Panel takes up petitions on inclusion/exclusion of five communities from SC list
A public hearing, organised by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, on whether some communities should be removed from the list of Scheduled Castes saw heated arguments and protests by those present.
Even as the proceedings were on here on Tuesday, the Karnataka High Court gave an interim order not to finalise any decision based on the hearing until further orders.
The public hearing was on the question of inclusion/exclusion of five communities — Lambani, Banjara, Bhovi, Koracha and Korma — from the list of Scheduled Castes.
Addressing presspersons later, Chairman of the commission P.L. Punia clarified that the panel was in Bangalore only to “receive applications and hear people’s arguments” and no decision would be taken on the issue. “The commission will hold a full sitting later and give a report to the court,” he said, clarifying that the commission was “not here to take any decision on excluding any community from the list”.
Earlier, during the hearing, those in favour of exclusion argued that the five communities in question were ‘touchables’ (unlike ‘untouchable’ categories such as Maiga or Holeya), and therefore, did not deserve reservation benefits. “Benefits meant for ‘untouchables’ are being grabbed by ‘touchable’ castes,” said Basavaraj Kowthal of Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation.
N. Venkatesh from the Forum for the Rights of Untouchables said inclusion of ‘touchable’ castes in SC category is peculiar to Karnataka, while it was not the case in States such as Andhra Pradesh.
On the other hand, Karnataka State Bhovi (Vaddara) Sangha president S.L. Gangadharappa argued that the commission did not even have jurisdiction to hold such a public hearing.
Karnataka State Bhovi Community Awareness Committee submitted a memorandum stating that a majority of them continued to be backward.
They argued that those in favour of removing the community from the reservation list were only “trying to divide the castes and creating conflicts among Scheduled Castes”. Similar arguments were forwarded by Koracha, Korama, Lambani and Banjara communities.
Taking a different view, Karnataka Madigara Rakshana Vedike, argued that while Lambani, Banjara and Bhovi needed to be kept out of reservation list, exclusion of Korama and Koracha needed further debate.