The Times of India Reports:

The Centre on Wednesday sought eight weeks time from the Supreme Court to articulate its view on the vexed issue of reservation for Dalit Christians, who got a favourable report from the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission. The government’s job was made complex by the recommendation of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) that a quota for Dalit Christians should not eat into the existing 15% share of SCs. In its recommendation to the Centre, NCSC had on September 18, 2007 said: “It was decided that reservation should be extended to them but the share of 15% of SCs should not be disturbed and the element of reservation for these communities (Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims) should be determined by the government keeping in view their population.”

As this issue festers in the courts, it is important to remember that the recent spate of violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal District was also rooted in the demand for ST status for Dalit Christians.

So on the basis of what data did the Rangnath Mishra Commission recommend reservations for Dalit Christians ?

Offstumped set about to research the commission but not much on Government of India websites on this subject. The background to the issue is the 2005 Supreme Court request to the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, NCRLM to conduct an investigation and complete a report concerning the need for affirmative-action benefits for Dalit Christians and Muslims. 

 On May 22nd 2007 the NCRLM backed the demand for extending reservation benefits to Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam. NCRLM, headed by Justice Rangnath Mishra and comprising Tahir Mahmood, Mohinder Singh and Anil Wilson, had termed the exclusion of Dalits from SC list after conversion out of Hinduism as violative of constitutional guarantee of non-discrimination on religious grounds. The lone dissenter was the panel’s member secretary Asha Das, who argued that extending SC status to Christians and Muslims would amount to inserting caste in religions which don’t recognise it.

It is puzzling that since May when the Commission made its recommendations all we hear from the media are its recommendations and none of the background data which was allegedly the basis for this recommendation. Then in June you had the St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi upping its ante by announcing a 10% reservation for Dalit Christians in an attempt to apply pressure on the Government. In July you had the government beating around the bush on this issue at the Supreme Court. We hear of religious quotas again in September through selective leaks to the media. In October comes the news of NCSC backing the demand but with the quota within quota caveat.

Offstumped Bottomline: As the Congress struggles to have it both ways having created the genie of religious quotas with the setting up of the NCRLM it would be a shame if the already incendiary politics of affirmative entitlement were to be further communalized. Attempts to find casteist divisions in other religious communities are a retrograde step and should call into question the rationale for Caste based Reservations on the one had and the ethics of Proselytization on the other hand. The Congress will pay a heavy price if it persists with it further persists with its Communal Socialism in the name of quota for Dalit Christians and Muslims.

Originally posted here

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