Recommendations of SC status to Dalit Christians & Muslims welcomed

By Pervez Bari,

Bhopal, May 23: National Integration Council member Dr. John Dayal, who is president of the All Indian Christian Union, (AICU), and secretary general of All India Christian Council, (AICC); Union of Dalit Movements India national coordinator Advocate Edward M. Arokiadoss and others have welcomed the recommendations of the Justice Misra Commission accepting the grant of Scheduled Caste, (SC), status to Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin.

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In a joint press statement released from Chennai, Adv. Arokiadoss, Catholic Union leader Lion C. Francis and Dr. Dayal expressed the hope that the Supreme Court of India will also accept the demand of Dalit Christians when it begins hearing on their writ in July.

The Dalit Christian leaders were in Chennai from their meeting in Yellagiri which called for a sustained mass movement to see that the government finally implemented the recommendations of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, (NCRLM), headed by retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Rangnath Misra.

The Union and its allied organizations also condemned NCRLM secretary Asha Das’ negative report that spoke of the orthodox mentality which wanted to deny the Dalits their rights who are Christians or Muslim.

It may be recalled that the NCRLM has backed the demand for extending reservation benefits to Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam. The panel has said that a clause in the Constitution of India inserted by the Presidential Order of 1950, which restricts the SCs net to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, should be dropped to de-link SC status from religion.

NCRLM Member secretary Asha Das has dissented, arguing that extending SC status to Christians and Muslims would amount to inserting caste in religions, which don’t recognize it. She has questioned the propriety of Parliament or judiciary to change the tenets of religion. The ticklish issue is at the prime minister’s doorsteps, to which the NCRLM has submitted the report. The Sachchar panel, which was asked to go into the matter, left the decision for NCRLM.

The Dalits have faced vehement opposition from the saffron brigade who argue that it would encourage religious conversions of Hindus since exclusion of Dalit converts from SC list acts as a deterrent.

“We support the demand raised by Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz and Rajya Sabha MP Anwar Ali that 1950 Presidential Order barring Muslims and Christians from SC list be revoked immediately to ensure them SC status and benefits,” the statement said.

The National Commission headed by Justice Rangnath Misra and comprising Tahir Mahmood, Mohinder Singh and Anil Wilson, has termed the exclusion of Dalits from SC list after conversion out of Hinduism as violative of constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination on religious grounds.

The commission was unanimous, barring Asha Das who felt SC list was basically a Hindu issue. Tracing the history of SCs, she said British first categorized 17 occupational groups as “depressed classes” and fixed criterion of social relations to avoid confusion with followers of non-Hindu religions.

NCRLM has also said that 15 per cent seats in states and Center should be reserved for minorities with 10 per cent for Muslims and rest for others. For educational uplift, it has demanded that a law should be enacted to set aside 15 per cent seats in all non-minority institutions for minorities, with 10 per cent for Muslims. ([email protected])