Last week, this correspondent reported about a case from Uttarakhand where a Muslim woman successfully contested a Zila Panchayat seat in 2015 that was reserved for a person from a Scheduled Caste.
The woman was born in a Jaatav family in New Delhi and was named Kavita, but became Ashiya in 1997 after converting to Islam for marrying a Muslim man from Uttarakhand.
It was only after a five-year legal struggle by a Dalit organisation that her SC certificate was declared “not valid” by the State Caste Scrutiny Committee and she was suspended from the post.
This July, a first information report (FIR) was filed against her at Jwalapur police station in Haridwar.
No further action, however, has been taken by the police in the matter so far.
If this case hit a roadblock after the FIR, a similar case from Uttar Pradesh has not moved for the last two years even after a directive by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) to cancel the woman’s SC certificate and suspend her from the post.
The woman, Shakila, was born in a a Jaatav family in Bijnor district to parents Ramnath Singh and Bhagwan Deyi, but converted to Islam for marrying a Muslim man named Abdul Lateef from the same district.
In 2015, she successfully fought the Zila Panchayat poll from ward number 8 of Najibabad block in Bijnor, which is an SC-reserved seat. Shakila, 65, continues to hold the post.
The matter of Shakila fraudulently using her old caste status was first raised by her opponent, Manju, who wrote to the Bijnor superintendent of police (SP) and district magistrate (DM) to take action against Shakila.
When the authorities failed to act, a Dalit organisation named Vishwa Dalit Parishad took the case to the New Delhi-based National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
Manju’s complaint said that Shakila’s passport, issued to her in 2011, shows that she has been on Haj in Mecca after availing of the Haj subsidy by the Central government. It further said that the couple has a son named Yusuf, who married as per Muslim rites.
The complaint also said that Shakila, who is not an SC anymore after conversion to Islam, has usurped the rights of an SC woman over the Zila Panchayat seat.
In July, 2017, the commission acted on the complaint and issued notices to the Bijnor DM and SP.
A hearing was held at the commission’s New Delhi office the same year.
In the meeting, where Bijnor DM Jagatraj and Deputy SP Gajinder Pal Singh appeared, the commission objected to the DM’s reply that the caste certificate issued to Shakila in September 2015 was 'legitimate' and Manju’s application should be 'ignored' in light of the fact that she had not objected to Shakila’s name at the nomination stage.
The commission schooled the DM about the law, as it noted that the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) order, 1950, clearly states that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Castes”.
It is pertinent to mention here that in an affidavit to the DM, Shakila had admitted to having converted to Islam.
The commission further noted that “it appears that the caste certificate issued to Shakila should be cancelled” and that she should be suspended from the Zilla Panchayat post.
The commission also called for an FIR to be registered against the officials who issued the caste certificate to Shakila.
Shakila’s SC certificate was signed by one Khan Rashid Ali as seen below:
It also came to light during the probe that Shakila had got two votes made in her name in the 2015 polls. In the voter list, her name is mentioned twice — as Shakuntala (her previous name) and Shakila.
Bhupendra Pal Singh, president of the Dalit organisation, told this correspondent that in further hearings, the commission again directed the authorities to cancel Shakila’s election and her SC certificate.
However, he says, the authorities have been simply sitting on the directive.
“Till date, no action has been taken. We have been sending repeated reminders to the authorities, but they are doing nothing,” says Singh.
Singh says that through his organisation, he has taken up more than a dozen such cases where women, who are born in SC families, convert to Islam for marriage but continue to fraudulently take benefits reserved for Scheduled Castes.
“This is in gross violation of the Constitution,” he says.
Singh says that he has repeatedly observed that the authorities show prompt action in cases where Hindus get fake SC certificates but hesitate to act when culprits are Muslims.
Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.
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