Intervening in the Constitutional Day Debate, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley argued vehemently against appointing Scheduled Caste status to Muslims and Christians of the same category. This stance of a senior member of this government flies in the face of the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra National Commission Report on Linguistic and Religious Minorities(2007) tabled in Parliament only in 2009. This will also adversely affect the long standing movement for justice for Dalit Christians and pasmanda Muslims. A Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court is also slated to adjudicate the matter of amending the Constitutional Order, 1950.
An executive summary of the report had been published by Communalism Combat in April 2010. This summary can be viewed at https://sabrangindia.in/sabrangthemes/looking-ahead
In the chapter on ‘Demands for Amending the Constitution (SCs) Order, 1950’, the Commission had concluded:
“Inclusion of castes in the old Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order 1936 was based on general impressions and not on any actual survey of the caste situation in the country. The same can be said about the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 which was based on the old SC Order of 1936; inclusion of additional castes from time [to time] to the lists under the present order of 1950 is also not based on a scientific survey of the actual caste situation in the country. (1)
“ By all available evidence we find the caste system to be an all-pervading social phenomenon of India shared by almost all Indian communities irrespective of religious persuasions. (2)
By all available evidence we find the caste system to be an all-pervading social phenomenon of India shared by almost all Indian communities irrespective of religious persuasions
“ It is claimed and agreed to by almost all sections of society in India, in various contexts and especially in respect of the issue of reservations that no special benefits can be given to any community or group on the basis of religion. At the same time however, it is generally insisted upon that the class of scheduled castes must remain religion-based. This seems to be illogical and unreasonable. (3)
As articulated by us in our editorial at the time, “While opposition from the Hindu Right to any affirmative action favouring the minorities is only to be expected, the Ranganath Misra Commission’s recommendations are also facing resistance from several other quarters. Sections of the SCs are opposed to the extension of reservation benefits to Muslim and Christian Dalits, for it will take away a slice from their share of the cake. OBC Muslims are opposed to an across-the-board 15 per cent reservation in education and government employment for minorities, as they fear that the ashraf (upper-caste) Muslims will corner most of the benefits. The upper-caste Muslims meanwhile are enthusiastic supporters. OBC leaders of the likes of Mulayam, Laloo and Sharad Yadav seem to be in a bind. Endorsing the recommendations will mean “conceding” apportioning a part of the OBC share exclusively to minorities. On the other hand, opposing it will make them unpopular with a constituency whose votes they eagerly seek. It is precisely in this OBC zone of discomfort that the Congress had seen for itself an opportunity to ingratiate itself with Muslims, opposition from the backward sections within the community notwithstanding.
Electoral calculations being paramount, are the articulations of the minister geared towards the powerful OBC block?