SC status to dalit Muslims might wait for some time: petitioners

By Md. Ali,,

New Delhi: UPA government has done it again. It was the 8th extension, which the Central government sought for the hearing of a PIL lodged in Supreme Court, for inclusion of Dalit Muslims in Scheduled Caste category, by Akhil Maharastra Khatik Samaj (AMKS).

Representing the government side, Gopal Subramanyam, solicitor general of India, told the apex court that the government needs some more time to take a stand on this whole issue, particularly now when Ranganath Mishra Commission has submitted its report, recommending SC status to the Dalit Muslims.

To inform our readers, the National Commission on Religious & Linguistic Minorities or Ranganath Mishra Commission, as it is popularly called, headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra, former Chief Justice of India, submitted it’s Report to the Prime Minister on 22 May, 2007.

The Ranganath Mishra Commission report has recommended the government to delink religion for the consideration of SC status and to make Schedule Caste net as religion neutral.

Reportedly the government counsel said that the proposal is yet to be discussed by the concerned high power Group of Ministers (GoM) which is Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA).

Talking to, Shamsuddin Kadir from the legal cell of AMKS pointed out that, “It has been quite a journey for us in our decade old fight to get SC status to dalit Muslims. After 8 extensions and delays the situation now is that, it is the extreme and climax of the case. The UPA government is just adopting the delay tactics, which is the easiest way out when you don’t want to do any thing. In the next hearing we will request the apex court not to give further time to the government.”

The actual petition was filed by AMKS on 25th January 2008 but in spite of the delays and 8 extensions he sees some positives developments about the case.

“There used to be a time when no body used to turn up from the government side. It is a positive path breaking achievement for this case that the government has responded to our petition.”

He is also hopeful that the government doesn’t have much option but to give dalit Muslims Schedule Caste status.

“One day it has to include dalit Muslims into SC category because its own Commission, in the form of Ranganath Mishra Commission has recommended it and constitutional body like National Commission for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe has cleared it. So there is nothing it can put against the proposal, besides what has been happening with dalit Muslims is completely unconstitutional. That is why it is very clear for the apex court to see that it is out and out unconstitutional. ”

Akhil Maharastra Khatik Samaj (AMKS) is not alone in fighting for this, Franklin Xaviers along with center for Public Interest Litigation, had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court, way back in March 2004, for the dalit Christians and Muslims to be included in Schedule Caste category. Their side is represented by well known human rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

The story with their PIL is the same as that of AMKS. Their next hearing is on 15th of July. Franklin who is the second petitioner in this case, told this correspondent, that they will request the apex court not to give further time to the government and insist for an immediate reply from the government.

Many believe that government might be delaying because of political considerations. But Franklin has solution for that also.

“If legal means is not enough and the government wants political campaigning then for that we have called for a nation wide rally on July 21, 2010, to express the urgency and gravity of Christians’ Muslims’ and secular-minded peoples’ for the just demand for the SC status to dalit Muslims and Christians.”

He pointed out that, this rally is expected to be attended by more than 15,000 dalit Christians and dalit Muslims. Political leaders like D Raja, Brinda Karat, Ali Anwar prominent among others, are expected to address this rally.

What is the problem and why Dalit minorities need to be given SC status?

As far as the issue of SC status to Dalit Muslims and Christians is concerned, from 1935 to 1950, all Dalit irrespective of their religion, were provided with reservations. However, on January 26, 1950 when constitution of India came into force, an order was passed by the then president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, which denied SC status to Dalit of any community other than Hindu.

The third paragraph of the order said, “notwithstanding anything contained in para 2, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Castes.”

Now the problem with this presidential order was that it was against, many provisions enshrined in the constitution, like Equality before the law (Article 14), Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion (Article 15) and Freedom to profess and practice any religion (Article 25).

That is why probably, there were two amendments first in 1956 and second in 1990 in the Constitution and Sikhs and Buddhists respectively were included in the Scheduled Caste category and thus they were allowed to avail the benefits of reservation.

Dalit Muslims

Across the country there are around 35 castes of Indian dalit Muslims which include Nutt, Bakkho, Khatik, Bhatiyara, Kunjra, Dhunia, Kalal, Dafali, Halakhor, Dhobi, Gorkan, Meershikar, Rangrz, Darji, Mochis, Mukris and Garudis etc.

Their condition is worse than any other community in India, a fact which was proved by the Sacchar Committee report. SC status to Dalit Muslims has been overdue for a long time now, because it’s not only that they have been a part of the same profession but it is also a fact, that they have been going through the same social discrimination as their counterpart Dalit Hindus.

Many social scientist point towards increasingly good condition of Dalit Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, and for which they give credit to the reservation, they enjoy because of their SC status.



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