The affidavit goes against the 2011 recommendation of the National Scheduled Caste Commission

The affidavit goes against the 2011 recommendation of the National Scheduled Caste Commission

While the Supreme Court awaits the Union government’s current position on the inclusion of Dalit Christians as members of Scheduled Castes (SC), the latest position of the Narendra Modi government on this aspect has been to reject such a proposal. , according to an affidavit filed by the government in November. 2019, which also stated that Dalits who converted to Buddhism cannot be compared to those who converted to Islam or Christianity.

This position runs counter to the most recent position taken by the National Commission on Scheduled Castes (NCSC) before the Supreme Court in a 2011 affidavit, when it recommended granting a reservation to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. , provided they meet two criteria: if they continue to practice their traditions and customs as they did before the conversion; and whether they continue to face social handicaps due to untouchability.

And while the NCSC acknowledged the lack of an independent study of the status of these converts, it recommended that until such a study is completed, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims be included in the SC category.

This NCSC recommendation came after the then National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Tribes rejected in 2000 and 2003 respectively proposals to include Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims as SCs. Since 2011, the NCSC has made no submissions on this matter to the court. In a separate affidavit, the National Commission for Minorities had also backed in 2011 the extension of CS benefits to Dalit Christians and Muslims.

Lack of studies

In its 2019 affidavit, the Union government cited the lack of in-depth studies on the social status of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. He added that while Dalits who converted to Buddhism did so “voluntarily due to some innate socio-political imperatives” after Dr BR Ambedkar’s appeal in 1956, those who converted to Islam or Christianity “could have converted due to other factors”.

Furthermore, the government has stated that the original caste/community of Dalit Buddhists can be traced, unlike that of Dalit Christians and Muslims, as these conversions have been taking place for centuries. He added that Dalits who have converted to Islam or Christianity “have improved their social status” through their conversion and “cannot claim to be backward” since untouchability is a feature of the Hindu religion and its traditions. only branches.

This affidavit was filed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the Supreme Court on a batch of motions seeking the removal of religious criteria to determine whether a community can be included in the SC list. Currently, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 provides for recognizing only communities that practice Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism as SC.

RGI approval

Sikh communities were included by an amendment in 1956 and Buddhist communities by an amendment in 1990 – neither of which required the approval of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the rules at the time. The approval of the RGI for the inclusion of local authorities was made compulsory in the procedures drawn up in 1999.

In a memo prepared in March 2001, the RGI, when presenting its opinion on why Dalit Christians cannot be included in the SC list, compared Dalit Christians to Dalit Buddhists – in contrast to the position taken by the Union Government in its 2019 affidavit report. The RGI office had said that in both cases people from multiple Scheduled Caste communities had converted to those respective religions and could not be recognized as a ‘single ethnic group’ to be included as intended. clause (2) of Article 341 of the Constitution. . He concluded that Dalit Christians and Dalit Buddhists lost their caste identity after conversion and added that he presented a similar opinion to the then Home Office in 1978, despite the amendment to include Buddhist converts in 1990.

The RGI had also concluded that Dalit Muslims could not be included as SCs in Bihar, according to an April 2001 memo.

However, the Center justified the inclusion of Buddhist converts based on Explanation II of Clause 2(b) of Article 25 which defines Hindus as including Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists to ensure “the social welfare and the reform or opening up of Hindu religions”. public institutions to all classes and sections of Hindus”.

“Now there are reports that the government will set up a commission to study the status of Dalit Christians and Muslims, but there are already a bunch of independent commissions and inquiries that have repeatedly recommended the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the SC list,” said attorney Franklin Caesar Thomas, who represents the National Council of Dalit Christians, the United Front for Dalit Christian Rights and other petitioners before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is expected to take up the case for a next hearing on October 11.

In its 2019 affidavit, the Union government rejected those recommendations, saying it had not conducted any detailed field studies to back up its suggestions.