Updated: March 31, 2015 3:29:57 am
The Punjab State Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Commission, headed by an old RSS hand, has given a new push to its exercise to determine Christians and Muslims holding “illegal” Scheduled Caste certificates in the state, which enables them to avail benefits meant for SCs.
“We are holding awareness drives in colleges, panchayats and municipal councils where we encourage people from SC communities to complain about ineligible people cornering benefits meant for them,” Rajesh Bagga, the chairman of the commission, told The Indian Express. He claimed that 14-15 FIRs have been registered against “Christians carrying fraudulent certificates”.
The drive falls in neatly with the RSS’s ‘ghar wapsi’ programme, much to the discomfiture of BJP partner Akali Dal. One of the main attractions the programme offers lower-caste Christians and Muslims is that they can avail of SC benefits if they “re-convert” to Hinduism and Sikhism. RSS volunteers say they refrain from conducting the ‘ghar wapsi’ ceremony until documents to get “re-converts” the certificate are not complete.
A Supreme Court judgment in February that a person who “re-converts” from Christianity to Hinduism can avail of reservation benefits if his forefathers were SCs and the community accepts him after reconversion has also come in handy.
“The Christians and Muslims availing of reservation benefits are being booked for cheating and their certificates are being cancelled to send the message that the practice will not be tolerated anymore as it does not have the sanction of the law,” says Bagga.
He claims they are getting help from “like-minded” social and religious organisations, as well as associate organisations such as the State Welfare Department. A state-level welfare committee formed last year looks at complaints coming in from districts about people holding “fraudulent certificates” for appropriate action.
Officials who issued the “fraudulent” certificates are also under the commission’s focus for disciplinary action.
Apart from RSS outfits, the Shiv Sena is also collecting data from districts where Christians are in substantial numbers to find out those holding SC certificates.
The Akali Dal, which has spoken up against ghar wapsi and “forcible conversion or re-conversion”, would not like this focus on Christians. In the past few years, Christians in border areas have shifted their allegiance to the party instead of the Congress.
Bagga, who is originally from the RSS, took charge of the Punjab State Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Commission in 2012.
Soon after, in the first such decision under him, the panel cancelled the SC certificate of Mohammed Sadiq, a Congress legislator from Bhadaur, who had contested the Assembly election from a reserved constituency. The matter is currently in court as Sadiq’s election had earlier been challenged on the same grounds.
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