Panel to study SC status of Dalits post conversion

Source: The post is based on the article “Panel to study SC status of Dalits post conversion” published in The Hindu on 7th October 2022.

What is the News?

The Union government has now formed a three-member Commission of Inquiry to examine the issue of whether Scheduled Caste (SC) status can be accorded to Dalits who have over the years converted to religions other than Sikhism or Buddhism.

What is the need for the panel to study SC status post-religious conversion?
Must Read: Govt to set up panel to study status of Scheduled Castes converts to Christianity and Islam
About the panel to study SC status post-religious conversion

The commission’s inquiry will look into the changes an SC person goes through after converting to another religion and its implications on the question of including them as SCs.

These will include examining their traditions, customs, social and other forms of discrimination and how and whether they have changed as a result of the conversion.

The commission has also been empowered to examine any other related questions that it deemed appropriate, in consultation with and with the consent of the Central government.

Headed by: Former Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.

Deadline: 2 years.

Findings of various committees on social inequalities post-religious conversion in India

The First Backward Classes Commission headed by Kaka Kalelkar in 1955 documented the existence of caste and caste discrimination among Indian Christians and Indian Muslims, concluding that Dalit converts continued to face the same social disabilities even after leaving the Hindu fold.

The same was also observed in subsequent reports. These include the Report of the Committee on Untouchability Economic and Educational Development Of the Scheduled Castes in 1969, the HPP report on SCs, STs, and Minorities in 1983, the report of the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee formed in 2006, a 2008 study conducted by the National Commission for Minorities, the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report.

Note: The Kalelkar Commission Report and the 1983 HPP Report on SCs,STs and Minorities were the basis for amending the Order to include Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhists as SCs in 1956 and 1990 respectively.

Further, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Minorities had also recommended providing SC status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians.

Why did the Centre not provide SC status after all religious conversions?

This is because, 1) The government refused to accept these reports as evidence of continued social disabilities due to caste identity, noting that there did not exist enough empirical evidence to support this in all of the reports, 2) Dalit Buddhists cannot be compared to Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity because in case of the former, conversions were voluntary and in case of the latter, the conversions might have taken place “on account of other factors”, and 3) Dalits who converted to Islam or Christianity “ameliorated their social status” by way of their conversion and “cannot claim to be backward” since untouchability is a feature of Hindu religion and its branches alone.

Read more: The criterion for SC status
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