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TN Government to Consider SC Status for Muslim Converts

Schedule Caste members who have converted to Islam will be considered for reservation benefits on par with their Hindu counterparts, said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on the floor of the State Assembly on Thursday.

Stalin was responding to a question raised by M.H. Jawaharullah, MLA and head of MMK party. Jawahirullah had flagged the denial of reservation to the members of the most backward communities including Schedule Caste who have converted to Islam.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said that the state government would consult legal experts to consider the request to extend reservation to the backward communities who have converted to Islam. He said that safeguarding the interests of all such backward social groups is of paramount importance for the Nation’s overall development.

Following the example of the actions taken for the “Adi Dravidar,” “Backward Class,” “Most Backward Class,” and “denotified communities,” the Chief Minister’s response on considering SC Benefits for Muslims Converts shows a proactive stance by the Stalin government to ensure equitable opportunities for all marginalized sections, while safeguarding their interests.

The development unfolds, despite the Union Government opposing reservation benefits to Dalits who have accepted Christianity and Islam.

Speaking earlier on this topic, M.H. Jawahirullah, MLA and MMK leader, said that individuals who have converted to Islam are classified as “others” by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission when applying for government jobs. “However, Christians who have been converted are not subject to such restrictions,” M. H. Jawahirullah said.

The MMK leader referenced numerous High Court and Supreme Court judgements regarding the unaltered socio-economic status of Muslims who have converted from other faiths, highlighting their continued struggle at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Here, the case of Mohammad Sadiq, a folk singer from Punjab, India, serves as a pertinent example. Sadiq, who converted to Islam, won the 2016 Lok Sabha election for the reserved Faridkot constituency, igniting a debate over the denial of reservation benefits to converts.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court annulled Sadiq’s electoral victory, stating that he is a Muslim and thus does not belong to a Scheduled Caste. However, the case of Mohammad Sadiq stands as a unique case.

Originally belonging to the ‘Doam’ Scheduled Caste, Sadiq was raised in a Muslim household before converting to Sikhism in 2006, when his fortune gained prominence. However, he continued to maintain his Muslim identity.

Sadiq contended that his conversion to Sikhism, which is constitutionally recognized under Hinduism, entitles him to the reservation benefits designated for SC-reserved constituencies.

The Supreme Court, reviewing Sadiq’s case, reversed the 2016 High Court decision, saying that “a person can change his religion but he cannot change his caste because caste is linked to his birth and cannot be changed.”

The Supreme Court judgment highlighted discrimination faced by individuals who convert to different faiths, challenging their exclusion from various social justice measures.

The DMK government’s recent initiative to extend reservation benefits to Scheduled Castes converting to Islam has ignited a national conversation on incorporating converts into reservation frameworks.

The central government’s stance against providing reservation benefits to converts to Abrahamic religions—maintaining that reservations are intended solely for Hindus—has been met with resistance from various state governments, who oppose the vision of social exclusion of the communities who have converted their faith.

These states challenge the central government’s exclusionary policies, advocating for broader social inclusion and equality.

Thus, a new development in Tamilnadu marks a significant clash between the votaries of social inclusiveness and those who vouch for exclusive Hindu society, pushing out the ‘others’ from the development trajectory of India.

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