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UF squirms as it fails to keep word to Dalit Christians - The Economic Times

Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
23 November 1996

Title : UF squirms as it fails to keep word to Dalit Christians
Author :
Publication : The Economic Times
Date : November 23, 1996

The United Front finds itself cornered in the same way as
the previous Congress(I) regime on its promise to extend
reservations in government jobs to Dalit Christians.

The National Coordination Committee for Dalit Christians
to day charged the Gowda government with betrayal after
the prime minister failed to reiterate his stand at
Thursday's Dalit rally in the capital.

In fact, the list of business for the Parliament makes no
mention of bringing in such a bill as the government has
realised that it cannot easily extend reservations. The
committee today announced its decision to march to Par-
liament Houses on November 27 to submit a memorandum to
the prime minister reminding him of the pledge made to
Dalit Christians.

The problem between making a promise and implementing it
was revealed after the Gowda government found itself
faced with the Supreme Court limit on quota. The Dalit
Christians, numbering 1.5 per cent of the population have
demanded corresponding reservation.

But the government, after announcing its commitment to
extend the quota, despite strong objections from the BJP
that such a step would be at the cost of the Hindu sched-
uled castes, finds that it cannot deliver without dis-
turbing either the OBCs or Dalits of their quota.

Another problem staring at the prime minister was the
fact that in South India, Dalit Christians have benefited
from reservations since they fall under the category of
Other Backward Castes. In order to get the benefit quota
in Central government services, the government cannot
disturb either the OBCs or scheduled castes and tribes.

It cannot raise the limit because of the apex court
judgement in the matter. Therefore, it has either to
accommodate the Dalit Christians within the already
available quota or mull over it. In the race of oneupman-
ship, the UF government did not want to stay behind the

The Rao government, which made such a promise a few
months before the Parliament elections, faced a similar
dilemma. But the UF government, instead of learning from
the mistake repeated it and now cannot implement it.

The BJP, has already made known its strong opposition to
such a move. Its leaders allege that having converted
themselves to Christianity, they ceased to remain Dalits
and hence, should not be given any sop. Moreover, it has
raised the issue of Hindu Dalits versus their Christian
counterparts and warned against any step that would
disturb the prevalent system.

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