Dalit Christians Get Justice?
By M. Madhu Chandra
16 July, 2007
After constitutional denial
of Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity and Muslims after
the Presidential Order 1950, a million dollar question remains in the
minds of Indian Dalit Christians "Will the Judicial system of India
give justice to Indian Dalit Christians now after 57 years of injustice
done to them?"
After much prolong delay,
Commission for Minority Religion and Linguistic Minority known as Misra
Commission has finally submitted its report to United Progressive Alliance
Government with recommendation that Dalit Christians and Muslims suffer
socio-economic and educational backwardness, who should be given back
the Scheduled Caste status and its beneficiaries to them. Upon its report
and recommendation, Supreme Court of India is to give its judgment on
July 19, 2007.
India's 75% Christians belong
to Scheduled Caste communities, whose statutory and benefits available
in Constitutional were denied after 1950 Presidential Order.
The debate on Dalit Christian
reservation has been ongoing for many decades in spite of repeated assurance
given to Dalit Christian communities to be included in Constitution
Scheduled Caste Order 1950.
The fundamental, birth and
constitutional rights of Christians from Scheduled Caste origins have
been denied for last 57 years. Looking at then and now background of
Dalit Christians' demand for Scheduled Caste status, we will able to
conclude to say that Justice Misra Commission setup by present UPA government
is unnecessary commission because enough commissions before it, have
done the necessary research and submitted with recommendation to provide
Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians.
2. Background of Dalit Christian
For first time, Indian's
lowest caste known as "Untouchables" or "Depressed Classes"
have been identified as Scheduled Castes introduced by Colonial Government
of India in 1935.
In the following year Colonial
Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order 1935 specified, "No
Indian Christian shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste."
Since then any Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity lost
its Scheduled Caste status, although they remain economically, educationally,
socially and politically backward as much as before their conversion.
After India got Independent
from Colonial power, while framing Indian Constitution the Presidential
Order of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order 1950, the Scheduled
Caste Origins converted to any other faiths or religions different from
Hinduism has been left out in Para 3 of Article 341.
Dalit Sikhs protested to
be included in Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950 and got after
six years' denial of their birth, fundamental and constitutional rights
of being Scheduled Caste origin converted to Sikhism. They were listed
in Presidential SC/ST Order 1950 by amending Para 3 of Article 341 in
Dalit Buddhists remained
their birth, fundamental, constitutional rights of scheduled caste status
denied for 40 years until the Para 3 of Article 341 was amended in 1990
to include Scheduled Caste origins converted to Buddhism.
Every time Dalit Sikhs and
Dalit Buddhist demanded to be included in Constitution (Scheduled Caste)
Order 1950, assurances were also given repeatedly to Scheduled Caste
origins converted to Christianity. The birth rights of Dalit Christians
have been kept suppressed for 57 years that too without any assurance
either from legislate nor political heads.
3. Political and Legislate
Chronological on Dalit Christian Reservation
The clause of Para 3 of Article
341 in Indian Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950 clearly indicates
"No person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall
be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste."
In 1950 upon the representation
of Christian leaders for not including Scheduled Caste Christians in
Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 1950, the assurance from then the
Prime Minister and President via letter dated 7 November 1950 and 17
December 1950 respectively were given.
In 1953 Indian Central Government
appointed "First Backward Classes Commission" under Article
340 of Indian Constitution to investigate the conditions of socially
and educationally backward classes within Indian Territory. The Commission
submitted its report on March 3, 1955 stating that within the Christian
society and church, those converts from Scheduled Caste origins are
discriminated such as like not allowed to sit together inside the church,
no inter caste marriages and separate cemetery etc. This commission's
report proves that although Christianity does not preach caste but practices
it. If the Scheduled Caste Order 1950 is given on the basis that Hinduism
has caste, then Christian converts from Scheduled Caste origin will
also deserve to be listed in the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order
In 1979, the President of India by an Order, under Article 340 appointed
the second backward commission, which is known as "Mandal Commission"
to investigate the conditions of Socially and educationally backward
classes within Indian Territory. The commission submitted its report
on December 31, 1980 that "conversion from the faith to another
did not change the socio-economic status of a person. It was, therefore,
desirable that converts from Scheduled Castes to Buddhism, Christianity
and etc. should be treated as Scheduled Castes, but until this change
was brought about by legislation, all such converts should be listed
as Others Backward Classes (OBCs)" The Mandal Commission also stated
that "though caste system is peculiar to Hindu society yet, in
actual practice, it also pervades the non-Hindu communities in India
in varying degrees."
In 1980, The Minority Commission
in its 3rd Annual Report 1980 in page No. 31 said that "The Commission
has prima facie felt that since the Christians, Muslims and Buddhists
of Scheduled Caste origin continue to suffer from social and economic
disabilities even after their conversion, there should be no objection
to their availing of the concessions admissible to them before their
In 1984, The Supreme Court
of India in the case of S. Anbalagan Vs. Devarajan AIR 1984 SC 411,
said that "the practice of caste however irrational it may appear
to our reason and however are repugnant it may appear to our moral and
social sense, it so deep rooted in the India people
that its mark does not seem to disappear on conversion to a different
In 1993, The Union Government
of India included Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity and Islam
in the "Other Backward Classes" in a resolution passed on
September 10, 1993 by Ministry of Social Welfare for the purposes of
the reservation on 27% vacancies in civil posts and service under the
Government of India.
In 1995, A memorandum signed
by Members of Parliament dated May 1, 1995 submitted to Shri. P. V.
Narsimha Rao, the then Prime Minister of India, for immediate inclusion
of statutory benefits to the Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity
and also requested to introduce the required Bill during the current
session of the Parliament.
In 1996, a memorandum dated
February 20, 1996 and signed by 103 Bishops of India was submitted to
Shri P. V. Narsimha Rao to include statutory benefits to Scheduled Caste
Converts to Christianity in Presidential SC/ST Order 1950 by promulgating
an ordinance immediately.
In the same year, in a note
for Cabinet dated March 3, 1996 Welfare Ministry had proposed to include
Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity as Scheduled Castes in the
Presidential SC Order 1950 to make them eligible for all statutory safeguards
and benefits available to the members of Scheduled Caste.
The Cabinet approved this
proposal at its meeting held on March 7, 1996 to introduce the Bill
to amend the earlier Constitution Scheduled Caste order. Although the
Bill was listed for introduction on March 12, 1996, it could not be
introduced as some procedural lapse and new government was expected
In 2003, Ministry of Social
Justice & Empowerment, Government of India in its Annual Report
of 2002-2003 in Chapter 3, the Scheduled Caste origins converted to
Christianity did not avail all the schemes implemented for various developmental
program for Scheduled Castes.
In 2004, Centre for Public
Interest Litigation through its General Secretary and T. Franklin Caesar
of Tamil Nadu filed a Write Petition dated March 22, 2004 under Article
32 of the Constitution of India challenging the Para 3 of Article 341
of Constitution (Scheduled Caste Order) 1950. More than dozen of individual
and advocates have filed the writ petition challenging the same Para
of same Article.
This case has been going
on in Supreme Court of India ever since. The next scheduled to hear
on July 19, 2007.Dalits Christians are at knock at the door of Indian
4. The Chronology of Supreme
Court Judgment on Dalit Christian Reservation
There 7 hearings so far on
Dalit Christian Reservation after writ petition filed in Supreme Court
of India apart from many dates of adjourning.
1st SC Hearing: April 26,
2004, the first hearing was called where advocates of petitioner presented
and it was postponed on May 3, 2004. The May 3, hearing seems adjourned.
2nd SC Hearing: April 11,
2005 hearing was called and gave the order that "Mr. B K Prasad,
Advocate, present in Court, takes notice for the respondent. Formal
notice need not issue. List for final hearing in the month of August
2005. All the parties seeking intervention/impalements may remain present
on the date the hearing is taken up. The parties who wish to file synopsis
of submissions may do so within four weeks.
3rd SC Hearing: August 23,
2005 hearing was called and gave the order that "The learned Attorney
General and the learned Addl. Solicitor General make a statement on
behalf of the Union of India that the issue arising for decision in
these petitions is receiving the attention of the Government along with
other issues in a wider perspective and pray for hearing being adjourned.
Both the parties pray for a fixed date being given. List on 18th October,
4th SC Hearing: October 25,
2005 was adjourned with next hearing in the last week of November 2005.
5th SC Hearing: November
28, 2005 was called for hearing and gave the following order that the
challenge in these matters is to the constitutional validity of Paragraph
(3) of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Control Order, 1950. Therefore
investigation from National Commission for Religious and Linguistic
Minorities had been sought in the context of the ceiling of fifty per
cent on reservation in terms of the decision of this Court in Indra
Sawhney vs. Union of India & Ors. (1992 Suppl. (3) S.C.C.217). Supreme
Court gave no opinion on the issues involved and gave order to wait
till Supreme Court hear the matter in detail after the information is
supplied. Court was adjourned with next hearing in third week of February
The hearings were scheduled
on February 12, 2006 and postponed to April 5, 2006 then to July 12,
6th SC Hearing: February
15, 2006 was adjourned with next hearing in the first week of April
2006 as Misra Commission delayed submission of its report.
Misra Commission called public
opinion on extending Dalit Christian reservation. Two studies at Delhi
were conveyed by Centre for Research and Development and Delhi University
and one at Mumbai by Tata Institute. Delegations of All India Christian
Council led by Dr. John Dayal attended all of theses studies. Dr. Dayal
termed these studies as highly skewed studies with Brahminacal personalities.
Social Scientist, activists
responded to these studies that conversion of Dalits to any religion
did not change their social backwardness status as well as educational
and economical condition. They are same as before their conversion.
The scheduled of SC hearing
in first week of April was further postponed to July.
7th SC Hearing: July 12, 2006 was once again adjourned with next hearting
in the month of October as Misra Commission report was yet to complete.
Misra Commission report was
finally ready to submit to United Progressive Alliance Government in
month of October 2006. Dalit Christian went frustrated by delaying of
the Misra report and when it was finally ready to submit to UPA government,
commission was instructed to delay until Uttar
Pradesh Assembly election is over in first week of May.
8th SC Hearing: Scheduled
on July 19, 2007 is what India's 22 million Dalit Christians have been
longing for the restoration of their birth rights of Scheduled Caste
status which was taken away by Presidential Order 1950. Will the Judicial
system of Country give justice to Indian Dalit Christians now after
57 years of injustice done to them?
5. The Recommendations of
Commissions on Dalit Christian Reservation
The present Dalit Christian
reservation case in Supreme Court has been referred to Union Government
to give its opinion on giving Scheduled Caste statutory and beneficiaries
to the Scheduled Castes origins converted to Christianity in November
The United Progressive Alliance
Government has setup National Commission for Religious and Linguistic
Minorities under the chairmanship of Justice Raganath Misra known as
Misra Commission to investigate the economical, educational, sociological
conditions of Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity.
Enough Commissions before
Misra Commission have been setup and finding have been submitted with
recommendations that Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity
still suffer caste stigma, socially oppressed and economically, educationally
and socially backward. Why then another Misra Commission? What have
the commissions before Misra Commission said; will that be note valid
reasons for Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity to include
in Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 1950?
Elayaperumal Commission (1969):
Report of the Elayaperumal Commission in Para 32 says "The Committee
found during tours that all Scheduled Castes who got themselves converted
to religions other than Hinduism should be given all concessions which
are available to Scheduled Castes. This is because the Committee found
during tours that they suffer from the same disabilities which the Scheduled
Mandal Commission (1980):
As stated above the Mandal Commission in 1980 supported that Scheduled
Castes converted to Christianity be treated as Scheduled Caste as their
conversion did not change the conditions of socially, economically and
Misra Commission (2005): Now the ball to give scheduled caste converted
to Christianity is in the court of Misra Commission. Misra Commission
will not find anything new but only charges from Sangh Parivar and affiliated
organizations against Dalit Christian Reservation.
The Sangh Parivar's opposition
is not only Dalit Christians but to all reservation system for Indian
Dalit communities. The Commissions before Misra Commission have given
enough evidence that Scheduled Caste origins converted to any religions
remains the same social, economic, education status even after their
Misra Commission Report came
to its expire of term after submitting its report on May 25, 2007 with
four members of five recommending to extend SC status to all Dalits
who converted to Christianity while Asha Das - member secretary of the
commission opposed. Asha Das opposition to the commission recommendation
seems like to turn the ray of hope started dawning for Dalit Christians
into darkness after discrimination of 57 years of their birth rights.
After 6 years of struggle,
Dalit Sikhs got their birth, fundamental and constitutional rights to
enjoy statutory and beneficiaries of Scheduled Caste when Para 3 of
Article 341 was amended in 1950. by including Scheduled Caste origins
converted to Sikhism.
Dalit Buddhists got their
rights to enjoy Scheduled Caste statutory after 40 years of struggle
when Para 3 of Article 341 was amended in 1990 and Scheduled Caste origins
converted to Buddhism listed in Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order
Dalit Christians are kept
denied their birth, fundamental and constitutional rights for last 56
years by abstracting their names from Constitution Scheduled Caste Order
1950. The constitutional denial of Scheduled Caste origins converted
to Christianity is triple oppression.
The allegation not to give
Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians on the ground that Christianity
does not have caste, they why Scheduled Caste status given to those
Scheduled Caste origins to Sikhism and Buddhism as both the religions
does not have caste.
On the other hand, if reservation
for only those religions that practices caste then Dalit Christians
also deserve it because they suffer caste stigma among Indian society.
Dalit Christians suffer caste
oppressed before their conversion and now. They suffer Religious persecution
from religious fanatics and constitutional denial of their statutory
from Presidential SC/ST order 1950 of which I term the triple discrimination
of India Dalit Christians.
Dalit Christians seeking
to be included in Scheduled Caste status is the constitution, birth
and fundamental rights.
"Will Indian Judicial
system finally give justice to Indian Dalit Christian which was taken
away by Presidential Order 1950?" is the birth and constitutional
demand of Dalit Christians.
M. Madhu Chandra
is a Human Rights Activist based in New Delhi
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