GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Centre is likely to soon decide on setting up a national commission to study the social, economic and educational status of Dalits who converted to religions other than Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Several petitions are pending before the Supreme Court seeking Scheduled Caste (SC) reservation benefits for Dalits who converted to Christianity or Islam.

Why don’t Dalits who convert to Christianity and Islam get quota benefits?

  1. The original rationale behind giving reservation to Scheduled Castes was that these sections had suffered from the social evil of untouchability, which was practised among Hindus.
  2. Under Article 341 of the Constitution, the President may “specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall…be deemed to be Scheduled Castes”.
  3. The first order under this provision was issued in 1950, and covered only Hindus. Following demands from the Sikh community, an order was issued in 1956, including Sikhs of Dalit origin among the beneficiaries of the SC quota.
  4. In 1990, the government acceded to a similar demand from Buddhists of Dalit origin, and the order was revised to state: “No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.”