According to a recent report by The Hindu, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.K. Stalin, has proposed a resolution in the state Assembly to extend reservation benefits to Dalit Christians and Muslims. The move has been opposed by four MLAs of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who walked out of the House. The resolution has been made as part of the ‘Dravidian Model Government’s’ objective to provide social justice to the victims of oppression.
Stalin has questioned the constitutional position of not extending reservations to Dalits who convert to Christianity and Islam. As per the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950, only those belonging to Hinduism, Sikhism, or Buddhism can be deemed Scheduled Caste and hence avail reservation benefits.
The Chief Minister argued that when Dalits remain historically as Scheduled Castes, it is fair to extend them the benefits of reservation. He added that Adi Dravidars, who are categorised as a Dalit community in Tamil Nadu, continue to face caste atrocities even after conversion to Christianity. As we all know caste is rooted in continent and every religion is infected by it.
Stalin recalled that former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had written to the then prime ministers in 1996, 2006, and 2011 requesting for reservations to be extended to Dalit Christians. His government has made rules to extend all benefits, except reservation, available for Dalits, to Adi Dravidards who accept Christianity.
Meanwhile, the Union government has made it clear, through multiple affidavits filed before the Supreme Court, that it is not willing to extend quota to Dalit Christians and Muslims. It had claimed alleged “foreign” contributions as justification for keeping Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians out of the Scheduled Castes list. In December 2022, it had also made it clear that it was not willing to consider the recommendations of the 2007 Justice Ranganath Misra Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which suggested that reservation benefits be extended to Dalits who accepted Christianity and Islam.
The Modi government had constituted Justice K.G. Balakrishnan Commission in October 2022 to consider the pleas of Dalits Christians and Muslims to be included in reservation quotas, and the time period granted to the commission is two years. Recently, on April 13, when the issue came before the top court, the Union government had requested the court to delay the hearing until the latest commission’s report is ready. However, the court dismissed the government’s plea, stating that the matter has been pending for almost 20 years, and social stigma and religious stigma are different things.