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Friday, January 25, 2008

SC: Are there castes among Muslims?

26 Jan 2008, 0124 hrs IST,Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN

NEW DELHI: After Christian groups, a Muslim organisation has joined the quota race by challenging in Supreme Court validity of the 1950 Presidential Order limiting reservations to scheduled castes in Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, and sought reservation benefit for Dalit Muslims.

Though both Christianity and Islam prohibit practice of caste-system and consider everyone equal, the petitioners have hinged their demand on the recommendations of central government appointed commissions headed by Justice Ranganath Misra and Justice Rajinder Sachar.

A PIL filed by Akhil Maharashtra Muslim Khatik Samaj on Friday stated that there were Dalits within Muslim community who needed reservation, a benefit extended to similarly placed persons in Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

The petitioner said though Hindu Khatiks (those who slaughter animals) were included in the SC category, the Muslim Khatiks were not, despite being in the same social strata and facing similar discrimination. Muslim Khatiks are generally considered as 'Ajlaf' (the base strata of society), it said.

Though the Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on the issue, it asked the petitioner whether Islam permitted caste-system.

"Since when have the Muslims have started following caste-system? It is surprising. We thought that it had only rich and poor divide. The assertion that caste system is practised in Islam and that certain sections need reservation is new to us," the Bench said.

Referring to the strict dictats of Quran prohibiting practice of any forms of caste system within Islam, Justice Balakrishnan said there was no such discrimination on the basis of caste among Muslims in Kerala, his home state.
On Tuesday, the apex court had given six weeks time to the Centre to file its response to similar petitions filed by Christian organisations and individuals seeking extension of reservation benefit to Dalits within their community.

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