Edit/Op-Ed

The Struggle of Dalit Muslims

Backward Muslims have slowly but certainly (and for good) started asserting themselves (Courtesy: TCN)

Shan Mohamed Inamdar

There is no reason to not include Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in the category of Scheduled Castes because these Dalits share the same socioeconomic status, and stigma also, as their counterparts in the Hindu community, concludes the report prepared by National Commission of Minorities (NCM).

The report titled “Dalits in the Muslim and Christian Communities: A Status Report on Current Social Scientific Knowledge” reveals that economically and educationally, the condition of Dalit Muslims is generally poorer than other Dalits, and Dalit Christians too lag behind upper caste Christians on that front. The NCM thinks that the report is an important development in that the courts have been repeatedly asking for objective data for providing constitutional facilities to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians also. And it rightly thinks so. Backward Muslims have slowly but certainly (and for good) started asserting themselves (Courtesy: TCN)

Discussing the social conditions of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, the report says, “There can be no doubt whatsoever that Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are socially known and treated as distinct groups within their own religious communities. Nor is there any room for disputing the fact that they are invariably regarded as ‘socially inferior’ communities by their coreligionists.

In short, in most social contexts, Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are Dalits first and Muslims and Christians only second.” Some may argue the NCM conclusions, but there is no denying the fact that Dalits in Muslim and Christian communities are not taken socially at par with other castes in them.

The report further says, “While the overall status imposed on Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians is always that of an inferior group, the manner in which social distance or superiority is asserted by non-Dalits (and specially the ‘upper’ castes) varies both across Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians and also across regions and contexts. Such variation is present in all Dalit communities of all religions.” The report, however, admits that practices of discrimination and exclusion against Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians cannot be described as intensified.

The report also talks about social, cultural and religious segregation faced by Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. “Social segregation extends to the sphere of worship and religious rituals, with separate churches and priests being almost the norm among Dalit Christians and not uncommon among Dalit Muslims,” the report concludes. The report has found that occupational segregation, economic exploitation and untouchability, though not intense, are also prevalent in the communities.

Equipped with the much-sought after study, the NCM would like to present the case of reservation for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians before the government. But there are some legal hurdles in the way. Not only NCM but social and political pressure groups from the concerned communities will have to work extra time to remove these hurdles first.
Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians cannot be included among Scheduled Castes, and thus they cannot be granted reservation, thanks to the Presidential Order of 1950. That order denies inclusion of Dalits of any community other than Hindu in the Scheduled Castes category. The third paragraph of the order says, “notwithstanding anything contained in para 2, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Castes.”

For announcing the Constitution Scheduled Castes Order 1950, paragraph 3 as ultra virus and ultra motive against the secularism of our esteemed Indian Constitution, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (Represented by former Law Minister of India and eminent Advocate Mr. Shanthi Bhushan and Advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan) and Franklin Caesar Thomas had collectively filed the civil writ petition in the supreme court of India on 22.03.2004. This petition was filed by CPIL for getting the Scheduled Castes status to convert Christian, Muslim members of the enumerated castes people of India.

Concerned with the above said civil write petition: 180, year 2004, Union of India had referred this matter to National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. NCRLM had positively recommended to Union of India for granting Scheduled Castes status to the above said people by deleting the paragraph 3 (as per the media report). After agreeing in the Supreme Court, based up on the NCRLM Report, Ministry of Social Justice had asked the National Commission for Scheduled Castes to give comment regarding the extension of Scheduled Castes privileges to these people by giving one set of the NCRLM report to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
By accepting the Social, educational, economical and cultural backwardness of the Christians and Muslims of the Scheduled Castes origin people, Scheduled Castes Commission had asked the Union of India for granting them the Scheduled Castes status. As per the constitutional power of the Indian Constitution Article 338, sub division 9, National Commission for Scheduled Castes had accepted and recommended to grant Scheduled Castes status to these people.

As per the above said recommendation, the above said Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian people are facing and affected by the traditional practice of untouchability in the major civil society and in their religious society.

As per the revised modalities of the Union of India for getting Scheduled Castes status to a particular community, state Governments should recommend to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Then Census Commissioner and the Registrar General of India should give recommendations for these communities to be treated as Scheduled Castes.
Then finally, National Commission for Scheduled Castes should give positive recommendation regarding the proposal. Then the Group of Ministers or the Cabinet should pass resolution to bring bill in Parliament.

In our issue, up to this time twelve state Governments and Union Territories had recommended to Union of India for granting the SC status to these people. In the year 2000, Bihar State Assembly had passed resolution for granting SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims; in the year 2006 Uttar Pradesh State Assembly had passed resolution in the state assembly for granting the SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, in the year 2009, Andra Pradesh state Government had passed resolution in its assembly for granting the SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. Without referring the matter to the Registrar General of India, directly Union of India had asked the National Commission for Scheduled Castes to give comments, as per the Government’s desire, NCSC had asked the Union of India to grant SC status to these people. Scheduled Castes Commission’s entire recommendation was submitted in the Apex Court of India by the Additional Solicitor of India concerned with the above said Civil Writ petition No: 180, year 2004. On 23.01.2008, the Additional Solicitor General of India had asked the Apex Court to grant eight weeks time to take a decision in the Cabinet, Group of Ministers meeting for bringing reply to the Apex Court of India. But still Union of India did not file any reply in the Supreme Court of India as per their commitment.

With out proper evidences, materials, Union of India had granted Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhist. If question is raised for granting the Scheduled Castes status to Dalit Buddhist and Dalit Sikhs, it is told that Sikhism and the Buddhism are the off shoot of Hinduism. If it was so, in the year 1950 itself these people would have been treated as Scheduled Castes, why did the Union of India separately added Sikhism in the year 1956 and the Buddhism in the year 1990, particularly in the Presidential Order 1950, paragraph 3?

As per the National Commission of Minorities Act 1993, Buddhism and Sikhism are the separate religions from Hinduism. When the Sikhism and Buddhism do not recognize the untouchability and casteism, they had been given the Scheduled Caste status.

For proving the social, educational, economical and cultural backwardness of Dalit Christians with Dalit Hindus, Union of India is having the Mandal Commission’s recommendation, NCRLM Recommendation, National Commission for Minorities Recommendation, National Commission for Scheduled Castes recommendation, Detailed study done by Delhi University’s Professor Dr. Satish Despande (Financed by Union of India’s National Commission for Minorities), Sachar Committee (High Power Committee of the Prime Minister of India) Recommendations regarding the extension of Scheduled Castes privileges to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims, Cabinet Note of the Year 1996 for granting the Scheduled Castes status to Christians of Scheduled Castes Origin and various state Governments’ state commission recommendations. The above said Commission Reports prove the traditional practice of untouchability which is faced by Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the civil society and in their religious society par with Hindu Scheduled Caste. Untouchability is a professional oriented discrimination in the society.

We do not want reservation to the elite people among Christians and Muslims. But we want the Scheduled Castes reservation to the people whose castes names are there in the Schedule of the Union of India who are socially, educationally, economically and culturally backward par with Dalit Hindus. The only stumbling block, paragraph three of the Constitution Scheduled Castes Order 1950 should be deleted or amended to take the religious ban (by bringing bill in Parliament) Or it should be striked by the Apex Court of India as unconstitutional one.
United Nations Human Rights Council’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had strongly recommended to Union of India in the year 2007, March for granting the Scheduled Castes status to these people. United Nations Socio Economic Council and the Special Rapporteur on Religious Tolerance of U N Human Rights Council had stressed the Union of India for granting the Scheduled Castes status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims based up on violation of Human Rights basis. Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are not living in their worshipping places, but they dwell in the society where casteism prevails. Upper strata of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu high castes people are treating these people as untouchables, so Scheduled Castes reservation should be extended to these people forthwith.

We are pleased to request Union of India to file reply in the Apex Court of India as soon as possible based up on the above said Union of India’s own documents.


Shanmohamed Inamdar is the Treasurer of All India Muslim Backward Community Welfare Trust (AIMBC), Mumbai, Maharashtra. He can be contacted at ashan790@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.

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