29 Jul Minority in India – issue and solutions
Article 29 and 30 of the constitution guarantees protection to the social and educational rights of minorities like their culture, script and language. But the constitution has not defined or identified any of the linguistic and religious minorities, per se.
Supreme Court Judgement:
- S.C. in N. Ammad vs The Manager, Emjay High School, had held that minority status is a matter of fact and does not require state recognition.
- S.C. in TMA Pai foundation vs state of Karnataka held that sates are the unit for the determining the status of minority, not the whole of India.
- Later on, parliament passed the National Commission for Minorities Act, which enables the central Government to identify minority at national level through a notification under the act.
Recognition by Government of India:
Accordingly, Government of India has notified Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians as minorities. Also, as per the Judgement of SC, Hindus are to be considered as minorities in seven states. However, none of the 7 states have notified Hindus as minority.
Bal Patil case 2003:
SC while refusing recognition of the Jains as a religious minority, said that the ideal of right of equality in a democratic society means the elimination of majority and minority and so-called forward and backward classes.
- However, prof. Faizal Mustafa (Vice-Chancellor, NALSAR University) has argued that it is one of the most backward judgement itself, as it doesn’t give due recognition to the Multicultural space of the society. He further adds that Religion is still the alpha and omega of Indian life.
- He argues that the Article 25 (freedom of conscience), Right to privacy, right to dignified life etc essentially gives freedom to establish a new religion or come out of a particular religion [in context of Lingayatas demand]. He further supports his argument by supreme court judgement in R P Gandhi v. State of Bombay (1954), in which Supreme Court had admitted that “every person has fundamental right to entertain such religious beliefs as may be approved by his conscience.”
Assertion by Pratap Bhanu Mehta:
While identities matter as source of confidence, sense of security, but when they are carelessly ascribed, they become inimical to freedom, as visible by communalism, riots and violence.
So basically, everyone in India has the potential to be recognised as a minority in one State or another because as per the Supreme Court religious and linguistic minorities are “State-dependent.”
- In Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur, adherents of Judaism, Baha’i, and Hinduism are unable to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice due to a lack of “minority” status at the state level, endangering their fundamental rights protected by Articles 29 and 30.
Haj Subsidy Issue:
The policy to support Muslims in making the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was done by British through Port Haj Committees Act 1932.
- In the ensuing decades, the Act has undergone numerous changes and now the Haj subsidy refers to discounted airfares given by the government-owned airlines, Air India.
- In 2012, a Supreme Court order directed the Haj subsidy to be gradually phased out.
- In 2017, a Central Haj Committee meeting decided to do away with the subsidy by the following year.
- Finally, the government has abolished the subsidy being given to Haj pilgrims every year. The government said it will use the subsidy funds to empower the minorities.
- Monopoly of Air India, benefiting the airlines far more than the pilgrims.
- Some of the political parties have also called the subsidy as minority appeasement.
- A secular state must not fund religious endeavors.
What are the other religious pilgrimages that are offered government subsidy in India?
The Haj is not the only religious pilgrimage being funded by the State. For instance, the state and central governments spend considerable amounts on the pilgrim facilities at the four Kumbh melas. The Kailash Manasarovar yatra from North India to the mountains of Tibet is yet another pilgrimage which is organised by the government.
Thus, it is evident in India recognition of the rights of minority is very disputed topic. It has various upsides and downsides. As emphasized by Sachar Committee, on the one hand minority assistance by state is called as “appeasement”; on the other the minority is tagged as anti-national. However, keeping Gandhi at the core, we should try to achieve and balance and work towards, the upliftment of all (Sarvodaya).