Rev Thampu administers a Reality Check
In a brilliant Op-Ed in The Hindu, Rev Valson Thampu administers a dose of reality check to those who do not understand the requirement to assert the basic Christian nature of St Stephens.
I am deeply concerned that Christian educational institutions all over the country are losing their Christian character. It needs to be stated unapologetically that the Christian engagement with the educational empowerment of India, hugely in excess of its numerical strength and economic resources, flows naturally from the genius of the biblical faith. Jesus came to “preach the good news to the poor” and to “set the captives free.”
Source: The Hindu
I think that a minority institute must be forced to admit greater than 80-90% from their own community. If not, it is simply minority owned. Some institutes will seek to profiteer from the balance seats or use it to peddle influence. I am not accusing any institute of doing so, but merely pointing out that there is no check against it, while there is plenty of scope for it.
The law today allows minority institutes to admit up to 50% students from other groups. It is simply astounding that such a law exists, but this is the judgement of a 11-judge bench in the TMA Pai Vs State of Karnataka case. So, Rev Thampu is well within his rights to hike Christian quotas all the way to 80% or 90% if he desires. In fact, that would be in line with the very spirit of “minority christian institute”.
There is considerable angst from the general public, especially non-Christians about the recent developments. See recent posts on Retributions and Nanopolitan blogs. Also see Barkha Dutt’s emotion laden article titled “For God’s Sake”.
A problem of perception
The real problem is that a lot of people get carried away by the majestic buildings, the 5-star alumni, the sprawling campuses, and think that this automatically implies that these institutes are “open” and the St Stephens is just a “cool sounding” western name. I have personally met kids who look at the sprawling wooded campus of St Johns Medical in the heart of Bangalore and their heart fills with pride and hope. Some of them go, “Hey, I am going to study here one day” Do I have the heart to break the news to them ? Do we want to explain to these kids that it is owned and run by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India ? I bet most Delhiites feel the same way about St Stephens or a non Christian minority college like Khalsa. We just let them revel in this misunderstanding. Life goes on.
Until reality hits them.
These colleges are not designed to be open. They are designed to directly benefit a narrowly targeted group. Put another way, it would be illegal for them to be open*.
(* In the Indian context the word open means 50% open)
It is completely understandable for Hindus such as Dutt and Guha to get that sinking feeling. They have themselves to blame. For not exploring every issue in detail, for having a superficial understanding of the nature of these institutes, for being under a permanent illusion, and for not reading blogs like Reality Check (just kidding).
Where are the checks and balances on these issues ?
A lot of readers might wonder, if this blog is openly supporting such religious quotas. Is this a case of speaking with a forked tongue ?
We cant let emotion guide policy. In this specific instance Rev Thampu is absolutely correct. However, this is only a dot in the larger debate of the very nature of minority institutes (religious and linguistic).
We need to focus the divided public attention on the following :
1. What percentage of the total educational opportunities must be under the minority umbrella ? Theoretically, every Christian/Muslim/Linguisitc minority institute can reserve 80-90% and thereby deal a blow to the opportunities of the majority hindus.
2. Can the 50% limit be challenged ? Shouldnt minority institutes be held to admit 80-90% from their communities ? If they cannot find enough students to fill those seats, then does it not mean that there is no demand for that institute in the first place ?
3. Should the number of resources under the protection of “minority institute” be roughly proportionate with the numerical strength of that community ?
The above questions must necessarily be part of a wholesome debate.
Rev Thampu calls for a wholesome debate,
First, what is not debated is hardly understood. “A little knowledge,” said an English poet, “is a dangerous thing.” Advocacies in partial knowledge lead us from what little light we have to greater darkness.
Well said, and I concur.