Three-member commission to consider granting SC status to Dalits converted to other religions

Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims demanded to include them in the Scheduled Caste lists.

Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims demanded to include them in the Scheduled Caste lists.

The Union government has set up a three-member Commission of Inquiry to examine the possibility of granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalits who have converted to a religion other than Sikhism or Buddhism.

The Commission will be headed by former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and will include UGC member Professor Sushma Yadav and retired IAS officer Ravinder Kumar Jain among its members. The government has set a two-year deadline for the Commission to submit its report.

A Gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on Thursday said the Commission will also look into the changes that people from the Scheduled Caste undergo when converting to other religions in terms of customs, of traditions, discrimination and deprivation of social and other status, and the implication of the same on the issue of giving them Scheduled Caste status.

In addition, the Commission has also been tasked to consider the implications of granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit converts on the existing Scheduled Caste communities in the country.

Recently, the Supreme Court asked for the Union Government’s latest position on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Ordinance 1950, which only allows members of the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths to to be recognized as SC.

Petitions for inclusion cited several Independent Commission reports that documented the existence of caste and caste inequalities among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims, noting that even after conversion, members from the SC continued to experience the same social handicaps.

The government came closest to including Dalit Christians as SCs in March 1996 when, based on a recommendation from the then Ministry of Welfare, the PV government Narsimha Rao first introduced a bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Ordinance accordingly. However, the bill failed to pass.