Government prepares panel to study status of Dalits converts to Christianity and Islam

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The idea is gaining momentum as numerous petitions are pending before the Supreme Court seeking SC reservation benefits for Dalits who have converted to Christianity and Islam

The question of the benefits of the SC reservation for Dalits who have converted mainly to Christianity or Islam has also been raised before previous governments. Representative image: iStock

The Center is set to set up a national commission to study the social, economic and educational status of members of Scheduled Castes or Dalits who have converted to religions other than Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism, according to media reports. . The proposal to create such a commission is being actively debated at the Centre, and a decision should be taken soon.

The Indian Express cited sources from the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Department of Personnel and Training, who said they had given the green signal for such a move. Consultations continue between the Ministries of Interior, Law, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Finance.

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The idea is gaining momentum as there are numerous pending petitions in the Supreme Court seeking SC reservation benefits for Dalits who have converted to Christianity as well as Islam.

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In accordance with the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Ordinance 1950, under Section 341, anyone who practices any religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism can be considered a Scheduled Caste. The original order which stated that only Hindus were considered SCs was amended by the government in 1956 to include Sikhs as well, and in 1990 to include Buddhists.

The government must clear its position

On August 30, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and including Justices Abhay S Oka and Vikram Nath, that he would record the government’s position on the issue raised by the petitioners. . The bench gave the solicitor general a three-week grace period and listed the case on October 11.

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The Indian Express learned that the proposed commission could have three or four members, its chairman having the rank of a Union cabinet minister, and a possible delay of well over a year to submit its report.

The proposed commission will also consider the impact of adding new members to the current SC list.

The problem is limited to Dalits since there is no religion-specific mandate for STs and OBCs. In addition, following the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, several Christian and Muslim communities have found places in the central or state lists of OBCs.

Among the main benefits offered to the SC community are 15% reservation for direct recruitment into central government jobs, 7.5% for STs and 27% for OBCs.

Previous studies

The question of the benefits of the SC reservation for Dalits who have converted mainly to Christianity or Islam has also been raised before previous governments. In October 2004, the UPA government of Manmohan Singh constituted the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by India’s former Chief Justice, Justice Ranganath Misra, to recommend measures for the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

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In May 2007, the Ranganath Misra Commission submitted its report, recommending that SC status be completely divorced from religion and made religiously neutral like STs. The then UPA government did not accept the recommendation on the grounds that it was not supported by field studies.

Furthermore, a study commissioned by the National Commission for Minorities in 2007 concluded that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should be granted SC status. This conclusion was also not accepted on the grounds that it was based on tiny sample sizes which could have led to unreliable estimates.

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