December 12, 2006
Memorandum to the Prime Minister of India
December 11, 2006
The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Sub:- Appeal to extend reservation benefits and safeguards to Dalit Christians and end discrimination of Dalits based on their religion – Requesting – Reg.
The world admires India for the way we cherish the values of freedom, democracy, secularism, equality and justice. The Founding Fathers of India perpetuated these fundamental rights in the Constitution of India. In this country of many religions, languages and cultures, the Government must uphold the principle of secularism – ‘Sarva Dharma, Sama Bhavana’; and the people live by ‘Sarva Dharma Sad Bahavana’. But there is something un-Indian, unconstitutional and inhuman in a policy which discriminates against a large portion of the population. We appeal to you to understand the problem and join hands to end the inhuman treatment.
Provision of Protective Safeguards
The Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 exist to protect victims belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) against growing atrocities. But when atrocities were committed against Dalits in Chundur, Karamchedu, Neerkonda and other places in Andhra Pradesh, a section of the victims were denied the benefits of these laws solely on the basis of a discriminatory clause in a Presidential Order. We appeal to yout to see this bitter truth and take immediate steps to get this Order repealed.
The Constitution guarantees reservation facilities to all the Scheduled Castes (Dalits), Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections in view of their socio-economic disabilities and cultural backwardness. Act 341 of the Constitution requires the President of India to specify those affected by these disabilities and the traditional policies of untouchability. The President brought out the list of Scheduled Castes through a Presidential Order known as the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 on 10 August 1950.
Flaws in the Constitutional Provisions
Unfortunately, while fulfilling his constitutional obligation, the President added an unconstitutional clause that has gone beyond the requirement of the Article. He added that the Scheduled Castes enumerated in the list must belong to a particular religion to receive benefits. Thus, while the Constitution considers all Scheduled Castes equal and does not discriminate on the basis of religion, the Order denies Scheduled Castes the right to religious freedom.
How this religious criterion found its place in the Presidential Order remains a mystery. The clause in question was originally rejected by the Drafting Committee of the Constitution under the chairmanship of Dr BR Ambedkar during its meeting on 11 February 1949, as it clearly violates the religious freedom guaranteed in Article 25 of the Constitution.
Shocked by this draconian clause in the Presidential Order, innumerable protests were held in different parts of the country to end this discrimination. As a result, the Order was amended to include the Scheduled Castes following Sikhism and Buddhism in 1956 and 1990, respectively, promising inclusion of the Scheduled Caste Christians as soon as possible. In spite of the assurance made by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the succeeding Prime Ministers to end this discrimination, justice still evades them.
All people believing in the promotion of human rights, secularism and justice must raise their voices to end this Indian version of apartheid. Dalit Christians are absolutely affected by the traditional practice of untouchability. Dr BR Ambedkar rightly said, “To the general mass of Hindus, the untouchable remains an untouchable even though he becomes a Christian.” Babu Jagjivan Ram concurs: “Strangely enough there is untouchability even among Christians and Sikhs. The caste system of the Hindu society has contaminated all religious groups.”
On behalf of all such Dalits, the All India Christian Council (www.christiancouncil.in), and the All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations (www.scstconfederation.com) along with Christian and Dalit leaders from around the Country have just concluded a Day long Dharna at Jantar Mantar, seeking immediate steps to amend the Article 341 to include Christians of Dalit Origin
Your Excellency, we may recall the All India Christian Council along with All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations have called for State wide dharnas in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka during the month of November 2005 and the Public outcry was overwhelming to the injustice meted out to Dalits based on their faith. A copy of the report is enclosed for your perusal.
Further, we would like to state that barring BJP, all the Major Political Parties have supported the cause of Dalit Christians and to end 56 years old subjugation of Dalits.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Dr. Joseph D’souza Dr. Udit Raj
All India Christian Council All India Confederation of SC / ST Organisations
Copy submitted to:
1. Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, Honorable President of India
2. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson and President, All India Congress Party
3. Presidents of All Political Parties
Posted by klajja at December 12, 2006 09:07 PM