//Dalit converts can

Dalit converts can

Express News Service

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 14:Keeping pace with varying suggestions from UPA ministers for empowerment of Muslims, the BJP reinforced its counter-offensive today. Party general secretary Arun Jaitley contended the move for conferring quota benefits on Dalit Muslims and Christians “is a constitutional charter for conversion, which would bring about a constitutional upheaval.”

Jaitley, a former law minister, said Dalits and minorities are governed by different schemes of constitutional provisions. The SCs have been given special rights under Article 16. On the other hand, minorities have been provided with certain privileges under Articles 29 and 30, which allow them to set up their own educational institutions and reserve seats for themselves beyond even the mandatory 50 per cent ceiling. “The Dalits who have converted to other religions cannot claim benefits from both routes,” Jaitley said. He cited a 1950 Presidential order promulgated under Article 341 (clause-1) of Constitution to buttress his argument. The order says “no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism shall be deemed to be a SC.”

The BJP leader said the rationale for providing a constitutional protection to Dalits rests on the premise that social disability and cultural suffering has been an unfortunate characteristic of Hindu society. “When a Dalit converts to a faith which professes to possess a casteless character, the stigma of being a Dalit goes,” he said, adding the issue has been settled by the SC in the Soosai versus Union of India in 1983. The apex court laid that a person belonging to SC upon conversion to Christianity is not entitled to welfare assistance.

When told the Government can amend the Constitution and facilitate what it wants, he said: “You cannot amend the Constitution because we would not let you do it. …If you still do, you have to reckon for a nationwide crisis.” He said the inclusion of any new section in the SC category would reduce the share of existing beneficiaries.