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UP: Shakuntala became Shakila after marrying Abdul Lateef, availed Haj subsidy, yet won panchayat poll from SC seat & officials upheld her caste certificate, now cancelled

The DP and SP said that Shakila’s caste certificate issued in 2011 is valid even though she had already became Muslim and visited Mecca on Haj before that. But But the District Level Caste Scrutiny Committee ruled that all evidence establishes Shakila’s conversion to Islam and she has violated the Constitution

In Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, a district-level monitoring committee led by the district magistrate (DM) revoked the Scheduled Caste (SC) certificate of a woman named Shakuntala on the 3rd of June, who previously ran for Zilla Panchayat elections from a reserved seat despite converting to Islam many years ago, Swarajya reported.

It is pertinent to note that according to the Indian constitution, any person born as in Scheduled Caste is not eligible to receive caste-related benefits after converting to Islam or Christianity. “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Castes,” Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, under Article 341 states.

Shakuntala was born into a Hindu Dalit family of Jaatav caste in Bijnor to Ramnath Singh and Bhagwan Deyi. Following the death of her first husband belonging Jaatav caste, Shakuntala married Abdul Lateef, a Bijnor native in 1983. Shakuntala changed her name to Shakila after marrying Abdul Lateef.

In her report, Swarajya journalist Swati Goel Sharma said that Shakila won the zila panchayat election in 2015 from Ward 8 of the Najibabad block in Bijnor, which is an SC-reserved seat. The caste certificate she provided with her nomination was generated in 2011 and signed by one Khan Rashid Ali.

Copy of Shakila’s caste certificate (Source: Swarajya)

Shakila’s opponent in the election, Manju, raised the issue of Shakila’s religious identity and requested that the Bijnor superintendent of police and district magistrate (DM) take action against her. After the authorities took no action, the Vishwa Dalit Parishad, a Dalit organisation, raised the matter with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in New Delhi.

In her complaint, Manju stated that Shakila’s passport, granted to her in 2011, proved that she went on Haj in Mecca after receiving the central government’s Haj subsidy, confirming her Muslim identity. The complaint further stated that Shakila and Abdul Lateef have a son named Yusuf, who married according to Islamic traditions. In her complaint, Manju further claimed that Shakila, who is no longer a Dalit, had an SC woman’s right to a reserved Zilla Panchayat seat.

In July 2017, the commission issued notices to the then-Bijnor DM Jagatraj and SP for a response. The same year, DM Jagatraj and Deputy SP Gajinder Pal Singh appeared in a hearing at the commission’s New Delhi office. The then-Bijnor DM told the commission that Manju’s complaint should be ignored because Shakila’s caste certificate issued in September 2015 was “legitimate” and Manju had not opposed Shakila’s name during the nomination process.

The commission, however, opined that Shakila’s caste certificate should be cancelled in addition, she should be suspended from the Zilla Panchayat post. Moreover, the commission said that an FIR should be registered against the officials who issued the caste certificate to Shakila. However, the Swarajya report says that no action has been taken against those officials to date.

Minutes of the meeting of an NCSC hearing in 2017 (Source: Swarajya)

The case was referred to the District Level Caste Scrutiny Committee, a government organisation in charge of verifying caste certificates and cancelling those that had been granted wrongly.

On the 3rd of June, the final hearing on the matter was held and the committee cancelled the caste certificate, citing Paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, under Article 341. “The order states that all evidence establishes Shakila’s conversion to Islam and she has violated the Constitution,” Swarajya reported.

During the probe, it also emerged that Shakila had two votes registered in her name in the 2015 elections. In the voter list, her name appears twice, Shakuntala (her original name) and Shakila. Bhupendra of the Vishwa Dalit Parishad told Swati Goel Sharma that his organisation will now try to get an FIR filed against Shakila for using a forged document to obtain a government position meant for a person belonging to the Dalit community.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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