From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : social justice
- Union government intends to appoint a national commission to study the status of Dalits (ex “untouchable” castes) belonging to the Muslim and Christian communities. Aim of study to check the socio-economic condition of Muslims and Christian Dalits on par with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist Dalits.
Current reservation policy
- At present, scheduled caste reservation is applicable only to schedule caste (Dalit) belongs to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist. Currently it is unavailable for schedule caste belongs to Muslims and Christians.
Why Muslim and Christian Dalit needs reservation?
- In 2008 review-study commissioned by the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) and housed in the Sociology Department of Delhi The remit of the study was to conduct a comprehensive review of already existing social-scientific evidence that might offer answers to three questions.
- What is the contemporary status of Dalit Muslims (DMs) and Dalit Christians (DCs) in terms of their material well-being and social status?
- How does their situation compare with that of: a) non-Dalits of their own communities, and b) Dalits of other communities?
- Do the caste disabilities suffered by these groups justify state intervention?
What were the findings of study?
- The study reviewed two main kinds of available evidence, ethnographic-descriptive and macro-statistical, in addition to semi-academic NGO reports and publications.
- The survey of ethnographic materials began with the finding that the existence of caste divisions – including the presence of ex-untouchable castes recognised as such – among both Muslims and Christians – was beyond dispute.
- DMs and DCs were identified and segregated much like their counterparts in the Hindu or Sikh communities.
- Evidence was tabulated on five forms of caste-based social discrimination – the practice untouchability; enforced ban on inter-marriage; occupational segregation; social and cultural segregation and finally, economic discrimination.
- The most common instances were separate mosques or churches (or hierarchically segregated seating); separate burial grounds; strict prohibition on inter-marriage with very severe punishments (sometimes extending to murder) for breaking this taboo; and general avoidance of social interaction and cooperation.
- The main findings were that DMs are clearly the worst off among all Dalits, while DCs are somewhat better off than other Dalits except Sikh Dalits (who are by far the best off, especially in the rural sector).
Why DMs and DCs doesn’t have reservation?
- The courts accept that “caste survives conversion” but complain about the lack of reliable data. No recognition, no data; no data, no recognition.
- Informal guesstimates (based on the 2001 Census and the 2004-05 NSSO survey) place the proportion of DMs at 1 per cent or less of the Muslim population, and DCs as anything between 40-50 per cent of the Christian population of India.
- As per the 2011 Census, Muslims are 14.2 per cent and Christians 2.3 per cent of our population. Taken together, DMs and DCs are likely to form less than 2 per cent of the total Dalit population of India, more than 90 per cent of which is Hindu.
- According to experts Adding DMs and DCs will not rock the boat of reservation, since the increment will be roughly one-fifth of the 10 per cent reservation readily granted to the upper castes as the Economically Weaker Sections.
What efforts have been made to include Muslims and Christians of Dalit origin among SCs?
- After 1990, a number of Private Member’s Bills were brought in Parliament for this purpose.
- In 1996, a government Bill called The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill was drafted, but in view of a divergence of opinions, the Bill was not introduced in Parliament.
- Then government headed by PM Manmohan Singh set up two important panels:
- Ranganath Misra Commission: The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, popularly known as the Ranganath Misra Commission, in October 2004 and
- Sachar Committee: A seven-member high-level committee headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar to study the social, economic, and educational condition of Muslims in March 2005.
What did they recommend?
- The Sachar Committee Report observed that the social and economic situation of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians did not improve after conversion.
- The Ranganath Misra Commission, which submitted its report in May 2007, recommended that SC status should be completely de-linked from religion and Scheduled Castes should be made fully religion-neutral like Scheduled Tribes.
Reception to these recommendations
- The report was tabled in Parliament in 2009, but its recommendation was not accepted in view of inadequate field data and corroboration with the actual situation on the ground.
- Few studies, commissioned by the National Commission for Minorities, was also not considered reliable due to insufficient data.
- Schedule caste community from all religion India suffers from same fate of untouchability. Change of religion unfortunately, have change their social status. If 70+ year of reservation of Dalit in Hindu haven’t substantially change their social destiny, we have to think beyond reservation for social dignity and economic empowerment of schedule castes in India.
Q. Reservation policy in India is religion based and not based on overall social discrimination. Comment in the context of demand for Dalit reservation extension to Christians and Muslims Dalits.