The National Council for Dalit Christians has approached the Law Commission seeking a recommendation to the government for extending scheduled caste status to Dalits belonging to the Christian and Muslim communities.
In a representation to commission member Tahir Mahmood, council's coordinator Franklin Caesar Thomas demanded that Dalit Christians/Muslims should be extended benefits like reservation in government jobs and educational institutions as provided to their Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist counterparts.
The representation referred to the recommendation of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) headed by Justice Ranganath Misra, which in May 2007 suggested delinking the scheduled caste status from religion. The representation has been forwarded to Law Commission chairman Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, Mahmood told HT.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 issued under Article 341 of the Constitution originally said no non-Hindu could be a scheduled caste. However, the provision has been amended twice to extend reservation benefits to Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists.
The NCRLM, of which Tahir Mahmood was a member, had recommended an amendment to the Constitution order, 1950 to include Dalit Christians/Muslims.
NCRLM member secretary Asha Das had, however, dissented, saying there was no justification for inclusion of SC converts to Christianity or Islam as scheduled castes. The condition of ‘religion’ in the Constitution order, 1950 shouldn't be deleted. Hindu groups, too, are against the move. It would give a fillip to conversion, they have said.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) headed by Buta Singh had put forth three conditions for extending the reservation benefits. Favouring reservation for Dalit Christians/Muslims, it said the government shouldn't disturb the 15 per cent share of reservation meant for scheduled castes and determine the element of reservation for them keeping in view their population. Overall reservation shouldn't exceed 50 per cent as fixed by the Supreme Court, it said.