Scheduled Caste tag necessity or raffle

The unresolved debate also drags in the final aim of reservation—whether to remove social and educational backwardness or end untouchability.

Published: 01st September 2022 07:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st September 2022 07:33 AM   |  A+A-

caste. caste violence. casteism. dalit

Image for representational purposes. (File Photo)

Should the government reservations for Scheduled Castes be extended to ‘Dalits’ among Christians and Muslims? The Centre never answered this question in the last 18 years. The Supreme Court now wants it to make its stand clear in the next three weeks. This is part of the new Chief Justice’s attempt to wipe the dust off languishing cases with ‘social ramifications’. The petition filed in 2004 said it should be unconstitutional that Scheduled Castes belong only to the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths. Over the years, petitioners from ‘Dalit’ Christians and Muslims also filed intervening petitions. The case last came for hearing in 2015. It is too complex for arbitration because of compelling arguments on either side. 

The ayes argue that if Sikhs and Buddhists can enjoy reservation even though they are distinctly non-Hindu, why not the deprived castes among Muslims and Christians? Their sections already have OBC status; extend the SC status to them by the same logic. Lastly, rejection of reservation is ultra vires the right to religious freedom and, thereby, the choice to convert. The nay-sayers counter morally. Since they converted to Christianity or Islam to escape the malaise of caste in Hinduism, they lost the right to seek Scheduled Caste status and reservation, both of which reinforce caste. Why do the converts need the SC tag if their religions do not practice untouchability or caste discrimination? The unresolved debate also drags in the final aim of reservation—whether to remove social and educational backwardness or end untouchability. 

It is not black and white, as the apex court will realise when it begins hearing the case. Discrimination and untouchability dog Scheduled Castes and the deprived castes in all religions. That is the bitter reality. For want of the SC tag, they do not benefit from the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They cannot contest elections from seats reserved for SCs. The Rajinder Sachar and Ranganath Mishra commissions plead eloquently for their inclusion as SCs. Yes, politico-religious considerations have caused the delay in finalising a stand all these years. However, a fundamental aspect of the issue usually gets neglected. It is about first doing away with the denial surrounding the centuries-old social evils of untouchability and discrimination.

India Matters


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