Indian religion

religion conversion and reservation it is not an easy case

Virag Gupta
The statement of RSS leader Mohan Bhagwat against the caste system, the resignation of Delhi minister Rajendra Gautam after the controversy over the initiation of Buddhism and the formation of a reservation commission for Dalit converts amid the intensification of the caste census campaign in Bihar. Confusion increases. Article 14 of the Constitution prohibits equality of all and Article 15 prohibits discrimination based on religion, varna, caste, sex, place of birth, etc. and 16(4).

After panchayat, municipal, assembly, Lok Sabha, educational institutions and government jobs, now the demand for reservation in the judicial sector, the private sector has started to develop. While the case is pending in the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court over the 10% reserve for the economically weaker sections (EWS), governments have also started making decisions for the women’s reserve. At the same time, the initiative of states like Karnataka to end the 50% restriction of the upper booking limit could increase controversy. Let’s understand what has happened so far regarding the reservation:

  • The issue of reserving Dalits after conversion has been heated after Aryan Khan’s arrest. Nawab Malik alleged that Samir Wankhede, despite converting to Islam, got a job by taking advantage of the Dalit reserve.
  • A caste is included in the Scheduled Castes (SC) by order of the President. The caste system and untouchability are considered evils of Hinduism. According to the Constitution (SC) Ordinance 1950, only Dalits of Hindu religion benefit from the reservation.
  • After the report of the first Backward Classes Commission (Kelkar Committee) in 1956, Sikhs and Buddhists in 1990 were included under the jurisdiction of SC. Since then, there has been a demand to bring Muslim and Christian converts under the jurisdiction of the Dalit reserve.
  • According to the supporters of the reservation, the backwardness of the Dalits has not ended despite the change of religion, therefore discrimination on the basis of religion is unconstitutional, while according to the opponents, there is no system of castes in the Muslim and Christian religion, so it is not fair to place them under the responsibility of SC.
  • Since 2004, many cases have been pending before the Supreme Court in this regard. In May 2007, the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, recommended reservation on the basis of social backwardness rather than religion. A member of the commission objected to Muslims and Christians being included in the Dalit reservation.
  • In November 2019, the central government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that a new study was needed, instead of the reports of the old commissions, regarding the reservation of Dalit converts.
  • The Supreme Court had again requested a response from the government in August 2022. After that, on October 6, under section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952, the government issued a notification for the formation by a committee of three members.
  • The commission is headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan. Former IAS member Ravindra Kumar Jain and UGC member Professor Sushma Yadav are its other two members.
  • The commission will investigate how Dalits who have faced inequality and discrimination can obtain the benefits of Scheduled Castes under Section 341 of the Constitution after converting to other religions? The commission will also examine what changes have taken place in the economic and social status of converted Dalits in customs, tradition and social status after conversion.
  • Reserve supporters say the decision will be delayed due to the commission’s report after the next general election. According to him, no commission was constituted within the framework of the Commission of Inquiry before the people of Buddhist and Sikh religion were placed under the Dalit reservation.

constitutional difficulties
Due to this restriction of the maximum reservation limit, many legal disputes are pending in the courts. Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists have been included in Hinduism in Article 25 of the Constitution. There are a large number of scheduled castes in Buddhism and Sikhism, and they benefit from reservation. Due to the negligible number of SCs within Jainism, there is no such demand from their side. This reservation controversy for converted CSs risks launching a new debate on the definition and benefits of minorities. India has different civil laws based on religion. There are personal laws for the Muslim religion and there is no consensus on a uniform civil code, so how can it be considered a mistake to exclude people of Muslim and Christian religion from the scope of reserve on the basis of caste?

People taking oath of conversion during a program held at Ambedkar Bhawan in Delhi

encourage conversion?
Despite the 50% restriction, marginalized sections do not get the desired benefits due to the inclusion of new people as part of the reservation. Caste conflicts can increase if Dalits of Hindu religion are harmed by gaining the benefit of reservation in Muslim and Christian religions. Meanwhile, many states are enacting laws against conversion. If permission is given to benefit from the reservation after conversion, religious conversion can be encouraged. Religion is a matter of personal belief, but there is no clarity in the law on this. Despite the change of religion, people do not change their names and continue to enjoy the reservation. There is also no clear legal provision to stop such cases. After the commission’s report, many such legal anomalies will again be debated in government, parliament and the Supreme Court.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author.