M A I N   N E W S

Govt under renewed pressure
SC status for Dalit Muslims, Christians
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
UPA’s desperation to steer clear of the trust vote on July 22 is costing it too much, too fast. As the number-crunching game continues, the government is finding itself under pressure to consider the long-pending demand of granting Scheduled Caste (SC) status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians.

Strong political lobbies within these communities are learnt to be pushing the demand, which can well disturb the existing SC quota or create pressure for an amendment of the existing quota ceiling of 49.5 per cent.

Also significant in this context is a very recent meeting held between the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) chairperson Mohd Shafi Qureishi and social justice minister Meira Kumar. The Commission has asked the government to consider the “pressing demand” of Dalit Muslims and Christians, and find a way to accommodate them for quota benefits without affecting others.

Qureishi confirmed to The Tribune that the Commission members had met the minister to present to her the new evidence that strongly supports SC status for Dalit Muslims and Christians. The study concludes that these communities endure discriminatory and exclusionary practices, including untouchability, even though such prejudices receive no support in either Islam or Christianity.

The government, though non-committal right now, has the issue on its mind considering that it wants to create new support and vote banks. In fact, it had earlier sought the opinion of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on the ticklish issue. The request was made on a relevant proposal in this regard by some MPs. The SC Commission, though not against extension of quota to Dalit Muslims and Christians, is opposed to their exclusion among SCs.

“We are opposed because as per Article 341 of the Constitution, only Hindus can be SCs. We are of the opinion that quota to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians should not be granted within the existing SC quota limit of 15 per cent. Also, if a quota has to be granted, it has to be below the 49.5 per cent ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court,” said highly placed officials in the SC Commission, admitting that the issue was weighing heavily on the government’s mind.

Sources in the Commission also said the government, on its own, could decide to adjust Dalit Muslims and Christians within the SC quota of 15 per cent. If that happens, the SC quota would be disturbed for the first time ever.



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