THE CENTRE has appointed a three-member panel, led by former Chief Justice India K G Balakrishnan, to study the possibility of giving SC statutory status to “new people who historically been part of members of Scheduled Castes” but have switched to other religions that Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
According to a statement published today in the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, The commission will also comprise the retired IAS Officer Dr Ravinder Kumar Jain and UGC member Prof (Dr) Sushma Yadav. The notification said that the commission must present its findings to the Ministry in the next two years.
The Deccan Era was first published on September 19 regarding the move by the Government to set a national commission that would investigate the socioeconomic and educational standing of those from SCs who have made a significant change towards Islam and Christianity.
The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, states that anyone who practices any religion other than Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism is considered an enrolled member of the Scheduled Caste. The original decree under which only Hindus were classified was later modified in order to encompass Sikhs as well as Buddhists.
The commission was created at a time that the Supreme Court is hearing a PIL which was filed from NCDC. National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) that fights for SC status since the year 2020There have been a number of other cases brought before the apex court on the issue since 2004. In August, The Supreme Court directed the Centre to provide its current positions on this matter.
The argument from Dalit Christian and Muslim groups is that the communities endure discrimination. This week, the organizations have criticized the latest move taken by the Centre as a “delaying strategy”.
It will consider the impact of any decision taken in this area on existing SCs, as well as the changes they undergo in converting to other religions, in terms of traditions, customs, social and other discrimination, as well as exclusion.
The Social Justice Ministry said “certain groups have raised the issue of re-examining this “existing term ” Scheduled Castes by according the status to individuals belonging to different religions that President Orders do not permit”.
The Ministry stated that while there is a call to be included by certain sections, certain groups of the existing Scheduled Castes have “objected to the giving the Scheduled Caste status to new individuals”.
“…this could be a pivotal and historically complicated sociological and constitutional issue, as well as an issue of major significance to the public… because of the significance, sensitivity and potential implications. Any change to the terms of this must be made based on a thorough and comprehensive research and extensive consultation with all parties,” the notification said. “…no Commission in this law Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952…has yet inquired into the subject the announcement said.
The NCDC president slammed the move. NCDC president Vijay George said, “This is a delay tactic employed by the Government who do not want to end this matter. Why is there a need for a new commission? Many committees and commissions in the past that delivered reports to the Government including those of the Ranganath Misra commission, that ruled in favour of granting this status. In the time that Buddhists, as well as Sikhs, were given SC status, but there was no commission. This is a political move and discriminatory based on religion and caste.”
The NCDC’s position is echoed by All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz founder and former Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar, Ali Anwar Ansari was adamant about the Government of holding off the decision “so that it could be able to pass the 2024 elections” without needing to make a commitment to the issue.
In addition, in the last year in the last year, the past year BJP has also made strenuous efforts to connect with Pasmanda Muslims. “But we have been clear to our Pasmanda Muslim brothers that we would only be supportive in resolving two matters. The second is that mob lynching, cow vigilantism and other atrocities, in which Pasmanda Muslims face the brunt of the blame, must be stopped as soon as possible. Another issue was the issue of granting SC status. I’ll be organizing the community in the next few days”,” Ansari stated.
National Dalit Christian Watch governing board member Richard Devadoss said Dalits who have switched to Christianity and Islam continue to be subjected to the same discrimination and atrocities. “While we continue to be treated as Dalits and face untouchability, we do not get the advantages of reservation and do not have the protection afforded by the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,” the member said.
In contrast, National Commission for SCs chairperson Vijay Sampla said it is impossible to make any additions to the SC list without a new study. “We must examine the criteria for reservation of these communities. We have to determine whether they face the discrimination they claim they face”, he said.
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