by the minorities of this state is due to the unorganised condition of the Hindus.

In all the 25 years (as Education Ministers) the Muslim League followed the policy of filling ups of all posts in the educational department with Muslims. Now it has begun to bear fruits. A year back, the state Education Minister had appointed 100 Muslims in the state open school without considering any qualification criterion. A short while ago an exclusive lot of Muslim high school teachers were deputed as additional chief superintendents under a special instruction from the Education Ministry for conducting tenth standard public examinations at the centres of Middle East countries causing some controversy in the state. All the district coordinators of the state open schools are Muslims. It did not happen accidentally. It is interesting to see that certain key posts in the education department are left vacant due to the absence of qualified Muslim hands. Minority consciousness is effectively functioning even when considering the issue of Sanskrit learning. When the government had appointed special officers at district level in order to promote Urdu and Arabic languages, the cause of Sanskrit has been bypassed. The latest trend of the Muslim League ministers is to fill all posts in the department which fall under their portfolios. In recent times, the state Public Works Department comes under the Muslim League portfolio which has appointed Muslims exclusively as its engineers to let the lamp of controversy brighten.

The issue of the erection of the statue of Tunchathu Ezhuthachan, father of Malayalam language and literature, at his birthplace Tirur, now a Muslim-dominated area, has once again proved the Muslim difficulty in stomaching an idol, as it is un-Islamic. Finally the issue was settled with the erection of a symbolic representation of an inkpot and brush, the official emblem of Jamaat-e-Islami, instead of his statue. It is true that Ezhuthachan, in his efforts at the poetical composition, used only stylus and palmyra leaf for writing on, he never used a pen or ink. What is the mental inclination behind this fanaticism? No doubt, it happened so because of the ever-growing muscle power of the minorities in Kerala.

In the sixties of the last century, 82 per cent of the instructions in language text-books of the schools contained lessons relating to puranas, epics, etc. Now it is only 16 per cent. It would be wrong to imagine that in the near future, as it is in Bengal, they will introduce the word ‘Allah’ to teach ‘Aha’, instead of ‘Aha’ for ‘amma’? The works of the bhakti poets like Ezhuthachan, Poonthanam, Cherussery, etc. and satirists like Nambiar were reduced as far as possible from the language syllabus of the schools because their works are unique paradigms of our national culture. In this exercise our minority community Education Ministers have shown their intolerance very well.

In the minority-aided educational institutions they are appointing staff arbitrarily without considering the merit of the candidate or reservation norms. The main criterion for appointments and admissions is the thickness of the purse of the candidate/parent. But the government is forced to swallow the burden of salary and pension in their appointments. The minority managements are invariably violating the government norms. Two years back there were about 12,330 schools functioning in the state, out of which 506 are self-financing (unaided). A lion's share of these aided schools is under minority management. Recently the government granted aided status to 35 unaided schools and Muslim management runs 90 per cent of these schools. While at a time when the government is facing a severe financial crisis, it has compelled the government to bear the burden of new aided schools due to the Muslim pressure tactics.

The minorities, particularly the Catholics, have been using their educational institutions as a weapon against the ruling governments of Kerala since the forties of the last century. Whenever they were in confrontation with the ruling governments, they used to shut down their educational institutions as a retaliatory measure and create social problems. During the 1958 liberation movement against the first elected communist ministry and in 1971 to defuse governmental attempt to exercise social control over colleges, the Christians used the same weapon effectively against the democratic governments. The self-styled Messiah of the minorities, the Marxist Party, a short time ago ransacked the Catholic Medical College at Thiruvella. In retaliation against the Marxist highhandedness in their Medical College, the Catholic church reacted with the same age-old weapon of shutting down all education institutions under their management.

Above all, the Catholic churches declare unauthorised holidays in the state-aided educational institutions under their management; this has now become a customary affair. In the name of the mythical hero Saint Thomas’s arrival in India, church festivals, first Fridays, etc. are common holidays given in the Catholic-run or aided schools. The government of the state and related authorities remain as mere onlookers before the minority impertinence. Festive days of every religion in Kerala are getting only one holiday each but the Muslims have been getting more than one day since the last three decades. Is it justifiable? No doubt, all these extras enjoyed by the minorities are improper and complement their organised bargaining power.

In a word, may I seek your reaction to the controversial statement of the former Chief Minister? In the name of secularism and vote bank we cannot refute these realities. The more we delay to realise and react to these problems the more our socio-economic problems will complicate. Don’t delay; awake, arise, and react properly.

(The author is Head of the PG Department of History, CMS College, Kottayam, Kerala and can be contacted at Chavanickamannil, Vadavathoor P.O, Kottayam, Kerala 686 010.)

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