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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Heat over quota to Dalit minorities

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 22, 2011
First Published: 23:58 IST(22/2/2011) | Last Updated: 00:01 IST(23/2/2011)

The political heat over the demand for extending reservation benefits to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims has gained momentum with the assembly elections coming up in five states. The Supreme Court hears the matter on February 24.

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The demand to scrap clause three of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950, which excludes Muslim and Christian Dalits from reservation has found many takers.

According to the order, only persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions are eligible to be included in the list of Scheduled Castes.
 
With an eye on the coming assembly polls, the ruling communist parties in Kerala and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu have raised the pitch over the issue.

The CPM recently organised a major convention at Kottayam, a major Christian centre in Kerala, to woo the Dalit Christians. Christians form 19% of the state's 31.8 million people while Dalit Christians are around 4%.

Similarly in Tamil Nadu, the DMK has said it will take up their cause in Parliament.

DMK boss and chief minister M Karunanidhi has maintained that the demand for granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians "is not only just but also indisputable" and if necessary the party would even lead an agitation.

But the Congress, on its part, is treading very cautiously on the issue.

A section has argued that the issue could trigger political backlash and cost dearly for the party.

Senior Congress leaders like Arjun Singh and Digvijaya Singh are strong votaries of the reservation for minorities.

Digvijaya, who is party general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, has maintained that reservation should be extended on the basis backwardness and not on religious grounds.

Digvijaya has set his sight on the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, considered crucial for the Congress to re-emerge as the single dominant force at the Centre, and his quota carrot to Muslims is part of the strategy to woo the community.

The minority vote in the recent past has shifted between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.

The matter remained inconclusive at the meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs on Monday.


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