Amidst the anger pouring out against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the country, the Centre may sooner or later also have to handle the Anglo-Indian community, which is bracing for a face-off after the extension of reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies to them, was discontinued through a Bill in the Parliament recently.
The Parliament, while continuing the reservation for members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for another 10 years, which has been given for the past 70 years in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, scrapped the quota for the Anglo-Indians. Reservation for both was due to expire on January 25, 2020.
What has agitated the Anglo-Indian community is just not the discontinuation of the quota, but also the statement of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who pegged their population across the country at 296, claiming that it was as per the 2011 census.
"In my family alone there are more than 59 members. The census enumerates Anglo-Indians under the Christians category with no separate head count for them,'' nominated member under the Anglo-Indian community in the Karnataka legislative assembly Vinisha Nero said.
Debunking the figure quoted by the Union minister, Vinisha, who has done her doctorate on the socio-economic and cultural status of the community, said that in Karnataka alone, their population stood between 35,000 to 40,000.
"Though we are from the Christian lineage, the Anglo-Indians are the only community who meet the linguistic and religious minority criteria. The scrapping of the quota will be taken up by the 62 branches of the All India Anglo-Indians governing body by appealing to the Centre and also fighting it out legally," said Vinisha, who is also member of the Karnataka governing body.
The quota of having two members from the community nominated to the Lok Sabha and one each in the state assemblies was discontinued after a panel comprising Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot in the report said that the Anglo-Indian community was doing well and did not need reservation. The legislation passed in the Parliament withdrawing the quota will have to be ratified by 50% of state assemblies before President Ram Nath Kovind gives his assent.
In his reply in the Parliament, Ravi Shankar Prasad said he acknowledged the contribution of Anglo-Indians in education and and armed forces.
"When you can acknowledge there are 20 crore Scheduled Castes and 10 crore Scheduled Tribes according to the census, why do you disbelieve the figure for Anglo-Indians?" he asked, adding that their demand for reconsideration (restoring the quota) will be considered at a later stage.
The community feels that the Bill will get the approval of 50% of the states as a majority of them are BJP ruled ones, and that it will soon become an Act. Rajya Sabha MP Derek O' Brien, who is an Anglo-Indian, had represented to the Modi government in 2014 to enumerate the community under a separate head and not under the Christian category.
In the representation, he'd said that there were around five lakh Anglo-Indians across the globe and that two lakh live in India. Bruce Robert, president of Hubballi branch of the All India Anglo Indian governing body, admitted that the community had slipped in not making a representation to count them separately during the census. According to him, in Hubballi alone, there are 200 Anglo-Indians who are mostly senior citizens now.
Who are the Anglo-Indians?
During the British regime in India, children who were born to a mixed parentage of Indians and the British come under this category. These Anglo-Indians formed a small but significant portion of the population during the British Raj and had good representation in administrative roles. According to Article 366(2), "an Anglo Indian means a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India and is or was born within such territory of parents habitually resident therein and not established there for temporary purposes only."
Stating the importance of having the community's representatives in the Parliament and legislatures, Vinisha said that all strata of Anglo-Indians need economic and social support though 50% belong to the middle class.
"The move to scrap the reservation was cleverly added in the Bill stipulated to extend reservation for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as nobody was going to object to their quotaâ€™s continuation. You bring a legislation to protect illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan but fail to protect us. This is total discrimination and a deliberate target,'' she maintained.