Inclusion of Dalit Muslims in Scheduled Castes: Apex court rekindles hope

By Mohammad Shahanshah Ansari,

In a great development for PIL lodged in Supreme Court by Akhil Maharastra Khatik Samaj (AMKS) for inclusion of Dalit Muslims in Scheduled Caste category, the apex court last week ordered Union of India to file counter affidavit to the writ petition 13 of 2008 within the granted period of four weeks. Respondent(s) Additional Solicitor General Mr Mohan Parasaran from Union of India appeared before the Supreme Court to reply to the PIL on 31st July 2009, while Adv. Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed was present from the petitioner’s side. The petition was filed by AMKS on 25th January 2008 seeking inclusion of Dalit Muslims in the Scheduled Caste category. It is happening for the first time in last full one year that someone from Union of India has responded to this petition. It is a positive path breaking achievement for this case.

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Mr. Shamsuddin Shaikh, Chariman of Akhil Maharastra Khatik Samaj has said that they are fighting for Dalit Muslim rights for more than a decade and have now filed this petition in hope of seeking justice from the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is noteworthy that from 1935 to 1950 all Dalits irrespective of their religion were provided with reservations. However, on January 26, 1950 when constitution of India came into force an order was passed by then president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad limiting the reservation to only Hindu Dalits, clearly prohibiting the provision of article 341 which states that all scheduled castes should be provided with reservation. The Presidential Order 1950 denies inclusion of Dalits of any community other than Hindu in the Scheduled Castes category. The third paragraph of the order says, “notwithstanding anything contained in para 2, no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Castes.” This part of the order runs contrary to the provisions of Articles 14 (equality before the law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion) and 25 (freedom to profess and practice any religion) of the same Constitution.

The situation clearly calls for the amendment of the Constitution of India, only then the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians can be included among the scheduled castes. If it happens, it would not be the first time. The relevant part of the Constitution containing the order has already been amended twice: first in 1956 and second in 1990. Through these amendments, Sikhs and Buddhists respectively were included in the Scheduled Caste category and thus they were allowed to avail the benefits of reservation. Hence Dalit muslims should also be provided with the benefit of reservations and other privileges as scheduled castes as the presidential order of 1950 is unconstitutional. The only reason why Dalit belonging to other communities are progressing is due to reservation where as the condition of Dalit Muslims is turning worse day by day in the lack of same. Atrocities against Dalit Muslim is continuing even today.

Dalit Muslims deserve scheduled caste reservation as they are not only engaged in the same profession as Dalit Hindus but also undergo the same social discrimination as their counterpart Dalit Hindus. The status of Dalit Muslims which include Nutt, Bakkho, Khatik, Bhatiyara, Kunjra, Dhunia, Kalal, Dafali, Halakhor, Dhobi, Gorkan, Meershikar, Rangrz, Darji, Mochis, Mukris and Garudis etc. is turning worse day by day.

Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed, advocate in Supreme Court in the above case pointed towards Ranganath Mishra Commission Report which has also recommended SC status for Dalit Muslims. Keeping this recommendation in consideration Central Government should amend the self contrasting constitution and implement this recommendation without any further delay in interest of lakhs of discriminated and deprived people.

We hope that Union of India will take the objective of this case seriously and understand the suffering of all those 35 dalit Muslim castes among Muslims who are in no better condition than other Dalits and grant schedule caste status to this marginalised section of society.