How should Christians think about reservation policies?

The Supreme Court of India recently passed a landmark upholding the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment that provides a 10 per cent quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of society in jobs and education. A few months ago, it had ruled in favour of reservation for oppressed classes of people in Post-Graduate medical courses.

Reservation as a topic is a decades-old debate going all the way back to the drafting of the Indian Constitution. The recent debate over the EWS quota revolves around whether economic disadvantage is enough of a disadvantage that it requires the instrument of reservation to help achieve justice.

How do we as faithful Christians, think through the issue of reservation?

Governments can certainly frame laws and policies that directly rebel against God. But the majority of laws and policies that entangle our lives are not of this nature. How do we think through these complex grey areas?

Although the Bible doesn’t give us a checklist of which policies please the Lord, it does specify what posture of our heart pleases Him. In other words, God is more concerned with our posture than our position. This posture includes the process we use to form our convictions and the language we use to express them.

Do we form our convictions on truth?

The debate around reservation today is often driven by political parties seeking electoral gains. But the misuse of the law does not make the law evil. But why was the principle introduced in the first place? According to the Drafting Committee Debates, the original motives were to uplift the cause of the downtrodden and to bring about true equality. This is a noble motive and we can praise God for it. In fact, the doctrine of equality itself is a direct consequence of Biblical truth in a secular world.

As Christians, we need to build our convictions on the truth of the caste atrocities that have been committed over many generations. Historically, caste discrimination in India was about excluding members of a community from spaces of education and worship. This exclusion was based on the idea that certain peoples were impure. Sharing space with such people would pollute the others who considered themselves pure. In response, the idea behind reservation was to accustom the people to the idea of an equal society. A society where people from all communities study together under a common roof. In other words, reservation was an instrument to bring about equality.

These atrocities are by no means a relic of the past. Just last year, a huge fine was imposed on a Dalit family after their three-year-old son entered a temple. Although this incident came to light and the perpetrators were brought to court, many others regularly go unreported.

At the same time, it would not be right for us to turn a blind eye to the misuse of the law. Thus, policies such as the ‘creamy layer’ hold merit. Today there are calls for a caste census to be conducted so as to have data to determine who really needs reservation and who doesn’t need it. Such exercises are steps in the right direction as they would enable our leaders to build policies based on truth.

Do we express our convictions with love?

We have observed that the Bible is more concerned with our posture rather than our position when it comes to policies. This posture of our hearts is also seen in the way we express our opinions. Irrespective of our convictions, when we make jokes or sarcastic comments on reservation, we may not be acting in love.

How do we engage with others, especially when they disagree with us? Do we offer grace to such persons? Can we say with sincerity, “I can honour the process by which you’ve got to that conclusion although it is not the same conclusion I have reached?”

Are we so eager to convince others that we seek to speak more than to listen? Are we so eager to be heard that we are loud rather than loving?

Being Indian and Christian

Being Indian and Christian is my weekly newsletter in which I try to understand the world (popular culture or news and events from India or around the world) from a Christian worldview. If that’s something you’re interested in, I’d be honoured if you signed up!

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