Civil society groups of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians protested in New Delhi on Thursday demanding that the “discriminatory” 1950 Presidential Order be amended. The Order held that only Dalit who professed Hindu religion could be treated as Scheduled Caste (SC).

Addressing the protesters, Samuel Jayakumatr executive secretary, Commission for Policy, Governance and Public Witnesses, argued that “given the fact that the SC status and the benefits that go with it are aimed to address historical caste-based socio-economic deprivation, the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have more compelling case for SC status than many others”.

“Because of being deprived of SC status for more than half a century, the two minority communities are worse off in terms of major socio-economic indicators, than many of the so-called ‘Hindu’ Dalits. Not only that they are denied reservations in jobs and elected bodies but they are also not protected from anti-SC atrocity legislation,” he added.

Highlighting what he termed “double standards of the democratic India”, Hafeez Ahmad Hawwari, a leader of the Hawwaris, who have historically been engaged in the vocation of washing clothes argued: “Soon after the country got freedom Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians were deprived of the affirmative action in 1950. The Indian State extended the SC status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits in 1956 and 1990 respectively. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits which is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of millions of backward people.”

Saleem Mansoori, a backward leader from Bihar, questioned the logic of the denial of the SC status to the two minority groups. “We are unable to understand that if religion cannot be the basis of providing reservation, how can it be made the basis to deny people their SC status?”

Fr. Z. Devasagayaraj, a representative of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the continued denial of SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims makes “complete mockery” of the Indian State’s credentials of being democratic and secular. He highlighted that a petition for the amendment in the 1950 Presidential Order is currently pending in the Supreme Court. “The Apex Court has been repeatedly asking the Government to file an affidavit about its stand on the issue but the Government’s false credentials about minority welfare has been betrayed by the fact that it still has not filed its reply.”

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