hidden image

Open letter to NCPCR chief: Why minority rights are sacred

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
16 Aug 2021

Dear Shri Priyank Kanoongo,

With due apologies, let me begin by saying that you are quite capable of shocking the people. I do not know from where you acquired this capability. Was it from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) where you had your educational, social and political upbringing? 
When you were appointed Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) under the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, I wondered what specific qualification you had to head such an entity.
That is when I learnt that you were in the Madhya Pradesh-level body for the protection of child rights. Your appointment, first, to the state commission and, on that basis, to the national commission speaks volumes for your political clout. I am sure you have the blessings of the RSS to implement its own agenda.
In October 2020, over 2.5 lakh children in the Children’s Homes all over the country were shocked by the order your commission issued to close down all such homes within one year. You ordered the immediate closure of such homes in eight states, mostly in the South. I do not know what happened to the order.
All I know is that someone filed a writ petition against the order in the Supreme Court. I understand that it has not yet been implemented. The commission’s order was specific. The district magistrates had to ensure that the children were either returned to the parents or they were given for adoption.
In no case you wanted the children to remain in the Homes on the specious plea that the children should stay with their parents. It showed not only the insensitivity of the commission but also the lack of knowledge about how the children’s homes came into being and the kind of children accommodated there.
The children are mostly orphans or had run away from their homes for various reasons or had been caught by the police for petty crime or had been abused. Most of them do not have homes of their own. They stay in children’s homes, run mostly by NGOs and other entities, whose job is to look after them and educate them till they attain the age of 18.
Every district has a child welfare committee and it is this committee which sends the children to the various homes. The NGOs do not have the power to admit any child on their own, though they may be running the homes. The government gives something like Rs 2000 per child per month to the NGO.
Your decision would certainly benefit the state governments which will be freed from the responsibility of financing the Children’s Homes. It would serve no other purpose. At that time I wrote a column entitled, “Let children beg: A monstrous order”. I wish you had responded to the column and withdrawn the order.
The Children’s Homes are a means to protect the interests of children, vulnerable to exploitation. What kind of a commission is yours that you want to close down the Homes? It is like the DGP of Jails recommending to the government that it is better to close all the jails and ask the inmates to stay with their families.
Now, you have caused another shock. I do not know whether you are a member of the committee, appointed by your commission, which reportedly studied the functioning of schools run by the religious minority communities.
I fail to understand what right you have to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resources to make the study. You have absolutely no idea of how the minority communities obtained the right to run educational institutions in their own manner and style.
Your commission was founded only in 2007. When the Constituent Assembly met several times to prepare the Constitution of India, the representatives of the Christian community demanded only one special right. No, they did not demand it only for themselves. They demanded it on behalf of all the minority communities, both religious and linguistic.
In their abundant wisdom, the founding fathers of the Constitution granted the demand in the form of Article 30. It says, “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” 
I have two children. One of them studied in a Catholic school in Delhi. Another studied in the Kerala School at Vikaspuri in Delhi. Both schools are minority schools. Over the years, the government has whittled down the rights of minority schools on one pretext or another.
Do you know that there is a Commission for Minority Educational Institutions? For the first time, i.e., after Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre, it does not have a member from the Christian community. When a vacancy arose, a person from the Sikh community was nominated, although there was already a Sikh as Chairman at that time. Please don’t think that I have anything against the Sikhs, as they are also a minority community that needs special rights.
Today, the commission has a chairman from the Jain community and a member from the Sikh community. There is no Muslim or Christian member. The NDA government could not find anyone suitable from these two communities to fill the two vacancies. What a shame!
Your study has found that Christians have the largest number of educational institutions in the country. There was no need to conduct any such study. You can do a Google search and find out the exact number of such schools in every state. You can also get the names of such schools. Many of your party leaders like LK Advani, Piyush Goyal, V Muralidharan, Smriti Irani are products of such schools!
What’s more, you can visit any such school and they will gladly give you all the details. You may wonder why Christians have so many schools. There is a historical reason for it. 
India had a very good system of education. Nalanda in Bihar and Taxila in present-day Pakistan were great ancient universities that attracted students from the whole subcontinent. They flourished along with Buddhism.
And when the Buddhists were driven out from the country, they fell into ruins. I know the RSS blames the Mughals for the destruction of these sites of knowledge. Actually, they came much later. You may have to search inwards to know who decreed that touching the dead body was unacceptable for the twice-born as was crossing the seas. These injunctions ended the study of anatomy and navigation. Do you know who limited education to only some?
What was the crime Eklavya committed that Drona should ask for his thumb? That is the point, Shri Kanoongo, education was not free and for all in the country. If you have any doubt, you can get a copy of the memorandum Rajaram Mohun Roy submitted to the British.
The memorandum said that the British should promote English education with emphasis on science and technology and not Sanskrit education with emphasis on the scriptures. Until then, the British policy was to promote the traditional system of education.
Why? Because their interest was only to make profit and not educate the masses. It was the arrival of the missionaries like William Carey and the influence they wielded on the British administrators like William Bentinck that forced the East India Company and, later, the British government to promote and universalize education. The defining moment for India was not the 1857 revolt but the setting up of the universities in the presidencies like Madras, Bombay and Calcutta.
You may not know that the Malayalam word for school was pallikoodam. The word has “palli (church)” in it. This was because no church was considered complete without a school attached to it. These schools were not meant for Christians alone. There were few Christians those days. 
They were meant for all. There was no discrimination at all. That is how the Christians, who constitute only less than 3 per cent of the population, have a large presence in the education sector. You claim to have found out that in almost all the schools and colleges run by Christians, a majority of the students are non-Christians.
There is no need for research to find this out. A little common sense is all that is required. Christian schools in Nagaland may have a majority of students from that community. Elsewhere, even in Kerala, the majority of the students will be non-Christian.
There is not a single Christian school in Delhi or Mumbai or Chennai or Kolkata where a majority of the students are Christians. There is no need for that. I have been associated with some Christian schools and I know what policy they follow.
In a Christian school, the Christians get priority in admission. If it is a Catholic school, the Catholics get preference. Then the non-Catholic Christians. Afterwards, children from other minority communities like Muslims, Sikhs and Jains get preference. Thereafter, the students from the majority community are given admission.
In the case of language minority also, the same kind of formula is followed. If it is a Tamil school, the Tamils are given first preference. Then students from other South Indian states are given preference. You have found out that the minority schools do not have to follow the reservation of 25 per cent seats at the entry level to children from the economically weaker sections (EWS).
Do you know that most Christians and Muslims in India are economically weak? You come from Madhya Pradesh. You know about the economic backwardness of Christians there. The condition is much the same everywhere. You should not be guided by the affluence of some Christians in Kerala.
The point I wanted to make is that in Christian schools, a majority of the students are economically weak. In other words, the percentage of economically weaker sections in such schools is more than the statutory 25 per cent under the Right to Education Act.
I do not understand why your commission had to go into these settled issues. The Supreme Court had gone into the question of whether reservation for EWS should be made mandatory for the minority schools and it concluded that there was no need. 
Much the same is the case with schools run by the Muslims and the Sikhs. A majority of the students in these schools are poor. The rich among them send their children to elite schools within or without India. In any case, there is no need to discover the wheel now. Nor is there any need for you to revisit settled issues.
When the BJP was in power in Madhya Pradesh earlier, it tried to end the minority status enjoyed by some minority institutions. It selected Victoria College, run by a Muslim organisation, to test the waters. The government ordered that it should have at least 50 per cent Muslim students, if it was to remain a minority institution. If it admitted Hindu students to fill the seats, then it would lose the minority status.
The college did not bow to pressure. It challenged the government order in the Jabalpur High Court which gave a verdict in the college’s favour. You would do well to read the verdict before you come up with such propositions. 
Around that time, a school run by the Mar Thoma Church at Satna went to the court against a directive to have a government nominee in the committee to select students for admission. The High Court shot down the proposal, as it infringed upon the minority right enshrined in Article 30 of the Constitution.
There are millions of children who are out of school, who are not assured of two square meals a day, who are victims of neglect, exploitation and unfavourable circumstances. Do something for their welfare, rather than following the political agenda of the RSS.
If you have time, please read the Sachar Commission report to know what the condition of Muslims are. You may like to recommend appointment of a new commission to study the condition of Christians in India. Then you will know that all that glitters are not gold. You should also remember that a society is considered civilised when its minorities are treated well! 
Yours etc




Recent Posts

Modi does not have the magnanimity to admit that whatever progress India has achieved is the result of the work done by the people of India
apicture A. J. Philip
27 Mar 2023
Over the last few weeks, we have been reading a lot about the US banking system. The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which was the 16th largest bank in the US
apicture Jaswant Kaur
27 Mar 2023
The Supreme Court while hearing a matter, on March 15, regarding the action of the Maharashtra Governor in ordering a floor test in the wake of the alleged Shiv Sena split
apicture Joseph Maliakan
27 Mar 2023
This India belongs to all of us. The controversy about who is real Indian is fallacious. It can only stoke hatred, division, and inhumanity.
apicture P. A. Chacko
27 Mar 2023
The Supreme Court of India has come out with a landmark verdict in the following words: “Un-satiated greed for wealth has facilitated corruption to develop, like cancer
apicture Dr. M. D. Thomas
27 Mar 2023
“Hi Buddy”, I said to my friend, whom I was meeting after a long time. “Where have you been, and what have you been up to, these years?
apicture Bishop Alex Dias
27 Mar 2023
As I read the news of his gentle departure at the ripe age of 101, I recall Sadhu Ittiyavirah with love and reverence.
apicture J. Prasant Palakkappillil
27 Mar 2023
The manner in which a 59-year-old senior cardiologist was assaulted by a patient’s family members in a Kozhikode hospital this March 5
apicture Aarti
27 Mar 2023
God the Father, in creatng each and every one of us and conferring upon us different graces and blessings, has implanted in us seeds of gifts and talents of different kinds.
apicture Patrick Crasta
27 Mar 2023
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German music composer and one of the top world musicians
apicture P. A. Joseph
27 Mar 2023