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Reserved quotas for Christian and Muslim Dalits in Tamil Nadu

ICC Note: Good news from one state in India – the state government has agreed to treat Christian Dalits the same way they treat Hindu Dalits.

by Nirmala Carvalho

9/14/07 India (AsiaNews) – The government of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has decided after a long fight to extend reservation benefits to Muslim and Christian Dalits in public sector employment and education institutions, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announced yesterday. “The decision was taken to guarantee Dalits from these two communities the same benefits and privileges [available to other groups] as promised months ago,” he said. Starting September 15, these Muslim and Christian Dalits will be allotted a 3.5 per cent quota.

“On behalf of the Indian Bishops’ Conference I welcome this move,” said Fr Cosmon Arokiaraj, executive secretary of the Commission for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

“However, this should not distract our focus and struggle in obtaining constitutional reservations for our Dalit brothers and sisters from the Schedule Caste status” group, he told AsiaNews.

Non Hindu Dalits lost this status in 1950. Sikhs and Buddhists got it back later but Muslims and Christians are still waiting.

When last year’s budget was adopted, the government of Tamil Nadu said it would take concrete steps in favour of minorities; it also publicly urged the central government to do the same at the national level.

Indeed something seems to be moving in Delhi . Union (Federal) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned yesterday that “[w]e cannot discuss options endlessly. We need to work with a sense of urgency and work to fixed timelines if we have to see action on the ground.”