Reality Check India

Rev Thampu administers a Reality Check

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on July 9, 2007

I have covered the St Stephens quota issue in two earlier articles. See “Guha on St Stephens” and “St Stephens hikes Christian quota

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.

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7 Responses

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  1. Barbarindian said, on July 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Even within minority institutes, there appears to be a differential treatment. Why were the institutes started by Tatas (TIFR etc.) appropriated? Hope to get the back story from you.

    I am not entirely clear on the court ruling. Does it mean that a minority institute can admit say 2% of the minority and get away with it?

    Another interesting point: once the minority status is determined state by state, then Hindus could potentially start pure Hindu institutes in places where they are a minority. Of course there may be other sort of troubles.

    Another related point: how are religion or ethnic group affiliation recognized? For instance, can Dera Sacha Sauda get recogniztion as a minority religion?

  2. realitycheck said, on July 9, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Dont know about the TIFR case. I will try to ask around.

    >> I am not entirely clear on the court ruling. Does it mean that a minority institute can admit say 2% of the minority and get away with it? >>

    Its a mess. I tried reading these three cases a year back. This is what I understand.

    1. The Pai Foundation case was heard by an unprecedented (at that time) bench of 11 judges.

    2. The judgement provided so much width that they had to constitute another constitution bench ( 5 judges) to interpret the 11 judge Pai Foundation case. This is called the Islamic Academy case.

    3. Then we had a 7-judge bench which went into whether the interpretation by (2) was consistent with (1). This is called the P.A. Inamdar case.

    From what I understand (I could be completely wrong on this) is that upto 50% of the seats in a minority institution can be filled from the open category.

    In other words, minorities cannot constitute a minority in a minority educational institution.

    Is your head spinning yet ?

    Hindus cannot start minority institutes anywhere until the 103rd amendment is passed.

  3. Observer said, on July 10, 2007 at 12:33 am

    It looks like the TN politicians are experiencing the results of their own quota politics firsthand. I wonder if the relatives and family members of the unfortunate politician will be as vigorous in terms of their support of quota as before? As they say, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Anyway, may God bless the poor soul. Maybe minority patients should also get treated only by minority doctors. Soon all this will reach some crisis point until all people realize the benefits of a merit-based approach.

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  4. […] me ? This is crucial to understand how these cases play out.  I  blogged with great curiosity the pushback Rev Valson Thampu received from distinguished Hindu alumni when he (rightly) tried to assert the Christian values of the […]

  5. […] We have to understand the paradigmatic importance of control of access to education when it comes to free market of ideas.  It is not just about schools raking in money. Most dont rake in money directly. In an engineering shortage of educational institutions, those who run schools and colleges wield tremendous influence.  High court judges and former chief ministers routinely approach top school management to accommodate their kin. The issue with aided minority schools and colleges are even worse. For example: We are trained to believe St Stephens Delhi is a model college worthy of replication.  But if you told an American jurist that the Indian govt not only provides full aid to parochial colleges with explicit discrimination but also imposes more burdens on completely private  Hindu colleges – he would be aghast. The US goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure public money doesnt touch private or parochail schools. See my posts on St Stephens here and here. […]

  6. […] We have to understand the paradigmatic importance of control of access to education when it comes to free market of ideas.  It is not just about schools raking in money. Most in fact dont rake in money directly. Those  who run schools and colleges wield tremendous influence.  High court judges and former chief ministers routinely approach and beseech top school management to accommodate their kin. The issue with aided minority schools and colleges are even worse. For example: We are trained to believe St Stephens Delhi is a model college worthy of replication.  But if you told an American jurist that the Indian govt not only provides full aid to parochial colleges with explicit discrimination but also imposes more burdens on completely private  Hindu colleges – he would be aghast. The US goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure public money doesnt touch private or parochail schools. See my posts on St Stephens here and here. […]


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