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Centre opposes reservation for Dalit Christians, Muslims

Says Ranganath Mishra panel took a myopic view on the issue

Centre opposes reservation for Dalit Christians, Muslims

Maintaining that untouchability was not prevalent in Christian and Islamic societies, the Centre has opposed before the Supreme Court petitions seeking seeks Scheduled Caste status for Dalits who have converted to Christianity and Islam. - File photo



Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9

Maintaining that untouchability was not prevalent in Christian and Islamic societies, the Centre has opposed before the Supreme Court petitions seeking seeks Scheduled Caste status for Dalits who have converted to Christianity and Islam.

“The Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950, was based on historical data which clearly established that no such backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic society,” the Centre submitted in an affidavit filed in the top court.

“In fact, one of the reasons for which people from SCs have been converting Islam or Christianity is so that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not prevalent at all in Christianity or Islam,” the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment affidavit said.

It faulted Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission for favouring SC status for Dalits converted to Christianity and Islam, saying it was not based on field studies.The Centre said the commission took a myopic view of the social environment in India and failed to take into account the effect that the inclusion would have on the present castes listed as SCs.

Last month, the Centre had appointed a three-member commission headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status could be given to those members of SC community who had converted to Christianity or Islam. The first Dalit CJI, Justice Balakrishnan, also served as Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission.

Noting that the legal issues involved had to be settled, the Supreme Court had on August 30 given three weeks to the Centre to spell out its stand on the issue. The Constitution (SC) Order, 1950, says that no person professing a religion other than Hinduism or Sikhism or Buddhism could be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.

However, Muslim and Christian groups have been demanding similar status for Dalits who have converted to Christianity or Islam, arguing that the restriction went against their fundamental right to equality, religious freedom and non-discrimination.

The petitioners contended that the change in religion did not change social exclusion and caste hierarchy continued to hold fort within Christianity even though the religion forbade it. However, the Centre asserted that "the object of the reservations and identification of SCs is over and beyond the 'social and economic backwardness'… the identification of SCs is centered around a specific social stigma (and the connected backwardness with such stigma) that is limited to the communities identified in the Constitution (SC) Order, 1950."

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