Heat over quota to Dalit minorities
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 22, 2011
The political heat over the demand for extending reservation benefits
to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims has gained momentum with the
assembly elections coming up in five states. The Supreme Court hears
the matter on February 24. The demand to scrap clause three of the
Constitution (Scheduled Cas
tes) Order 1950, which excludes Muslim and Christian Dalits from
reservation has found many takers.
According to the order, only persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh and
Buddhist religions are eligible to be included in the list of
With an eye on the coming assembly polls, the ruling communist parties
in Kerala and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu have raised
the pitch over the issue.
The CPM recently organised a major convention at Kottayam, a major
Christian centre in Kerala, to woo the Dalit Christians. Christians
form 19% of the state's 31.8 million people while Dalit Christians are
Similarly in Tamil Nadu, the DMK has said it will take up their cause
DMK boss and chief minister M Karunanidhi has maintained that the
demand for granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians "is not
only just but also indisputable" and if necessary the party would even
lead an agitation.
But the Congress, on its part, is treading very cautiously on the issue.
A section has argued that the issue could trigger political backlash
and cost dearly for the party.
Senior Congress leaders like Arjun Singh and Digvijaya Singh are
strong votaries of the reservation for minorities.
Digvijaya, who is party general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh,
has maintained that reservation should be extended on the basis
backwardness and not on religious grounds.
Digvijaya has set his sight on the 2012 assembly elections in Uttar
Pradesh, considered crucial for the Congress to re-emerge as the
single dominant force at the Centre, and his quota carrot to Muslims
is part of the strategy to woo the community.
The minority vote in the recent past has shifted between the Bahujan
Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.
The matter remained inconclusive at the meeting of the cabinet
committee on political affairs on Monday.
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