ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Dalit Christian/Dalit Muslim Challenge to the Rule Book

The Dalit Muslim/Dalit Christian opposition to the stipulation of religion in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950 is a critical chapter in the postcolonial history of India. In this article, it is argued that the state’s inability to grapple with this challenge is explicitly visible in its unreasonable insistence that caste inegalitarianism is an exclusive domain of the Hindus (or “Indics”) and conversion is an absolute material and ideational break from the past.

The authors would like to thank Pramod Mandade and Swapnil Gedam for their spirited discussions that helped shape some of the points in this article.

Beyond the Paternity of Caste

In August 2022, the Supreme Court asked the union government to res­pond to a bunch of petitions filed by Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims challenging the constitutional validity of paragraph three of the presidential ­order of 1950, which recognises Scheduled Castes (SCs) only among Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists.1 The union government was given three weeks to res­pond to these petitions, which have been pending for over 18 years. Against the backdrop of this development, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment set up a three-member committee to “study” the issue.2 However, the affidavit filed by the union government upheld the “egalitarian” nature of Christianity and Islam and stated that SCs who converted to these religions had altered their status and thus their claims of “backwardness arising out of untouchability” were unacceptable. In other words, the state’s formulaic, text-centric view of semitic religions disregarded the collective exp­e­riences of SC converts and their academic deliberations. This, however, is not a new story. Several governments in the past have shown great confidence in the “castelessness” of Christianity and Islam even when Christians, Muslims, and others have had contradicting experiences.

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Updated On : 8th Mar, 2023
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