Sunday, June 4, 2023

Glimmer of hope: Supreme Court to rule on quota for Dalit Muslims and Christians

We are aware of the fact that the Indian society is caste-ridden and caste-driven. Even in the year 2023, Dalit Christians and Muslims are undergoing and suffer all sorts of humiliation, victimization, and oppression. Due to oppressive and exploitative tendencies of Hinduism, many renounced Hinduism and thus embraced Islam and Christianity. Relatively speaking both the religions Islam and Christianity in its scope and dogma embraces equality, fraternity, and dignity. Purely because of these reasons many had exited from Hinduism to others religions. Even BR Ambedkar had to leave Hinduism because of its rigidity, irrationality and inhumanity.
Getting converted to Islam and Christianity, there have been many views, theories and arguments. However, one major aspect continues to standout which is the most foundational – conversion from one religion to another is the basic fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. Since there have been mass exodus from Hinduism to other religion, Governments both at the Centre and states irrespective of ideologies enacted laws that stalled conversion. Though secular, major political parties by and large tow the line of majoritarianism.
Political parties that ruled and ruling state governments have passed laws that prohibits beef-eating. Though beef is the most important stapple food for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, they have been prevented to consume beef. Many state governments went ahead to the extent banning of slaughtering cows and eating beef. As a result, livelihood of teeming millions belonging to these categories has been badly affected. The governments thus far ruled including the current government at the Centre is averse of considering reservation quota for Christian and Muslim Dalits. Amidst gloom, all of sudden a glimmer of hope emerged.
Brushing aside the Centre’s plea to wait for the report of a three-member commission on the issue of including Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Scheduled Cate category, the supreme Court on the 12 April, 2023, decided to adjudicate the long-pending issue pending in the court for almost two decades. Prior to this the BJP government at the Centre had appointed a panel led by former chief justice of India K G Balakrishnan to examine whether SC status could be accorded to those who claimed to have historically belong to the community, but converted to other religions. It had set up the second panel after rejecting the findings of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, which had recommended their inclusion in the list. While the current dispensation alleged that the Justice Mishra‘s report was prepared without any field study and consultation, for which Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Arvind Kumar said the report was not that “perfunctory” and said it would take a call on how much the court relief on the findings or the empirical data of the report. The bench had added that the government was making a very generalized statement and it should recheck the report. Usually, the governments be it state or Centre when the commissions’ reports come out and its findings are contrary or not falling into the gamut of and to governments’ expectations, they usually tend to dump the findings on flimsy grounds.
This time the Supreme Court without mincing words said that it would conclude the hearing in a time-bound manner and asked the concerned partied to file their brief submission and make a common compilation for smooth hearing in the case in which both sides would get two days each to conclude the arguments. Responding to it the additional Solicitor General KM Nataraju’s submissions after having rejected of the data collected by the new commission, the bench retorted back, “Tomorrow there will be a different political dispensation which say that the new report is not acceptable. How many committees would be appointed?”
In the meantime, senior advocates Raju Ramachandran, Colin Gonsalves, and Prashant Bhushan submitted that the issue could be adjudicated by the court as there is enough material on the issue which showed that Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are treated as “Untouchables and discriminated against and are at the bottom of social hierarchy.” One of the parties opposing the plea submitted that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are still treated as Untouchables, they can take legal course. Justice Amanullah, however, said that “social stigma and religious stigma are different things. Social stigma may continue even after conversion. We cannot shut our eyes when we are considering all these constitutional matters.”
Apparently, the Government at the Centre had earlier informed the court that Dalits who had converted to Christianity and Islam cannot be given Scheduled Caste status as there is no backwardness and oppression in those religious communities.
In addition, in an affidavit, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said that the Constitution (Scheduled castes) Order of 1950 does not suffer from any Untouchability and it is legal and valid. The petitioner, an NGO, in 2004, was responding to a plea by the Centre for public interest litigation (PIL) Over and above, “In fact, one of the reasons for which people from SCs have been converting to religions like Islam and Christianity is that they can come out of the oppressive system of untouchability which is not present at all in Christianity or Islam.”
The governments both in the states as well as at the Centre do not want to take risks, as their constituencies predominantly belong to Hindu religion. Nonetheless, they want to use Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits to remain wherever they are – socially, economically, and politically.
RSS and BJP in particular and Congress to an extent do not want to antagonize Hindus and Hindu Dalits. By withholding quotas and other benefits falling under ‘Reservations for SCs’ guaranteed under Constitution for SCs for the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims who have also undergone historical injustices and oppression that prompted them to move out of Hinduism shall never be brushed aside or construed as non-issue.
It is indeed a clever political ploy for those political parties to keep the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in uncertainty, so that, at last, for the sake of reservation benefits and quota privileges Christian and Muslim Dalit eventually would come back to Hindu fold (Ghar Vapsi). Conversion from one religion to another keep happening as long as Homo sapiens are on truth seeking mode and spiritual quest. It is in this context our Constitution has guaranteed conversion from one religion to another is a fundamental human right that needs to be abided and respected.
Dr. John Mohan Razu


Repent at leisure

Wrestling maniac

Don't Miss