That secular India suffers from entrenched Christianophobia is well-established but not publicly acknowledged by the state and the society at large. Nothing reflects it more than the denial of reservations to dalits who converted to Christianity under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, which provides that no one other than those who profess the religion of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism will be considered as Scheduled Castes. India’s Christianophobia has come to the fore after the UPA government promised 4.5 per cent quota for backward Muslims, believed to be dalits who embraced Islam, in the run up to the forthcoming UP Assembly election. The same government has been ducking reservations to dalit Christians before the Supreme Court. Sadly, the apex court itself took six years to consider the writ petition on the issue in January 2011.

Historically, Britain ruled India from 1757 to 1947 — for 190 years — but Britishers did not impose their religion, which was the case with the previous rulers. No major group that had formal religions converted to Christianity. In northeast India, which has the largest concentration of Christian populations in the country, those who were practicing formal religions did not convert to Christianity. The tribals like the Chakmas and Mogs who practiced Buddhism from time immemorial did not convert to Christianity. Similarly, Tripuris and Manipuris, who were Vaishnavaites also did not convert. It was only the ethnic groups who had their local religions, termed as animism, who converted to Christianity.

The Christian population through post-independent India remained static. They constituted about 2.35 per cent of the population in 1951, 2.44 per cent in 1961, 2.59 per cent in 1971, 2.45 per cent in 1981, 2.32 per cent in 1991 and 2.3 per cent in the 2001 census. Yet, India enacted a number of laws to prohibit conversion, which were essentially meant for the Christian missionaries.

Continue Reading on