AI Christian Council hails `historic’ St. Stephen’s College quota move for Dalit Christians

By Pervez Bari,

Bhopal, June 14: All India Christian Council president Dr. Joseph D'souza and Secretary General Dr. John Dayal in a statement have welcomed as 'historic' the move by the St. Stephen's College of New Delhi to give preferential admissions to brilliant students from the Dalit Christian community in the prestigious institution of higher learning.

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St. Stephen's College, they noted, has become the first Church-constituted institution to take this long-due affirmative action which will go far in undoing prejudices against Christians from the erstwhile depressed classes and scheduled castes in north and south India, a Press release said.
Dr. D'souza and Dr. Dayal have also welcomed the Education Policy announced by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India which reaffirms the commitment of the Church to the education of the marginalized.  
"These revolutionary measures will go a long way in the empowerment of  60 per cent of the Indian Christian community who had fallen out of the development net of the church and were also ignored by the State," the Christian Council leaders said.
These steps are also in keeping with the recent recommendations of the Justice Rangnath Misra National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities which recently said Dalit Christians [and Dalit Muslims] must be given Scheduled Caste status and privileges given to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. "Religion cannot come in the way of empowerment and development of a people subjugated for three millennia," the Council said.
Dalit Christians and Muslims are in the Supreme Court through a PIL seeking Scheduled Caste status denied them by a government order that communalized affirmative action and reserves it for favored religion.
The Council called upon both the State and the Church to ensure quality education through  well equipped schools and  modern curricula in districts, towns and Dioceses where Dalit Christians were in reasonable numbers. This will also be in keeping with the spirit of the recommendations made for the Muslim community by the Prime Minster's Special Committee on Minorities headed by Justice Rajendra Sachchar which gave its report some months ago.
Associates of the All India Christian Council already run scores of high quality English-medium schools in several states in India and are planning more schools, the release added.
"The move by St Stephen's college Officer on Special Duty Rev. Valson Thampu will help remove the impression that the Church runs only elite schools and colleges for the rich and powerful without concern for the poor," the Council said.
Dr. D'souza and Dr. Dayal also challenged statements that the affirmative action for Dalit Christians will in any way dilute
academic standards for which the historic institution is noted. St. Stephens' doors are now open to the brilliant students of the Dalit community who otherwise find such institutions beyond their reach for various reasons. It will sharpen the competition among the children of the elite who had so far found it easy to get admission."  
It may be recalled that yesterday Rev. Valson Thampu had announced 40 per cent of the seats in St Stephen's College will be reserved for Christian students as against the earlier 32 per cent and 25 per cent of these will be kept aside for Dalit Christians. Ten per cent of the total 400 seats will now be effectively reserved for Dalit Christians as per the new reservation formula that will be implemented from the coming academic session. The college, that has around 400 seats, will also have 15 per cent reservation for the students of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, disabled and children of defense personnel killed in war, while five per cent seats will be meant for the sportspersons. ([email protected]