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By Our Correspondent Syed Ali Mujtaba, The India observer, TIO, NJ: The Union government is getting ready to set up a panel to study the condition of Dalits who have converted to Islam or Christianity. This move comes amidst dozens of petitions pending in the Supreme Court asking the Apex Court, why reservation benefits are denied to the Dalits who have converted to Christianity or Islam.
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The media report citing sources say, the proposal to set up such a panel is being discussed at the Union Cabinet level and the decision is likely to be taken soon. The proposed panel may have three or four members with its chairman holding the rank of a Union Cabinet Minister.
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The national panel will study the social, economic, and educational status of Dalits who converted to Islam and Christianity. It will submit its report within a year or so. It is learned that the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) have given the green signal for such a move.
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In this context, earlier Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said in Rajya Sabha on February 12, 2021, that Dalit converts to Islam or Christianity cannot claim reservation benefits given to the Schedule Caste (SC). They cannot contest elections from constituencies reserved for SC. The Minister clarified that Dalits who are Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist are eligible for contesting from SC reserved seats and getting other reservation benefits.
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“Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order outlines that… no person who professes a religion different from Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste,” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. The minister’s statement makes a clear distinction between Dalits adopting Islam and Christianity with those choosing to adopt Sikhism or Buddhism.
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However, the Union law minister also clarified that there was no proposal to bring in any amendment in the Representation of the People Act to debar SCs/STs converting to Islam or Christianity from contesting parliamentary or assembly elections.
Opinion on this issue was taken from M.H. Jawahirullah, MLA, and Manithaneeya Makkal Katchi (MMK) President in Chennai. The MMK leader cited several Supreme Court and High Courts judgments on the status of converted Muslims.
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He said the Courts have ruled that Dalits are entitled to Schedule Caste reservation benefits because there is no change in their status either in terms of caste or class after their conversion.
Jawahirullah said that he has brought this matter in the notice of the Tamil Nadu government which assured him that Muslim Dalits will be considered for the SC reservation benefits.
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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai
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