Indian Supreme Court hears Dalit Christians’ demand for reservation

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By Purushottam Nayak

New Delhi, September 3, 2022: Many petitions argue that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims should enjoy the same quota benefits reserved for Scheduled Castes.

“The Dalit Christian case was taken up for hearing in Court No. 3 of the Supreme Court on August 30 as expected,” said Brother Jose Daniel.

The argument was started by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, but the hearing was adjourned.

Senior Advocate Collins Gonsalves generously accepted to be the lawyer in the place of the late Ram Jethmalani, for which Writ Petition No. 625 was filed by AIUCMER (All India United Christian Movement for Equal Rights).

Among others, Advocate Mahendra Prakash Raju and Advocate Franklin Ceasar will argue for other petitioners.

“When India became a Republic, we resolved as a nation to secure justice, equality, liberty, and dignity for all our citizens. Members of the castes worst affected by centuries of social oppression, the Scheduled Castes (SCs), were constitutionally assured special protection and affirmative benefits,” says Bipra Charan Nayak, a Dalit Christian grass-root leader of Kandhamal, Odisha.

“But Dalit Christians and Muslims were left out of the fold. Unfortunately, these fundamental rights have been denied to the Dalit communities that converted to Christianity and Islam through the infamous Presidential (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

The privilege was extended in 1956 to Sikhs and in 1990 to Buddhists of Dalit origin. Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims continue to be kept outside of this privilege.

For the last 75 years, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have fought for equal rights. The order that limited Scheduled Caste status to Hindus and was later amended to include Sikhs and Buddhists, is now pending in the Supreme Court.

Nayak said that Christians have been deprived of the same privileges that Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs enjoy.

“Let us pray fervently so that the heavenly abode will shake for our sake and justice to be revealed through the Supreme Court for the Dalit to get Scheduled Caste status,” says Advocate Jonathan Limma from Mohana Gajapati, Odisha.

According to another intellectual, Prabhkara Senapati of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, the Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is overdue.

Jugal Kishore Ranjit, a national leader, said Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims continue to demand their rights.

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