The Dalit Muslim and Dalit Christian sections of the Indian society have got a new ‘messiah’ in form of Father Solomon George. He is presently steering a movement for the cause of both Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. According to him, the two are living in a pitiable condition. He says that’s why the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM), headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, has, in its Report, recommended quotas for them. But the pity is that the Government is not coming forward to do justice to these sections as per the recommendation, he complains. According to him, the present indifferent attitude of the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre has forced the Dalit Muslim Christian Federation (DMCF), which he himself heads, to steer a nation-wide movement.
The DMCF has demanded an amendment in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 that excludes from its purview the Muslims, Christians and others unlike the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Father Solomon George said the root-cause lies in the 1950 Order. So, unless and until an amendment is made, the Dalit Muslims, Dalit Christians and some others would continue to suffer, he opines. According to him, the Order 1950 surprisingly puts no bar upon Dalits belonging to other religions, including Christianity and Islam, who came into the fold of Hinduism. He said this discrimination on the basis of religion is not justifiable.
Father Solomon George, who hails from Chennai (Tamil Nadu), is a soft-spoken and shy in nature but firm in his agenda and approach. Born on November 11, 1965 in the house of late A George at Chennai, he did his post-graduate diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, New Delhi and graduation in Christian Studies from Calcutta University as well as took training in direction and production after doing Master of Arts from Delhi University. He has got a background of a journalist. He worked as a crime reporter for “The Guardian” and “The Times”, published from London, and also for Hindi daily “Inquilab Bharat”. He is presently secretary of Indraprastha Press Club and Small Newspapers Association, New Delhi. He is also author of three books---i. Communal Harmony, ii. Superstitions, and iii. Cleanliness. A former member of Minority Commission (Advisory Board), Delhi Government and former General Secretary of Delhi Minority Board, he is presently treasurer of Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS), a parent body of St Stephen’s College, Delhi and manager of St Mary’s Home for the Elderly in Delhi.
He is one of the seven presbyters in Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS). As a senior presbyter at the Church of North India since 1990, he is unmarried like other six presbyters and has earned a reputation for rendering social service in the country. In the following exclusive interview to A U Asif, Editor of the New Delhi-based news portal “Fana Watch”, Father Solomon George, President, Dalit Muslim Christian Federation (DMCF), talks in detail about the issue, movement and also Delhi Brotherhood Society (DBS).
Father Solomon George talking to A U Asif, Editor, www.fanawatch.com
Question: What actually prompted you to start a movement for the cause of the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians?
Answer: A large majority of both Christians and Muslims in India live below the poverty line (BPL). The pitiable condition of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians actually prompted us to move. Our Dalit Muslim Christian Federation (DMCF) is the result of this thinking. Later, the Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra, gave an impetus to this thinking. The Report that has already been submitted to the Government of India, has still not been tabled in Parliament. It clearly recommends that once a person has been included in a Scheduled Caste List, a willful change of religion on his part should not affect adversely his or her Scheduled Caste Status as that would in its opinion conflict with the basic constitutional provisions relating to equality, justice and non-discrimination on religious grounds, as also with the spirit of the old and time-tested Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850. It also makes it clear that all those groups and classes among the Muslims and Christians etc, whose counterparts among the Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists are included in the Central or State Scheduled Castes Lists, should also be covered by the Scheduled Caste net.
Q: What about the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950?
A: There is a Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950. It originally restricted the Scheduled Caste net to the Hindus and later opened it to the Sikhs and Buddhists, thus, still excluding from its purview the Muslims, Christians, Jains and Parsis etc. It is not justified in any way. It is to point out that the Ranganath Mishra Commission has recommended that the said Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 should be wholly deleted by appropriate action so as to completely de-link the Scheduled Caste Status from religion and make the Scheduled Caste net fully religion-neutral like that of the Scheduled Tribes.
Q: Then what’s your stand on the 1950 Order?
A: The Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 should be either deleted as per the recommendation of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission Report or at least amended suitably. The root-cause lies in the 1950 Order. So, unless and until an amendment is made, the Dalit Muslims, Dalit Christians and some others would continue to suffer. This Order surprisingly puts no bar upon Dalits belonging to other religions, including Christianity and Islam, who came into the fold of Hinduism. Any discrimination on the basis of religion is not justified.
Q: Any other worth-mention points of interest covered by the Justice Mishra Commission?
A: The Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission has also recommended reservation benefits to the Dalit Christians, Dalit Muslims and some other such groups. There should be now no doubt in the veracity of the claim for having the Dalit status to the persons following conversion into Christianity, Islam and some other religions, and getting the same benefits that Dalit Hindus enjoyed. The Mishra Commission has recommended 10 per cent quota for Muslims and 5 per cent quota for other backward minorities on the economic ground. He said the Commission has also made it clear if the provision of five per cent was not used fully or partially among the other minorities, it could be allotted to the Muslim community.
Q: It is said that the Mishra Commission Report was not unanimous?
A: It is not necessary that reports/ judgments should always be unanimous. There are several reports and judgments that have not been unanimous. However, it is true that the Mishra Report was not unanimous. There was a dissenting note by member-secretary Asha Das.
Q: What happened to the petition in this regard in the Supreme Court?
A: A petition by the “Centre for Public Interest Litigation” is pending before the Supreme Court. On July 19, the Supreme Court declined to pass any orders and adjourned the case for eight weeks to enable the Government to take a decision in the matter of extending benefits to the Dali Christians. On behalf of the said Centre, senior Counsel Shanti Bhushan submitted that the Government was not taking a decision on the issue despite the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) recommending reservation benefits to the Dalit Christians. His insistence was that the apex court should decide the petition because there was a Constitutional issue involved in it. The issue is still unsettled.
Q: What’s your next step?
A: Our DMCF has already begun a movement. In Delhi, it has held a demonstration last month. It is now spreading its movement to other parts of the country.