Legislation to list them as SCs should be brought in current session of Parliament, she says in letter to PM

Strongly backing the demand of Dalit Christians for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that “the matter cannot brook any further delay” and necessary legislation should be brought in the current session of Parliament.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said such persons, as a result of their exclusion, remained outside the purview of all Centrally-assisted welfare and ameliorative measures. Most importantly, they were excluded from the benefit of reservation in educational institutions and employment in public services for the Scheduled Castes, she said in the letter.

“The social tensions over the status of unbalanced growth between the Hindu Scheduled Castes and the Christian converts have only aggravated over time and the sense of alienation among the minority communities has further deepened,” she said, while underscoring the need for early inclusion.

She cited recommendations of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Ranganath Misra in support of the demand.

Recalling that she had written to the then Prime Minister P. Narasimha Rao, on the issue, in November 1995, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the substantive grounds she had listed in that letter were reiterated and endorsed by the Commission.

The restrictive nature of the definition of the term “Scheduled Castes” in para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 was an issue. The various welfare measures and policies designed for the Scheduled Castes have largely benefited only those among the Scheduled Castes who profess Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, she said.

“Since my government is committed to a policy of affirmative action in favour of the Scheduled Castes, irrespective of creed or religion, we have done our utmost to implement schemes that will benefit Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity on par with other Scheduled Castes,” she said.

The Chief Minister urged Dr. Singh that the Centre should initiate necessary statutory steps to include all Scheduled Castes irrespective of religion within the ambit of the status of Scheduled Castes listed in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

She also wanted him to ensure that the Centre filed its counter-affidavit in pending writ petitions in the Supreme Court in this regard. The National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities found that the Constitution of India prohibits any discrimination between citizens on the basis of caste, and yet it sanctions special affirmative measures for Scheduled Castes.

At the same time, the Constitution prohibits any discrimination on the ground of religion. The Commission concluded that any religion-based discrimination in selecting particular castes for affirmative action will conflict with the letter and spirit of the Constitutional provisions, the Chief Minister said.

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