Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

In news: Criterion for SC status

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : SC status and related issues

The Supreme Court has sought the most recent position of the Union government on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950, which allows only members of Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions to be recognised as SCs.

The Constitution Order of 1950

  • When enacted, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950, initially provided for recognising only Hindus as SCs.
  • It was then aimed to address the social disability arising out of the practice of untouchability.
  • The Order was amended in 1956 to include Dalits who had converted to Sikhism and once more in 1990 to include Dalits who had converted to Buddhism.
  • Both amendments were aided by the reports of the Kaka Kalelkar Commission in 1955 and the High Powered Panel (HPP) on Minorities, SCs and STs in 1983 respectively.

What about Christians?

  • The Union government in 2019 rejected the possibility of including Dalit Christians as members of SCs.
  • This decision was rooted on the exclusion on an Imperial Order of 1936 of the then colonial government, which had first classified a list of the Depressed Classes and specifically excluded “Indian Christians” from it.

Why are Dalit Christians excluded?

  • SC status is meant for communities suffering from social disabilities arising out of the practice of untouchability that was prevalent in Hindu and Sikh communities.
  • SC status for everyone would significantly swell the population of SCs across the country thus trivializing the purpose itself.

Why neo-Buddhists are included in SC quota?

  • The amendment to include Buddhist converts as SCs was passed in 1990.
  • Like Dalit Buddhists, Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity belonged to different sets of caste groups and not just one.
  • As a result of this, they cannot be categorised as a “single ethnic group”, which is required by Clause (2) of Article 341 for inclusion.

Major concerns of including other religions

  • Sanction of untouchability: The practice of “untouchability” was a feature of Hindu religion and its branches. This would imply that India was trying to “impose its caste system” upon Christians and Muslims.
  • Undue internationalization: Allowing the inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians as SCs could result in being misunderstood internationally.
  • Reviving casteism: Christians and Muslims of Dalit origin had lost their caste identity by way of their conversion and that in their new religious community, the practice of untouchability is not prevalent.

Is there a case for inclusion?

  • The petitions arguing for inclusion have cited several independent Commission reports that have documented the existence of caste and caste inequalities among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims.
  • Even after conversion, members who were originally from SCs continued to experience the same social disabilities.
  • This was substantiated in the First Backward Classes Commission’s report in 1953, the HPP report on SCs, STs, and Minorities in 1983, the Mandal Commission Report, etc.
  • However, these reports do not have enough empirical evidence to support their claims.

Why is the issue debated?

  • Non-deserving beneficiaries: The proposition that caste identity is lost upon conversion, noting that even in Sikhism and Buddhism, casteism is not present and yet they have been included as SCs.
  • Continued discrimination: The above-mentioned reports argue that caste-based discrimination continues even after conversion, hence entitling these communities to SC status.

 

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