BATTLE FOR GOVERNMENT PIE
Hindu Dalits clash with Christian Dalits, say the latter are usurping jobs for SCS
There is a definite agenda to divide Dalits by making false charges and preventing their empowerment. PIYUSH S. J., SENIOR PRIEST, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Abattle rages between RSS and Christian missionaries in Khambhat town in central Gujarat over the conversion of Dalits to Christianity and Christian Dalits allegedly seeking jobs as Hindu Scheduled Castes. The tug of war is spilling over to nearby villages and threatens to escalate into a full-blown war.
In March, Forum for Peace and Justice, an NGO supported by RSS, filed two complaints before Anand District Collector Avantika Singh. One complaint alleged that the Roman Catholic Church had converted 32 Dalit minors studying in the local St Xavier’s School to Christianity in the past two years but failed to inform the collector about it in advance, as is required under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2008. The other complaint alleged that 103 local Dalit Christians got government jobs under the SC quota posing as Hindu Dalits. Nine of these are parents of children named in the other complaint.
Dharmendra Rathod, coordinator of the forum and an RSS worker, alleges: “The complaints are backed by evidence and expose the role of the missionaries.” Father Piyush S.J., 53, senior priest at the Roman Catholic church in Khambhat and principal of St Xavier’s, disagrees. “There is a definite agenda to divide the Dalits by making false charges and preventing their empowerment. Not a single person has been converted after the law came into being,” he claims.
Anoop Vegda, 29, a Dalit teacher is accused of getting his job on a false certificate. Son Milan, 12, is one of the 32 children mentioned in the other complaint. Vegda vehemently denies he is a Dalit Christian and accuses the forum of harassment. “Rathod is anti-Dalit,” he fumes. Vegda says his son did participate in a Christian celebration at St Xavier’s on January 2, 2011, and had unknowingly attended in a Communion. Father Piyush claims that the children were Christians. However, parents of 31 of the 32 children who took part in the Communion told the police that they are Hindus. “Once a Dalit converts to another religion, he loses his SC status. Dalit Christians are violating the law. Don’t we have the right to protest?” asks Maganbhai Rohit, 41, a forum worker.
The tension is spilling over to nearby villages. In Pandad, near Khambhat, Hindu Dalits and alleged Christian Dalits had a confrontation over allotment of government land to SCS. One group of Dalits accused the other of posing as Hindu SCS. Two Dalit families also clashed in Vatadra village on April 7, in which one person was injured.
Dalit Christians are planning protest demonstrations against “attacks” on them. Police are probing the two complaints.
WORKERS OFFORUM FOR PEACE AND
JUSTICE PROTEST IN KHAMBHAT