NOTArcotics Control Bureau Mumbai Zone Officer Sameer Wankhede is in trouble. He is an Indian Revenue Service officer in 2008 and has handled many high profile cases. Currently he is in the news because of the drug case involving Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan. Wankhede also faces corruption charges.
In India, an officer dealing with high-profile cases, facing corruption charges or being part of political conundrums is nothing new. The uniqueness of this case is a bit more personal. But as the saying goes, the personal is the politician.
Who is Sameer Wankhede?
In short, the story goes like this: A Mumbai policeman marries a Muslim woman. A boy was born, who grows up and performs nikah with a Muslim woman in accordance with Muslim personal law. The boy, in this case, is Sameer Wankhede, and the name inscribed on the nikahnama, made popular by the Maharashtra minister and leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Nawab malik, is Sameer Dawood Wankhede.
Now Nawab Malik says Sameer is the son of a Muslim man and practices Islam, so his listed caste (SC) certificate is illegal. As Wankhede used him to get a job in the government, he should be charged and, by law, lose his job. Malik also said that Wankhede took the job from someone who is in fact an SC.
Malik argues that by the rules Muslims cannot get SC certificates and because Wankhede is a Muslim his claiming SC status to get the job is an illegal act.
Read also: Now Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik says NCB’s Wankhede lied about religion to get IRS job
The 1950 Constitutional Ordinance – discriminatory against religions
Malik is in fact referring to the Constitutional Ordinance (Listed Castes) of 1950, paragraph three of which states that “no person who professes a religion other than the Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religion will be considered as a member of a listed caste” . Initially, the SC statute was intended only for those who profess Hinduism. The Order was amended in 1956 to include Sikhs and in 1990 to include Buddhists.
This was a decree notified in The Gazette of India on August 10, 1950. It is interesting to note that it was adopted just after the adoption of the Constitution, which does not impose any bars or religious conditions for be a member of the SC category. The term “listed castes” has been defined in Article 366 (24) and Article 341 (1) of the Constitution. Section 366 (24) states that âScheduled Castes means those castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within such castes, races or tribes which are considered under Section 341 to be Scheduled Castes for the purposes of this Constitution â. Further away, Article 341 (1) says: “The president … by public notification, specifies the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within the castes, races or tribes which, for the purposes of this Constitution, shall be considered as listed castes in relation to that state. or Union territory, as the case may be. “
Therefore, there is no doubt that putting a religious bar on SC status was an afterthought and the current controversy relates to the government decree of 1950. This decree remains in effect, if it is proven that Wankhede is a Muslim, so his SC certificate and using it to get a job in the government is illegal. In this scenario, it could be found to be false.
Read also: NCP’s Malik and NCB’s Wankhede continue to take their heads – now with extortion letter and caste evidence
CSs must include all eligible members
I would like to argue that because Sameer Wankhede’s family has faced untouchability in the past and his ancestors came from a discriminated community, he should be considered a member of the SC even though Malik’s claim is founded. Wankhede’s SC status should not be contingent on whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim. As the current rules, especially the Constitution Ordinance of 1950, will not allow this to happen, it should go away.
I advance five arguments in favor of my assertion:
1. Caste is a horizontal, ubiquitous social category. The caste status remains the same or at least similar even after changing religion. It is true that the caste hierarchy and untouchability have religious and textual sanctions only in Hinduism, while other religions and their holy books generally speak of equality before God and egalitarianism. However, in practice, followers of almost all South Asian religions practice castism in one form or another. Even the practice of untouchability is not unique to Hinduism. There are also âuntouchableâ communities in other religions, and they face similar types of discrimination and exclusion, but the state does not consider them worthy of the SC list. The ancestors of the Hindu outcasts may have migrated to other religions in search of salvation or to break free from caste discrimination, but they also found themselves among the weakest of those religions.
2. The Constitutional Ordinance of 1950 is an afterthought and goes against the idea of ââequality. It violates the provisions of fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15, 16 and 25 of the Constitution. The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of conscience and religious freedom as a fundamental right. Since there is a provision on the freedom to profess any religion or none in India, which is quite central to the idea of ââfreedom, conversion to another religion is also intrinsic to the same principle. Once a person has been included in the SC list, their voluntary change of religion should not affect their SC status. The Order actually says that if one is to continue to benefit from the reservation and other benefits and facilities provided to the SCs by the State, one must avoid the conversion. At best, one can convert to Sikhism and Buddhism, but if they convert to Islam or Christianity, the SC status disappears. This is in fact a provision aimed at preventing Hindu CSs from converting and therefore against the constitutional idea of ââthe freedom to profess a faith or religion.
3. An argument advanced in favor of the Order is that since Islam and Christianity profess equality, there can be no untouchability among their followers. Sikhism and Buddhism also do not recognize the caste system and untouchability. Despite this, the untouchable communities of both religions were given SC status by the order of 1950. In this context, denying SC status to untouchable Muslim and Christian communities is in fact an act of discrimination based on religion. which is contrary to the preamble of the Constitution.
4. If Muslims and Christians are included in the CBO and various BC lists, what is the reason for not including them in the SC list? One of the main criteria for including a community or social group in the OBC list is social backwardness. Caste identity is central to the decision of social backwardness. The inclusion of Muslim and Christian castes in the OBC list proves that the concept of castes is present in these religions. The untouchables Muslims and Christians are included in the lists of the CBO. For example, in Maharashtra list of the OBCs, entry no. 256 mentions: âBhangi / Mehtar / Lalbeg / Halalkhor / Khakrob Muslim religion, whose members are in fact in the profession of Safai Karamchari. These communities are there in the OBC lists of almost every state.
5. One of the arguments against including untouchable Muslim and Christian communities in the CS list is that it will be against the interests of Hindu / Sikh / Buddhist CSs. This is the most powerful and popular argument for the Constitution Ordinance of 1950. This argument is more political and has nothing to do with constitutional morality or the principle of justice and equity. However, the fear is unfounded because the SC quota is proportional to the total SC population. If new social groups are included in this category, the amount of the SC quota increases. If a government wants to give the SC quota to all the communities, it could think of giving it in the form of a sub-quota.
Read also: Punjab Dalits Change State Policy, Flock To Churches, Sing Chamar Pride
A hotly debated issue that requires a paradigm shift
The issue has been on the table for a long time. More than 10 related applications are pending before the Supreme Court and various high courts. It has also been raised several times in Parliament. Since 1990, when Buddhists were included in the 1950 Order, no government has ever attempted to disrupt the status quo. The Rangnath Mishra Commission appointed by the UPA government recommended a solution: net completely neutral on the religious level like that of the listed tribes.
However, the UPA government never acted on this recommendation. While it has never been easy to correct this historical error, it became even more difficult after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Center. It takes a paradigm shift in Indian politics to correct this historic error.
The author is the former editor of India Today Hindi magazine and has written books on media and sociology. He tweets @Profdilipmandal.
Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)
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