Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The study by the National Commission for Minorities that has suggested reservation for Dalit Muslims and Christians has said that there is no room for disputing the fact that they are invariably regarded as ‘socially inferior’ communities by their co-religionists.” They are Dalits first and then Muslims and Christians, it noted.

Referring to the manner in which courts refused to recognise them as Scheduled Castes owing to lack of evidence, the study says that a lot of evidence has become available since the Soosai case — “the last major judicial pronouncement on this question.” In turn, Professor Deshpande has concluded that it is unambiguously clear that “there is no compelling evidence to justify denying the SC status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians.”

Among all SCs, the study found that Dalit Muslims are the worst off, particularly in urban areas. In fact, the NSSO data shows them to be completely absent in the affluent group for urban India.

Dalit Christians, on the other hand, are moderately better off than other Dalits, except SC Sikhs. The pattern seen in the income levels extends to educational levels also, with Dalit Muslims coming in the rear in terms of literacy.

Caste bias

What is of particular concern is that the backwardness among Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians has shown up in a sample survey despite their small population, and hence relatively low representation in the NSSO’s exercise. Such is the caste bias that the conclusion of the study is that religious affiliation makes no difference for the poorest 75 per cent of all Dalits.

The study commissioned in April last year, was conducted by Satish Deshpande of the Sociology Department at the Delhi School of Economics.

Finding the current regime discriminatory, Professor Deshpande has said in clear terms that “whether or not such discrimination can be proven in a court of law, it will surely weigh on the conscience of every fair-minded Indian.”