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Baba’s Explainer – Quota for Dalit Muslims and Christians

  • IASbaba
  • September 20, 2022
  • 0
Governance, Indian Polity & Constitution
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Syllabus

  • GS-2: Society
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Context: The Centre is likely to soon decide on setting up a national commission to study the social, economic and educational status of Dalits who converted to religions other than Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

  • Several petitions are pending before the Supreme Court seeking Scheduled Caste (SC) reservation benefits for Dalits who converted to Christianity or Islam.
What is reservation?
  • Reservation is a system of affirmative action in India that provides historically disadvantaged groups representation in education, employment, government schemes, health, insurance, banking, foreign higher education, scholarships and politics.
  • Reservation in India is a government policy, backed by the Indian Constitution (by means of various amendments).
  • In India, reservation is provided in:
    • Government Educational Institutions like IITs, IIMs etc as per Article 15 – (4), (5), and (6)
    • Government Jobs like IAS, IPS etc as per Article 16 – (4) and (6)
    • Legislatures (Parliament, and State Legislature) – as per Article 334
    • Before 2019, the reservation was provided mainly on the basis of social and educational backwardness (caste). However, after the 103rd constitutional amendment in 2019, economic backwardness is also considered.
  • A vacancy reserved for SCs or STs or OBCs or EWS (Economically weaker section) cannot be filled by a candidate other than an SC or ST or OBC or EWS candidate , as the case may be.
  • Reservation is provided not only with respect to direct recruitment but also with respect to promotions for SC/ST category Article 16(4A)
  • There is no concept of ‘creamy layer’ with respect to SC/ST reservation. This means that irrespective of the income status or the government posts held by the parents, children of SC/ST parents will get SC/ST Reservation.
  • However, creamy layer concept applies to OBC reservation where those people belonging to OBC and having income greater than the prescribed limit (currently Rs. 8 Lakhs/ annum) is not eligible to claim reservation benefits and is considered as belonging to open general category.
  • Apart from the reservation quota, additional relaxations like upper-age relaxations, additional attempts, and lower cut-off marks are also provided for various reservation categories.
Why is reservation needed?
  • The framers of the Constitution believed that, due to the caste system, SCs and the STs were historically oppressed and denied respect and equal opportunity in Indian society and were thus under-represented in nation-building activities.
  • It’s the duty of the government to provide equality of status and opportunity in India. Reservation is one of the tools against social oppression and injustice against certain classes. Otherwise known as affirmative action, reservation helps in uplifting backward classes.
  • The objective of providing reservations to the Scheduled Castes(SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) in services is not only to give jobs to some persons belonging to these communities. It basically aims at empowering them and ensuring their participation in the decision-making process of the State.
Is reservation for Scheduled Castes based on religion?
  • The original rationale behind giving reservation to Scheduled Castes was that these sections had suffered from the social evil of untouchability, which was practised among Hindus.
  • Under Article 341 of the Constitution, the President may “specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Castes”.
  • The first order under this provision was issued in 1950, and covered only Hindus.
  • Following demands from the Sikh community, an order was issued in 1956, including Sikhs of Dalit origin among the beneficiaries of the SC quota.
  • In 1990, the government acceded to a similar demand from Buddhists of Dalit origin, and the order was revised to state: “No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.”
Does this religion-based bar apply to converted STs and OBCs as well?
  • It does not. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) website states, “The rights of a person belonging to a Scheduled Tribe are independent of his/her religious faith.”
  • Following the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, several Christian and Muslim communities have found place in the Central and state lists of OBCs.
How is caste and Islamic religioun interlinked in India?

It is understood that there are four distinct categories to broadly summarise division of Muslims in India:

  • The Ashrafs who claim descent from foreign origin — these include the Sayyids, the Abbasids, the Mughals and are at the top of the social hierarchy.
  • Then come upper caste converts such as Butts, Rajput Muslims or Jat Muslims.
  • Members of other Indian tribes that have converted to Islam formed another run which included communities like the Darzis, Dhobis, Faqirs, Julahas, Kumhars and others.
  • The last run of the social ladder inlcluded the converts from lower castes that were considered “untouchable”, such as Bhangis
  • Today, upper caste Hindus who converted to Islam are broadly considered be Ashraf. The neologism Pasmandas (meaning those who were left behind) is used to refer to Ajlaf and Arzal Muslims, considered lower in the social heirarchy by the Ashrafs, who have historically dominated the social, political and economic sphere.
  • Ajlafs’ statuses are defined by them being descendants of converts to Islam and are also defined by their pesha (profession).
  • Marriages between Ashrafs and Pasmandas are still looked down upon in several places.
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.
  • The UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up two important panels:
    • The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, popularly known as the Ranganath Misra Commission, in October 2004
    • 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.
  • 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”.
  • The report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on December 18, 2009, but its recommendation was not accepted in view of inadequate field data and corroboration with the actual situation on the ground.
What are some of the arguments made against providing reservation to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims?
  • Changes the tenets of Religion: Reservation would amount to a formal introduction of a caste system in Islam and Christianity, thus changing the basic tenets of these religions, which is outside the jurisdiction of both Parliament and the judiciary and also contrary to the provisions of the Koran and the Bible.
  • May lead to Inequitable distribution of reservation benefits: One of the primary concern regarding granting reservation rights is the fear that Dalit Christians, who have wider access to education and other benefits, may get the upper hand in placements.
  • Challenges in Article 25 (2)(b): It is argued that the logic of including Sikhs and Buddhists (and not Dalit Christians and Pasmanda Muslims) in the affirmative action programme is that these are part of the larger Dharmic system, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are deemed to have been impacted by caste-based inequities.
    • This is why Article 25, which promises freedom of religion, says specifically in section (2) (b) that freedom of religion does not mean that the state cannot intervene to render social welfare and reforms in Hindu religious institutions of a public character
    • Explanation II: In sub-clause (b) of clause, reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion

Main Practice Question: Analyse the impact of caste based inequalities in society with special reference to its interplay with different religions in India?

Note: Write answers to this question in the comment section.


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