Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s renewed initiative in batting for the rights of Scheduled Caste Hindus to retain their caste identity upon conversion to Christianity has been welcomed by those campaigning for decades for such a right. Activists point out that various commissions, including the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, had reiterated that a mere religious conversion should not rob the Dalits of their caste identity.
Hailing Jayalalithaa’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, M Mary John, president, National Council of Dalit Christians, lamented that various governments had failed to implement the recommendations to include Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste category. “Such a demand has been raised since Independence and the idea behind it is not to empower the religion, but to improve the socio economic aspect of minorities,” said John.
“When the citizens professing Hindu, Sikh and Buddhism religions are considered as Scheduled Castes and given various benefits, why should the government exclude those adopting Christianity alone by listing them in the Backward Caste,” questioned Bernard D Sami, social scientist and professor of History, Loyola College.
The status of the people in the community has not improved even after they have changed their religion and the issue needs to be looked into seriously, he argued. When Dalit Christians are treated as Backward Classes they lose out on welfare schemes including the reservation provided for Scheduled Castes in educational institutions, politics and jobs.