SC tag for dalit converts remains a distant dream

NEW DELHI: Despite the activism by Sachar panel and UPA ministers, ‘Scheduled Caste’ tag for dalit converts to Islam and Christianity seems to be off. The National Commission for Backward Castes has asked the states for names of SC equivalent groups among minorities, and their population figures. The one-line query is set to put off the controversial issue for an indefinite period. While the population figures on ‘dalit minorities’ are not available with states, it would be a stiff challenge to pick SCs from the OBC list of which the minorities are a part. BJP may turn the process into a complete non-starter, as the saffron outfit controls 10 states. While JD(U), BJP’s coalition partner in Bihar, is in favour of the proposal, the BJP has made it clear that it cannot make any concession on the issue. Ever since Rangnath Mishra commission recommended that SC status be made religion-neutral, injecting a fresh dose of political lobbying, the issue has received two serious setbacks. Without objecting to the Mishra panel’s recommendation, National Commission for SCs has argued that reservation for dalit converts should neither disturb the 15% quota earmarked for SCs nor violate the 50% quota ceiling fixed by Supreme Court. If the panel’s opinion is to be respected, the case is as good as closed. The NCBC decision to involve states to estimate the population of converts has made it more difficult. Abdul Ali Azizi, member of NCBC, told TOI, “The states may not have exact data on dalit converts but they can find a rough estimate. At least, they can give synonyms of SCs among minorities.” He said that states should, in the long run, go for a census to identify the beneficiaries. Having raised aspirations among minority groups, the demand has led to pressure within the Congress and UPA to include dalit converts in the SC list. But a few sections in the ruling party see it as politically fraught as the saffron family has come out strongly against the proposal, saying it would remove the only deterrent against conversions. The NCBC decision to ask states for population figures seems to result from a calculated decision in the ruling echelons to put the issue on the backburner despite the pressure from coalition partners to accept the Mishra panel’s report. The social justice ministry, instead of moving on SC commission’s opinion in December 2007, sent a set of tough queries to NCBC in February. It asked the OBC panel to name the dalit communities which converted to Islam and Christianity, criteria for their identification, and their population.
14 Jun 2008, 0254 hrs IST, Subodh Ghildiyal,TNN
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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