DALIT CHRISTIAN DEMANDS
Dalit Christians are fighting for their legitimate rights and privileges provided for the Dalits by the Constitution of India. As Dalits, these Christians belong to the ancient indigenous people of the land, yet they have to struggle for their basic right to live as human beings.
As a step towards equality, the Constitution of India has provided the Dalits with compensatory discrimination or affirmative action, but since 1950 the Government of India has deprived Christian Dalits of such rights. So most Dalit Christians are economically poor, educationally backward, politically powerless and socially outcaste. For this reason the Dalit Christians demand that the Indian Government restore their legitmate rights and cease to discriminate against them on grounds of religion.
Inclusion in the Scheduled Castes
Dalit Christians should be accorded the same reservation and welfare benefits that are granted to the Scheduled Castes professing the Hindu, Sikh, and Neo-Buddhist religions under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 as, amended in 1956 and 1990. The Dalit Christians should be given the Scheduled Caste status and privileges so that they can enjoy the same political rights and socio-economic benefits as all other Scheduled Castes.
Definition of the Scheduled Caste
The expression 'Scheduled Castes' was used for those people who were
kept outside the fourfold Varna (caste) system, and were called Avarnas
(casteless). They were called by different names such as: Chandalas,
Panchamas or Untouchables. The term "Scheduled Caste"
was used by the British Government to designate all castes and classes
previously covered under the term "Depressed Classes". Officially
this word was embodied in Section 305 of the Government of India Act,
1935, . Later the expression was included in the Government of India
(Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936.
"Scheduled Caste" means such castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within such castes, races or tribes as are deemed under article 341 to be Scheduled Castes for the purposes of this Constitution.
The Indian Constitution,
on the basis of its Article 341 (1) only empowers the President of india
to specify the castes, races or tribes or parts or groups within castes
that can be deemed to be Scheduled Castes. It is then the role
of Parliament to make law concerning the groups thus designated .
The President may with respect to any State or Union territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification, specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State or Union territory, as the case may be.
In 1950, while exercising the powers conferred on him in Article 341 (1), the President of India promulgated an order known as The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950. This Order of 1950 continued to use the same list used in the Government of India (Schedled Castes) Order of 1936. The third paragraph of the 1950 Order reads:-
This third Paragraph was amended in 1956 and in 1990 in favor of Sikh and Buddhist Dalits.
AMENDMENT OF 1956 IN FAVOR OF DALIT SIKHS
Following agitation by Master Tara Singh, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) Orders (Amendment) Act, providing for inclusion of Dalit Sikhs in the list of the Scheduled Castes, was passed in 1956. It said:-
"Notwithstanding anything contained in para 2, no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu or Sikh religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste."
AMENDMENT OF 1990 IN FAVOR OF DALIT BUDDHISTS
In May 1990, to commemerate the centenary of the birth of Dr. Ambedkar, Prime Minister V.P.Singh brought Dalits who converted to Buddhism into the list of Scheduled Castes . He made representations to Parliament that this change of religion , from Hindu to Buddhist , had not altered their social , economic or educational conditions. The same should be acknowledged in the case of Dalits who become Christians.
"Notwithstanding anything contained in para 2, no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste."
Absolute Need for Amendment in Favor of Dalit Christians
Today Dalit Christians are asking only for their fundamental rights. Dalit Christians belong to the same caste and undergo the same age-old torment and oppression as other Dalits.. Dalit Christians live under the same system of oppression, deprived of justice and human dignity.
The economic condition of Dalit converts is in no way different from that of their counterparts - the Dalits who are not converts. Dalit Christians suffer from a high incidence of atrocities and economic and social disabilities owing to the government's reluctance to modify its discriminatory policy on reservation.
Christians feel that this religion-based discrimination is in violation of Article 15 (1) and contravenes the provisions of Article 15 (4) of the Constitution of India. Constitutional principles prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
At stake is the fate of 19 million Dalit Christians, who form 70% of the Indian Christians. In the whole country, Indian Christians total 25 million. They are not asking for any expansion of the Scheduled Caste list or any increase in the reservation quota. They only want to be included in the present list. This can be done by introducing a new bill in Parliament.