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HC order on scholarships: Muslims, Christians polarised, Kerala govt treads cautiously

As per the 2011 census, Kerala's population comprises 26.56 per cent Muslims, 18.38 per cent Christians and 0.33 per cent other minorities. Within the minority segment, 58.67 per cent are Muslims and 40.6 percent are Christians.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: May 30, 2021 7:47:09 am
Allegations and counter: Kerala CM and state Congress chief's political slugfestOn Friday, Vijayan told the media that Sudhakaran had tried to abduct his two children when they were in school. (File photo)

The Kerala High Court order quashing the ratio of 80:20 in distribution of merit-cum-means scholarships for minorities in the state has put the CPI(M)-led LDF government in a fix.

On Friday, a division bench of the High Court, quashing three government orders pertaining to minority scholarships and fixing the ratio of 80:20 between Muslims and Christians, had directed the government to distribute the merit-cum-means scholarships equally among notified minority communities as per the latest population census.

As per the 2011 census, Kerala’s population comprises 26.56 per cent Muslims, 18.38 per cent Christians and 0.33 per cent other minorities. Within the minority segment, 58.67 per cent are Muslims and 40.6 percent are Christians.

As per census 2011, Kerala’s population comprises 26.56 per cent Muslims, 18.38 per cent Christians and 0.33 per cent other minorities. Within the minority segment, 58.67 per cent are Muslims and 40.6 percent are Christians.

A day after the verdict, various Muslim organisations have demanded that the government move an appeal against the court order, while churches have welcomed the move.

Indicating that the government wants to tread cautiously on the issue, which has emerged as a polarizing topic between the state’s two prominent minority communities, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a decision would be taken only after studying the High Court order.

Upping the ante, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) — the largest political party representing Muslims in Kerala – has demanded that the ratio should be abolished and the entire scholarships should go to Muslims.

IUML national secretary E T Muhammed Basheer said, “The government failed to present the facts before the court. The scholarships started as a sequel to the Sachar Committee report at the national level. A scheme meant for Muslims was amended by the LDF regime of 2006-11 to give a portion to Latin Catholics and converted Christians. The government should bring out separate schemes for other minorities,” he said.

Muslim scholars’ body Samastha Kerala Jamiat-ul-Ulema, which is pro-IUML, also demanded that the ratio be quashed and the entire scholarships go to Muslims.

Churches, meanwhile, want the government to implement the order and the court’s directions have served a rallying point for various denominations, with the warring Orthodox and Jacobite Churches hailing it as a victory of justice. “Christians are denied their due share in minority coaching centres. We hope the government will not deny justice to us. We expect that our (Christians) issues would be addressed by the Chief Minister who has taken over the department,” said Jacobite Bishop and Church Trustee Joseph Mor Gregorious.

The Orthodox Church also welcomed the order and wanted Vijayan take a decision to protect the rights of Christians in the minority largesse.

On Saturday, CM Vijayan told the media that a decision would be taken only after studying the court order. “It (minority scholarships) has existed for several years. The High Court order has to be examined in detail and then the government would decide on its stand,” he said.

The court verdict has come at a time that various Muslim organisations are already irked with Vijayan for keeping the minority welfare portfolio with himself – since the department’s formation in 2008, only Muslim ministers had handled the portfolio and a major chunk of appointments in offices under it had gone to Muslims.

During the Assembly elections, the LDF had played up among Christians the issue of alleged discrimination in scholarship distribution. An anti-IUML sentiment had developed among Christians, which helped LDF make dividends.

Vijayan’s taking over the Minority Welfare Department stemmed from the realisation of the Christian sentiments in this regard. When Muslim organisations protested Vijayan’s move, the CPI(M) defended the decision, pointing to Christian concerns in the issue.

All Churches, meanwhile, have hailed Vijayan’s taking charge of the Minority Welfare Department and have reckoned him as the only leader who can take on the IUML.

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