June 13, 2024

Md Jubair: The synod of India’s eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church has appealed to the Kerala state government to end discrimination against Christians in distributing benefits intended for religious minorities.
The synod’s call came in the concluding statement issued on Jan 15. Of the 64 bishops, 57 attended the Jan. assembly at Church headquarters in Kochi, the state’s financial capital.
The bishops’ said 80 percent of the federal grants meant for religious minorities “went to one minority community (Muslims), and the remaining 20 percent is divided among the other five minority communities in the state.”
Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, and Jains are classified as minorities who together make up 20 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people. Some 80 percent of Indians are Hindus.
The federal government offers individual grants for education, scholarships, and tuition, among other things aiming to improve the socio-economic development of religious minorities.
Such aid is distributed through minority welfare departments in each state. However, bishops in Kerala maintain the Christian community is not given such benefits in proportion to their size.
Christians account for 18.38 percent of the state’s 34 million population, Muslims 26.56 percent, Hindus 54.73 and the rest 0.33 percent, according to the national census.
“Despite representing almost 20 percent of the population in the state, we are not given federal grants for minorities as per our population ratio,” said Father Antony Thalachelloor, Synod Secretary of the Syro-Malabar Media Commission.
Instead, we have to be content with “a share of the 20 percent, which is distributed among other minority groups,” Father Thalachelloor told UCA News. He said the Church wanted federal grants to be distributed as per the population ratio. The current sharing of grants discriminates against Christians and other minority groups.
The federal government in March 2005 appointed a seven-member committee under Justice Rajindar Sachar to submit a report to it on the conditions of the Muslim community in India.
The report concluded that Muslims in India are poorly developed, and steps were suggested to improve their living conditions. The report, according to Christian leaders, was based on the living standards of Muslims across the country.
They say the conditions of Muslims in Kerala are not comparable to their counterparts northern states, such as in Uttar Pradesh, where they experience poverty and face increasing hostility from right-wing Hindu groups. In contrast, Kerala Muslims stand equal in socio-economic standards with other communities in the state do not warrant any special consideraiton, Church officials said.
The bishops also discussed various issues such as low prices for cash crops and other agriculture produce, the destruction of standing crops by wild animals and other issues affecting farmers in the state. The synod urged the state government to give a monthly stipend of 10,000 rupees (US$142) to farmers to help them survive.

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