Times of India on 10th October 2014 reported that the Government is opposed to Dalit status for converts.
It reported Union social justice minister Hon. Thavar Chand Gehlot’s statement about SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, which reveals that the Government is not inclusive in its development policy.
The demand for the inclusion of the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims has been going on for the past 64 years because of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste Order) 1950 paragraph 3 which reads as “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”. Later it was amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists in 1956 and 1990 respectively.
A public interest litigation case was filed in the Supreme Court of India in 2004 (Civil Writ Petition No.180/2004) challenging the validity of this order.
Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is Unconstitutional:
Denying SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is unconstitutional because it is against the Secular nature of the country( Preamble of the Constitution) against Article 14 which says “The State shall not deny any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India prohibition of discrimination of religion, race, caste sex, or place of birth”, and against article 15 which says “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth or any of them”.
Dalit status to converts will not eat into SC quota
SC list is the rightful place for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. The percentage of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is very meagre compared to the vast majority of the Hindu Dalits. Most of the reserved seats of the SCs are not filled and there are many backlogs every year. Crores of money from the Special Component plan is unspent every year.
Every year some backward castes are added to the SC list and this argument does not arise there.
More over when the Sikh Dalits and Buddhist Dalits were included in the SC list there was question of earing the quota or sharing the cake of the Dalit Hindus.
Dalit converts availing facilities extended to (backward) Christians and Muslims and if they get SC status, they will be not be eligible for dual benefits:
Once the Christians and Muslims of Scheduled caste origin are included in the SC list they will be automatically removed from the BC list. Thus there is no question of enjoying dual benefit by these groups.
Christianity and Islam do not accept caste system and therefore do not approve untouchability. But in reality the caste system in the larger society is reflection in these religious communities also:
The caste system in India has religious origin and sanction in the Hindu religion. But unfortunately it has become part and parcel of the Indian society where majority are Hindus. Though Christianity and Islam does not approve the caste system and untouchability it is being practiced by its members since they are the part of the larger society. Besides that the Christians and Muslims of SC origin live in a larger society where the caste system is prevalent and who are treated as untouchables by the caste Hindus.
Sikhism and Buddhism do not approve caste system but Dalits belonging to these religions are extended SC status.
Many state Governments and many commissions appointed by the Union of India have supported SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims:
The state Governments of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have recommended to the Union to extend SC status to the Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin.
The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) Report, the ‘Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities- A Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge’ prepared for the National commission for Minorities Government of India by Satish Deshpande and many other reports formed by the Government clearly say that the socio, economic, educational condition of the Dalits has not changed much even after their conversion to other religions.
Unnecessary fear that it will lead to conversion:
The Constitution of India guarantees the freedom of religion to every citizen of India.
‘Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all person are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion’.( Article 25).
The Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 1950 rather takes away this basic right to practice a religion of one’s own conscience. Rather by denying the SC status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin the order proselytises the Hindu Dalits and prevents them from converting themselves to the other religions.
It is minimising the value and credibility of Hindu religion and the Hindu Dalits, if somebody says that people would move away from Hindu religion if SC status to extended to all.
It should be also noted that the Dalit Hindus did not convert to Sikhism and Buddhism when the SC status was extended to the followers of these religions.
Based on the report of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) we request the Government to give a reply to the Supreme Court of India so that the long pending issue may be resolved in the Supreme Court of India soon.
Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is recommended by UN:
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 17th session (19th Feb-9th March 2007) states “The Committee notes with concern that Dalits who convert to Islam or to Christianity to escape caste discrimination reportedly list their entitlement under affirmative action programmes, unlike converts who become Buddhists or Sikhs. The committee recommends that the State party restore the eligibility for affirmative action benefits of all members of scheduled Castes and scheduled tribes having converted to another religion”.
Denying SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is against Human Rights of these groups:
Denying Scheduled Caste status to Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste Origin is denying their basic Human Rights to practice any religion of their conscience.
17th October 2014
CBCI Office for SC/BC
Mr. Samuel Jeyakumar
Commission on Policy Governance and Public Witness
Mr. Franklin Caesar
National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC)
Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood
President, Zakat Foundation of India