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For the record: What Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar said on quota for minorities

What Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar said on quota for minorities.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: November 3, 2015 12:50:46 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in Bihar.

NARENDRA MODI: At an election meeting in Gopalganj on October 30, the Prime Minister said: “…Now I say in public, [on] 25 August 2005, inside Parliament, in the temple of India’s democracy, Shri Nitish Babu, had made his intentions clear. I had charged that all these people want to steal 5 per cent reservation from Dalits, steal 5 per cent from adivasis, steal 5 per cent from EBCs, steal 5 per cent from OBCs. The makers of India’s Constitution had said no to religion-based reservation, but these people want to steal it from Dalits, and Mahadalits, and EBCs, and OBCs, and give it on the basis of religion. When I said this, they got agitated. But I have today his speech of August 24. I have that document (dastavez). He had said exactly this. Reservation from Dalits, Mahadalits, adivasis, OBCs, EBCs should be taken out and given on the basis of religion. I challenge him. Himmat hai to jawab dein. You too must ask them for answers.”

The Prime Minister was obviously alluding to a speech by Nitish Kumar during an impromptu discussion in Lok Sabha on “Supreme Court observations on state quota and reservation policy in unaided private professional colleges” on August 24, 2005. The discussion was triggered by observations made by Justice R C Lahoti of the apex court.

NITISH KUMAR: Nitish, who was then in alliance with the BJP, had said: “…In this country, conversion does not change the caste of a particular person. It has also been said by Bapuji… The issue is concerned with our Christian as well as Muslim brethren. Like there are Scheduled Castes in Hindu religion, in Muslim religion too there are similar castes but they do not get the benefits of Scheduled Castes, which is unjust. They have been victimised from every angle. They pursue a uniform vocation. So, there are equivalent castes in Muslim society as well… So, I would like to submit that the Dalit castes among the Muslims should also be included in the list of Scheduled Castes. This is an issue that must be addressed.

“…I would like to reiterate that religious conversion does not change the caste status of a person. All are aware how the population of Muslims and Christians has registered an increase in the country. It is on account of conversion. In such a situation, their original castes do not change. Whether they convert to Christianity or Islam, they are neglected everywhere and their social staus does not change… Mr Speaker Sir, this should not be confined to any particular religion. It is a question of faith. The government should take the initiative to move a legislation for providing Scheduled Caste status to those castes in Muslim society who deserve to be declared as Scheduled Castes…”

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In its August 25, 2005 edition, The Indian Express reported that Nitish had held forth despite protests by BJP members. Speaking ahead of him, BJP deputy leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra had defended the right of Parliament to enact laws to ensure “social justice”. He had, however, maintained that legislature too should avoid making laws that go against the Constitution, and cited “religion-based reservations” as an example.

According to Lok Sabha records, Nitish had said: “Some of my friends are objecting to it. This is a question of principles and of ideology and I repose faith in the ideology which is alent to them… Someone from the other side said that I am saying so to attract the vote bank. Excuse me, they might be doing so for that purpose.”

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