With the Muslim and Christian conversions taking place frequently in India, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took to clarifying a few issues regarding conversions and Hindus. Hindus who were earlier availing the benefits as a Scheduled Caste reservation benefit cannot be utilized if a person converts to Islam or Christian. With the law taking its course in the matter, Ravi Shankar Prasad made it clear in the Parliament that, in compliance with the Constitution of India and the Indian Legislation, Hindus eligible for reserve benefits such as those of Scheduled Castes cannot benefit from the same benefits if they are converted to Christianity or Islam. On the contrary, those converting to Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist religions can avail themselves the benefits
Clarifying on the qualifications of candidates from reserved electoral districts, the Minister said, “Para 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) The order specifies that… No one who professes a religion other than the Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist faiths shall be considered a member of the Scheduled Caste.”
The minister said this in response to a query asked by BJP member G V L Narasimha Rao.
In 1950, the Nehru government passed an order limiting the concept of “scheduled caste” to members of the Hindu community, which was later applied to the Sikhs in 1956 and to the Buddhists in 1990. Previously, the Supreme Court has ruled that the caste gains apply exclusively to the Indic communities.
“Once such a person ceases to be a Hindu and becomes a Christian, the social and economic handicaps caused by the Hindu religion cease to exist and, therefore, it is no longer necessary to protect him and, for this reason, he is deemed not to belong to the caste,” the Court said in a decision in 2015.
The Court also held that a person whose ancestors belonged to a caste classified as a scheduled caste, if and when he returns from Christianity or Islam to the Indic faiths, would be entitled to a reservation benefit.
In fact, the restriction referred to above is easily circumvented. For example, in September 2020, the Legal Rights Defense Forum found that 70 per cent of Christian pastors in Andhra Pradesh, granted a one-time award of Rs 5,000 by the government, had a bogus Scheduled Caste or Over Backward Caste certificate.