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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Christian converts corner state benefits using Hindu caste certificates in Andhra

Christian evangelism backed by the state machinery and the ruling party has become an open secret in Andhra Pradesh. To add to this, crypto-Christianity is also on the rise and is a huge cause for concern going forward.

LRPF (Legal Rights Protection Forum) has brought out the ground realities in their letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) highlighting the massive misuse of state machinery and funds by the ruling YSRCP (YSR Congress Party) led by Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The letter brings to light the supposed misuse of Disaster Relief Funds. The 20th May Government Order (GO) [GORT No 38] of the Revenue [Disaster Management] Department states that all religious service renderers including padres, imams and archakas who are facing hardships due to the pandemic situation are to be provided financial assistance.

A one-time sum of Rs 5000 is being paid out amounting to a total of around 33 crores rupees to the state ex-chequer. 31,017 archakas, 7000 imams and 29,841 pastors are said to have benefitted from the scheme.

Religion wise beneficiaries of one-time disaster relief Source: LRPF

On the face of it the figures do not seem discriminatory but the devil is in the details. When we take a detailed look of the state’s population vis-a-vis the beneficiaries then the discrepancy becomes crystal clear.

Although, officially Hindus constitute around 90% of the population they constitute around 45% of the beneficiaries whereas Christians constituted 44% of the beneficiaries despite being just around 2% of the population.

Summary of Christian beneficiaries Source: LRPF

The summary of the Christian beneficiaries brings forth the fact that a huge number of Christians who have been baptised as well as undergone pastor training courses still retain their Hindu caste certificates.

They are, thus, misusing scare government funds by holding dual religious identities to benefit out the government schemes through fraudulent means. They take advantage of welfare schemes meant for SCs and OBCs by using their Hindu caste certificates and when government hands out doles to Christians then they switch over to their Christian identity.

The real danger as alleged by LRPF is when the Jagan Mohan Reddy government will begin fulfilling its election promise of regular monthly payments to Christian pastors. They have already mooted the proposal and invited applications from pastors in the state. However, it is quite shocking and inexplicable that the government has not made it compulsory for the prospective beneficiaries to submit Christian community certificate along with their applications.

This, in effect, has made it possible for those Christians holding Hindu caste certificates to avail of the one-time sum of rupees 5000 and later claim the monthly benefits by showing themselves as Christians.

LRPF has alleged this encouragement provided by the present government will allow SCs to convert to Christianity while at the same time allowing them to corner constitutional benefits reserved for SCs without any obstacles and hassles.

The letter further states that the government is encouraging conversions by funding construction of churches mainly in areas where the population predominantly belongs to the SC.

A survey of SCs by NGO Samarasta Seva Foundation at Chilkuru Village in Krishna District indicates that out of a total of 450 Mala sub-caste families, 430 are Christians and only 5 of the 100 Madiga families are Hindus. It is even more a matter of concern that villages across most districts including Krishna, Guntur and East and West Godavari throw up similar skewed population figures.

Furthermore, the question of crypto-Christianity is one that can no longer be ignored. Available data has time and again pointed out the fact in successive census surveys that while there is a decline in the number of Christians, there is proportionately a rise in the number of people belonging to SC.

Ground realities indicate that those who convert to Christianity retain their Hindu names and obtain SC caste certificates to corner benefits provided by the government to ensure the welfare of those belonging to the SC community.

LRPF has asked the authorities to look into this matter as such a huge fraud is not possible without the active support and connivance of the government and administrative machinery.

Stating that around 58% of the Christian pastors surveyed by them hold Hindu SC caste certificates and about 13% of them carry Hindu-OBC certificates, LRPF has impressed upon the Commission to enquire into this by calling for the list of those pastors who have availed the one-time relief sum along with their religion and community details.

As per their survey they allege that a sum of around 10 crores has been fraudulently acquired by Christian pastors using their Hindu caste card. LRPF has further requested the Commission to conduct a thorough inquiry and weed out those converts who are holding Hindu caste certificates illegally and also send a fact-finding mission to the state to safeguard the interest of the disadvantaged SC/OBC communities.

LRPF is also approaching various authorities to save the miniscule (about 10-15% remaining) Hindu SCs and OBCs of Andhra who are being pushed to the brink of extinction by evangelical Christian bodies who are receiving support both monetarily and institutionally.

(Featured Image Source: OpIndia)

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