NEW DELHI: The proposal to give Scheduled Caste status to a child with either parents as Dalit has taken a curious turn, with the Centre making changes to ensure that it does not give a backdoor entry to Christians and Muslims into the SC list which is restricted to Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. Social justice ministry has revived the proposal by which it plans to make a child eligible for SC status if either the mother or father are SC. It seeks to undo a Supreme Court ruling that caste in Indian context flows from the father, clarifying that child of a non-Dalit father cannot be a Dalit. After hanging fire for over two years, during which it attracted opposition from different quarters including National Commission for SCs, the ministry has modified the proposal with a small twist of real consequence. The earlier draft merely said "the child born of inter-caste marriage shall be taken as belonging to SC if either of the parents belong to that community". It has now been modified to include that "if either of the parent belong to such a caste (SC) and the other parent belongs to neither SC nor ST but professes one of the religions which a person belonging to SC may profess". The fresh move means that SC status to children from mixed parentage would require the non-Dalit parent to be either Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh. Only the followers of these three faiths are eligible for SC status. The change, sources said, is to accommodate concerns over the proposal. It was feared that if SC status was made available to a child from mixed parentage, it could undo the religion barrier put on being a Dalit. While Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam have been demanding that SC category be extended to them, the Centre has found it too sensitive to handle. It was feared that Hindutva outfits would oppose the move as they have been arguing that making Dalit status religion-neutral would encourage conversions. If a child with either parent as Dalit was given SC status without a bar of religion, it would be tantamount to encouraging the same, it was argued. The sensitivity of Dalit status for converts can be gauged from the fact that UPA government has it on the backburner after having set up Rangnath Mishra commission to examine it and having got a favourable recommendation.
6 months ago