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Marginalisation Through Empowerment: The Policy of Reservation for the Scheduled Castes in India


· Padmanabh Samarendra Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (New Delhi, India)


07/28 | 16:10-16:30 UTC+2/CEST


The constitution of India has reserved 15% of the vacancies in state-supported organizations for the members of scheduled castes. Outlining the eligibility, The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950', mentions: no person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste'. Subsequently, two amendments were made, in 1956 and 1990, making Sikhs and Buddhists also eligible. However, Muslims and Christians are still ineligible to be considered as members of a scheduled caste.

The presence of caste among Muslims and Christians is recorded in numerous academic researches. The reports prepared by the state - the Sachar Committee Report (2006) and the Ranganath Misra Commission Report (2007) - also attest to the same fact. And yet, the laws of scheduled castes' reservation appear to discriminate on the ground of religion: providing benefits, for instance, to the members of the Hindu barber caste while denying the same to those of Muslim barber caste.

How does a policy of reservation, framed ostensibly to empower, actually operate to exclude and marginalise certain communities? This paper would argue that the exclusion of Muslims and Christians ensues from the assumption that caste exists only among the Hindus. The assumption, produced initially under the influence of Orientalism, was subsequently reformulated with the help of Anthropology in the course of the Census operations in colonial India. Its presence in the constitution reveals continuing colonial linkages and puts under doubt the liberal claim of equality of religion.