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Caste & conversion: another layer among the SCs

  • Published
    24th Jul, 2023

Context:

The Scheduled Caste (SC) community has to actively push for the recognition and emancipation of their Abrahamic counterparts, who still lag behind the opportunities.

Criteria for SC Status:

  • Historical status: As per the anthropological and census enquiry of the British administration, a Scheduled Castes Order was passed in 1936 stated that “Indian Christians” and “Bengali Buddhists or tribal religion” practitioners were excluded from the list of Scheduled Caste.
  • Statutory orders: According Section 2 of the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order of 1950, to the “No person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste”.
  • ‘Untouchability’ a criteria: The Scheduled Caste list is religion-neutral but untouchability is a doctrinal feature of the Hindu Brahminic society.

Dilemma with Dalit ‘Christians’ and ‘Muslims’:

  • Original Identity unidentified: It is difficult to identify their original religion of origin whether they got converted from Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism.
  • Just for Caste-based votes: A new constituency of SC Muslims or SC Christians will add another layer to the divisiveness of the SC category, which is already fraught with caste divisions.
  • Less to acquire: In the redistribution of state resources meant for the Scheduled Castes, the generationally advantaged educational groups will have more to draw from.

Consequences:

  • Difficult to revert back to their ancestral status: The converted Muslims and Christians who were dalits to uplift their status are suffering from lack of defined benefits and thus want to get back to their original status.
  • Exacerbate caste division: Their voting patterns, educational portfolio, and employment opportunities starkly identified for political benefits, creating animosity among SCs.
  • Blurred contributions: People who converted to Islam, this sudden shift divorced them from the cause of their struggle for Islam.
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