Modi govt opposes reservation for Dalit Christians, Muslims

New Delhi, November 10 (KMS): The Modi-led Indian government has opposed before the Supreme Court petitions seeking Scheduled Caste status for Dalits who have converted to Christianity and Islam.

According to Kashmir Media Service, in an affidavit filed in the top court, the Modi government said, “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”.

“In fact, one of the reasons for which people from SCs have been converting to 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 admitted.

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 government 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, New Delhi had appointed a three-member commission headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status could be given to those members of Scheduled Caste 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 government 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.

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