The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) has reiterated its demand that Dalit persons belonging to the Christian or Muslim faiths be extended reservation in government institutions for education and employment. The demand comes as Dalit Christians held ‘black day’ on August 10, observed ever since the reservation policy launched on the same day in 1949 was made applicable only to Dalits belonging to the Hindu faith. A statement issued by the VCK, the foremost anti-caste party from Tamil Nadu, said that not extending reservation to Dalits of all faiths is tantamount to denying their Constitutional rights to practice a religion of their choice.
“The caste structure of this religion, which discriminates on the basis of birth, has touched all religions and ruined them. Thus, whichever religion one practices, the oppressed are subject to discrimination. Despite people in power being aware of this, they display inequality by not including Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste list. This has to change,” said the statement by VCK chief and Chidambaram MP Thol Thirumavalavan.
Speaking to TNM, VCK General Secretary and Villupuram MP D Ravikumar said that the case regarding this demand has been languishing in the Supreme Court for nearly two decades. “The Ranganath Mishra Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the National Minority Commission have all given a favourable recommendation in this regard. But the UPA didn’t implement it,” he pointed out.
Elaborating on the demand, MP Ravikumar said, “Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives citizens the right to practice any religion. In doing so, no one should be denied their rights. Just on account of someone converting to another faith, reservation right being taken away is denying their choice of faith. Moreover, even those who converted generations and centuries ago are known as Dalit Christians. Faith may change but the caste discrimination continues. They don’t have the social protection, they can’t get justice under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.”
With pre-testing for Census 2021 currently underway, Ravikumar called for the enumeration of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the SC list. Echoing this view is Pandian, Executive Director of the Social Awareness Society for Youth NGO. He said that including Dalits of other faiths in the census will reflect the actual number of the Dalit population in the country.
“The percentage of reservation can be increased proportional to the population of Dalits. Of the 18% reservation currently provided, 3% is extended to Arunthathiyars. If they enlarge the reservation, Dalits of other faiths will also receive the benefits and entitlements,” he said.
Slamming successive Congress and BJP governments, Pandian said the reason that the reservation is yet to be extended is to preserve the Hindu majority. Providing historical context, he said, “A Presidential order was passed in 1949 by then President Rajendra Prasad. Paragraph 3 laid out that those who convert to other religions will not be treated as Scheduled Castes. This was clamped down not because they didn't want people to leave the religion but because conversions would ultimately reduce the Hindu majority of the nation. When BR Ambedkar converted to Buddhism, he was criticised by Gandhi who said that 'everything can be resolved within the system.'”