REPORTS OF COMMISSIONS
A Scheduled Caste (man) might have made some progress, or might have embraced Islam or Christianity, and thereby the disabiltites under which he suffered as a result of untouchability, might have, to some extent , disappeared. But the fact remains that such castes, tribes and racial groups still continue to suffer under other social, eduational and economic handicaps and taboos.
This report observed the practice of untouchability among South Indian Christians, and the influence of caste among Indian Christians.
We discovered with deep pain and sorrow that untouchability did obtain in the extreme south among Indian Christians, and Indian Christians were prepared in many places to assert that they were still guided by caste, not only in the matter of untouchability, but in social hierarchy of high and low. While the harijans amongst the Hindus, classified as scheduled castes, stand a fair chance of bettering their conditon under the Indian Government's reservation policy, their Christian counterparts stand twice discriminated.
The Mandal Commission Report has accepted the reality of caste among Indian Christians, as in any other community. It has taken the example of the Christian community in Kerala, which, according to the Mandal Commission Report, is not only divided into various denominations on the basis of beliefs and rituals, but also 'into various ethnic groups on the basis of their caste background."
Similar is the situation among Indian Christians... Christians in Kerala are divided ... into various ethnic groups on the basis of their caste background... even after conversion the lower caste converts continue to be treated as Harijans by all sections of society, including the Syrian Christians... In the presence of rich Syrian Christians the Harijan Christians had to remove their headress... It was found that the Syrian and Pulaya members of the same church conduct religious rituals separately in separate buildings... Thus lower caste converts to a very egalitarian religion like Christianity, ever anxious to expand its membership, even after generations were not able to efface the effect of their caste background.
Prof. Madhu Dandavate stated that conversion from one faith to another did not change the socio-economic status of a person. It was, therefore, desirable that converts from Scheduled Castes to Buddhism, Christianity etc, should be treated as Scheduled Castes. But until this change was brought about by legislation, all such converts should be listed as OBCs (Other Backward Classes).
In view of this, Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc., should not be denied the benefits extended to Scheduled Castes and the same should hold good in respect of other backward classes. In some places, it was also contended that all Muslims and all Christians should be included in the list of other backward classes as these communities were indeed backward.
The Mandal Commission Report has concluded without any doubt that among Indian Christians caste is a reality. According to the report "social and educational backwardness among" the Christian community is more or less the same as among Hindu communities. Though the caste system is peculiar to Hindu society, in actual practice, it also pervades Christian society. The Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin (Christian Dalits) suffer the same disabilties as their counterparts belonging to other religions.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution said :
" Has Christianity been able to save the converts from the sufferings and ignominy which is the misfortune of everyone who is born an untouchable? Can an untouchable after his conversion to Christianity take water from a public well? Are his children admitted to a public school? . Will a barber shave him? Will a washerman wash his clothes? Will the Hindus take water from him? Will they dine with him?"
Various government Commissions have reported unanimously that the Dalit Christians still suffer injustice. This shows that these Christians have been wrongfully excluded from the Scheduled Castes and ought to be included. Unfortunately the commissions can only recommend: the government alone can make the change.