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The Union Social Justice Minister, Thavar Chand Gehlot, has made a public statement with regard to Dalit status for converts (which appeared in the TOI of October 10, 2014). The appeal is before the Supreme Court and while the Government is free to oppose the move to grant Dalit status for converts, it is up to the Judiciary to decide whether the demand is Constitutional or not. If extending the benefits of the Scheduled Castes to Sikhs and Buddhists is not against the Constitution, these benefits can surely be extended to Christians and Muslims. As citizens of India, we are all governed by the same Constitution.

 The alleged statement of the Minister that “allowing schedules castes status to converts would provide a fillip to religious conversions” is without foundation as conversion to the Christian faith is a matter of belief and not a matter of inducement. It would be well for us – Ministers and citizens alike – to remember that the Constitution was drawn up to safeguard the civil and religious rights of all.

 Bp Agnelo Gracias



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