Problems in quota for dalit Christians, Muslims

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New Delhi, Mar 3: Confronting the demand in the Rajya Sabha for quota to dalit Christians and dalit Muslims, the Government today sought refuge in the Constitution definition of Hindu religion as including Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Prof P J Kurien, Mr Sharad Yadav and Mr Tariq Anwar wanted to know why dalit Christians and dalit Muslims were being denied reservation while Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains of low caste had been given reservation along with Scheduled Castes of Hindus. They said the denial was not understandable in the light of the Constitution prohibiting all kinds of discrimination on the basis of religion, and wanted to know the government's reaction to the demand for quota by these sections.

However, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar reminded the Article 21, sub clause B of the Constitution that says Hinduism includes Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhisms too.

She said the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities had recommended giving reservation to dalit Muslims and Christians.

However, Ms Kumar said, since under the law any matter affecting Scheduled Castes has to be referred to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the issue was referred to them, and they had opined that they had no objection to the demand but the quota should not affect the 15 per cent share of SCs, and dalit Muslims and Christians could be given the benefit under the OBCs.

''Now the matter has been referred to the National Commission for Backward Classes, and their report was being awaited,'' the minister said.

When the Members pressed for some concrete steps by the Government, the Minister said there was a procedure for eveything and the government could not bypass the Constitutional provisions, and it had also to keep in view the Supreme Court ruling that reservations should not exceed 50 per cent.

Moreover, she said there were civil writ petitions in the Supreme Court pleading for deletion of the clause added in the Constitution in 1950 linking Scheduled Castes with the Hindu religion.

Petitions had also been filed in the High Courts of various states and the matter was subjudice, she added.

Mr Sharad Yadav said it was unfortunate that judiciary was coming in the way of social legislation, and demanded that the government should do something to overcome the constraints on giving quota to disadvataged sections by the Supreme Court cap of 50 per cent.


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