INDIA: Government adamant in denying Dalits their rights
Christian and Muslim leaders in India have united in their condemnation of the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment’s announcement that his government will not grant job reservation rights to Dalits (also known as “untouchables”) who convert from Hinduism.
Minister Thavar Chand Gehlot said Dalit converts “left the Hindu fold to escape the scourge of untouchability, as it did not exist [in Islam and Christianity]. The conversion has solved the problems they faced as Hindus, so they should not ask for Scheduled Caste status.” He added that his government views the Dalit fight for equal rights as illogical and contrary to the constitution.
The stigmatised Dalits have historically been beneath and outside the Indian caste system, with virtually no rights. Hindu Dalits are constitutionally granted “reservation rights”, which give them access to limited designated government jobs and educational institutes. In 1950, a Presidential Decree removed all Scheduled Caste rights from Dalit converts. Later, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits had their rights reinstated, but not Christian or Muslim converts.