Chennai: Job quotas and other benefits meant for Scheduled Castes must be extended to Dalits in all religions including Christianity, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said Friday.
She made the demand in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to bring in legislation to include all Scheduled Castes, regardless of religion, under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order of 1950.
"The social tensions over the unbalanced growth between the Hindu Scheduled Castes and Christian converts have only aggravated over time, and the sense of alienation amongst the minority communities has further deepened," she said.
She said the matter cannot be delayed further and Dalit Christians should be treated on par with Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.
The chief minister wanted the necessary legislation to be passed by the current session of parliament.
"The position of Scheduled Castes belonging to the minority religions is very similar to (those) professing Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism," she said.
"Yet, they are being unfairly kept out of the purview of the constitutional scheme of protection and reservation, Jayalalithaa said.
She said a sizeable population of Dalit Christians had been excluded from the centrally assisted welfare and ameliorative measures and the benefit of reservation in educational institutions and employment.
With about 24 million members, Christianity is the third largest religion in India. Christians constitute 2.3 percent of the Indian population.
The National Commission for Minorities had suggested in 2008 the extension of reservation benefits for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians.