Rationale behind giving reservation to converted Dalit Christians and Muslims
Discussion is going on in the SC on a petition, in which there is a demand to include Dalit Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Castes.
Recently, a two-day conference was organized at Gautam Buddha University on the issue of conversion and reservation. Former and outgoing judges, vice-chancellors, professors, journalists and many intellectuals took part in this conference. According to the news published in the newspapers, it was told by quoting the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) that the speakers associated with the Sangh opposed the reservation for converted persons, Christians and Muslims.
In these news published in newspapers, it has been shown as if the government is considering giving reservation to converted Dalit Christians or Muslims. Therefore, it is natural for confusion to spread regarding this matter. To remove this confusion related to reservation, clarity is necessary about the concept of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims.
In fact, a public interest litigation is being discussed in the Supreme Court in this regard, in which a demand has been made to include Dalit Christians and Muslims in the Scheduled Castes.
In this regard, the government has constituted a three-member commission under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Shri KG Balakrishnan, which is studying the issue to clarify its stand to the government. and will present its report in 2024.
There is a demand of Muslim and Christian organizations behind this whole activity, in which they are demanding to include themselves in the Scheduled Castes. So far only the untouchable and outcaste classes (castes) of Hindus, Sikhs and Neo-Buddhists have been scheduled as Scheduled Castes under the Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
The logic of Muslim and Christian organizations
Regarding this, Muslim and Christian organizations say that there is no mention of any particular religion in Article 341 of the Constitution, so the orders given by the President in 1950, 1956 and 1990 related to the Scheduled Castes are in violation of Article 14 in the Constitution, equality, violates Article 15’s right to discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or language and Article 25’s right to religious freedom.
As both Christianity and Islam have always declared themselves untouchability-free and both have been denying untouchability in their respective religions. In such a situation, what do the Muslim and Christian organizations want to prove through the civil appeal and public interest litigation of Ghazi Saaduddin vs. State of Maharashtra and others in the Supreme Court?
Why do the globally organized and institutionally strong Muslim and Christian societies want to join the weakest section of the society?
Keeping these questions at the center, the Government of India has appointed a three-member commission under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India (Retd) Justice KG Balakrishnan. This commission will consider the claim of being included in the Scheduled Castes of those people who converted to Islam or Christianity and historically claim to belong to the Scheduled Castes.
Where did the Scheduled Castes come from?
The main question of Muslims and Christians is to join the Scheduled Castes, so it is necessary to understand how Scheduled Castes or its related terminology started.
Three round table conferences were held in Britain to hand over responsible governance to India. Due to Dr. Ambedkar’s efforts in these conferences, the British government announced separate elections in 1932 for the “outcasts and untouchables” of India.
Immediately after this, Gandhiji went on a fast unto death against it. The culmination of this fast was the Poona Pact between the Hindu society under the leadership of Gandhiji and the untouchable society under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. After this Poona Pact, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1935, which included reservation of seats for the depressed classes, which was implemented in 1937.
Scheduled castes were defined for the first time in this act. In this regard, the Government of British India (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936 included a schedule (or schedules) of castes in the British-administered provinces. Due to being in this schedule, the name of “Untouchable and Excluded Castes” came to be Scheduled Castes.
After independence, the Constituent Assembly continued with the earlier definition of Scheduled Castes and the President issued a schedule or list of castes in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 under Article 341.
After the reorganization of states in 1956, it was amended by the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1956 and in the year 1990 to include the “untouchables and outcasts” Neo-Buddhist Order of 1990. The Central Government clarified in the amended order that any person who professes any religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism shall not be considered a member of the Scheduled Castes.
This order of the government is in line with Article 25 of the Constitution, in which Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains have been kept in the broader definition of Hindus.
Central government action
The Congress-led UPA government constituted the “National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities” in March 2005 under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice Justice Ranganath Mishra. This commission has been filed in the Supreme Court and certain High Courts relating to Para 3 of the Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 with reference to the ceiling of 50 per cent in respect of reservation as well as the manner of inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes. making recommendations in respect of the issues raised in the writ petitions”. The report of the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission was presented in both the Houses of the Parliament on 18 December 2009, where after discussion, its recommendations were not accepted.
Apart from this, the UPA government constituted a committee in March 2005 under the chairmanship of former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar to study the social, economic and educational conditions of Muslims.
This committee, famous as the Sachar Committee, said in its report that the social and economic condition of Dalit Muslims did not improve after conversion.
The Justice Misra Commission and the Justice Sachar Committee reports have separately advocated the inclusion of “untouchable and outcastes” of the Christian and Muslim faiths in the Scheduled Castes. The Justice Misra Commission has also said in its report that minority communities irrespective of religion and caste were included in the state-wise prepared list of Other Backward Classes. In many states, Scheduled Castes converted to Neo-Buddhism, Christianity and Islam were included in these lists.
The important question, therefore, is that when Dalit-origin Christians and Muslims in the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) already have reservation under OBCs in government service and education, why should the RSS convert Dalit Christians and Muslims oppose reservation? Are there other implications?
(The author is the national president of the National Confederation of Dalit and Adivasi Organizations (NACDR).)
Courtesy: The Quint
Note: This news piece was originally published in thequint.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights.