Wednesday, May 28, 2008

HRD Ministry Asks NMC's Views on Quota for Dalit Christians, Muslims

Posted online: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 2212 hrs

New Delhi, May 27: Though already neck-deep in quota quagmire, the HRD Ministry has now asked the National Minorities Commission (NMC) to present its assessment on the controversial issue of granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians and Muslims.

The NMC had recently commissioned a study which came up with strong recommendation for granting SC status for Dalit Muslims and Christians on the lines of Dalit Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

The HRD Ministry has also asked the NMC to take up the case with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which had earlier expressed some reservations on the issue, saying it would affect the 15% quota for Dalit Hindus.

Interestingly, "quota-friendly" HRD Minister Arjun Singh had made this move when the Government was resisting the pressure from coalition partners like the DMK, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Jan Shakti Party and Lalu Prasad Yadav who had made similar demands. They had been asking the Government to place the report by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) Commission before the Parliament which had made similar recommendations on the issue of granting SC status for Dalit Christians and Muslims.

Paswan and Lalu had argued that it would help in taking on Mayawati as it would split her Dalit vote bank as the Hindu Dalits unwilling to share the reservation pie are against it. Both leaders had even taken up the issue with the Prime Minister, who is understood to be "hesitant" in creating yet another reservation controversy.

The study initiated by the NMC had looked into the contemporary status of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in terms of their material well-being and social status. It had categorically stated that there was a strong case for including Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste category.

"There are compelling arguments in favour of such an inclusion based on principles of natural justice and fairness. The balance of pragmatic considerations is also in favour of their inclusion. According due statutory recognition to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians would not only right a wrong, it would also remove an indefensible anomaly in our politico-legal system that can legitimately be construed as discriminatory," the study said. "In most social contexts, they are Dalits first and Muslims and Christians only second."