Monday, April 06, 2009

Dalit Christians can get SC status by reconversion

CHENNAI: In a significant decision, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to grant Scheduled Caste community certificate to children of converted Christian parents who reconvert to Hinduism. The Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department has issued a government order to this effect.
"The children born to Christian Schedule Caste parents i.e., Christian by birth, converted to Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism at a later date and the Scheduled Caste parents embracing Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism converted to other religion and subsequently reconverted Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism, if they are accepted by their community people, the revenue authorities can issue Scheduled Caste community certificate to them to become eligible for the constitutional privileges conformed on the Hindu Scheduled Caste (following Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism) and order accordingly," the government order said.
Granting Scheduled Castes status for re-converted Hindus has been one of the long standing demands of Adi-Dravidar groups in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the current government order has been issued after a long-drawn legal battle.
In Tamil Nadu, Dalit converts to Christianity are treated only as Backward Class and do not enjoy the SC benefits. The latest order will enable those aggrieved by this rule to reconvert to Hinduism or Sikhism or Buddhism and avail Scheduled Caste status.
During 1995, the state government had clarified that the born Christians (Children born to Christian parents), even after conversion to Hinduism at a later date, they are not eligible to obtain the Community Certificate as Hindu Adi Dravida and they cannot enjoy the constitutional benefits conferred to the Hindu Adi Dravida.
However, this was challenged before the Madras high court. Delivering its verdict on the petition in 2007, the court had set aside the government's stand and directed it to reexamine its position.
Subsequently, the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department sought the opinion of the advocate general on the matter based on which they issued SC certificates to reconverted Hindus on a case on case basis.

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