By Charti Lal Goel
In a democracy power of ballot in the hands of a voter is as great as of a bullet in the hands of a soldier in the battle field. A soldier on the front is required to use his bullet against the enemy to defend the country and the voter is also supposed to exercise his ballot in the best governance of the country.
The Constitution not only guarantees a person personal freedom of religion and conscience, but also economic freedom even for one who has no religion, and it scrupulously restrains the State from making any discrimination on grounds of religion. A single and common citizenship is assured to all persons irrespective of their religious pursuits.
Dr. Radhakrishnan, former President of India, has, in his book Recovery of Faith (page 144) while explaining secularism in this country commented, “we hold that not one religion should be given preferential status ?. This view of religious importance or comprehension and forbearance, has a prophetic role to play within the national and international life.” Obviously, the body of our Constitution should be homogeneously secular. The main thrust of the secular Constitution is expected to ensure that every citizen shall enjoy equal rights, and without any distinction of any community being in majority or minority. The state is prohibited to give any preferential treatment to any citizen or group on the basis of religion. Article 15 & 16 of the Constitution provide, ?The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.?
Ignoring the scope and essence of secularism, our Constitution makers have unfortunately sown the seeds of communalism and minorityism in the Constitution itself by enacting Article 29 and 30 giving preferential and discriminatory rights to minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions.
Ignoring the scope and essence of secularism, our Constitution makers have unfortunately sown the seeds of communalism and minorityism in the Constitution itself by enacting Article 29 and 30 giving preferential and discriminatory rights to minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions. It is not understood as to what harm would have been done to the minorities, or the nation, if this very right had also been given to the followers of all religions and languages, etc. Article 29 and 30 should have been made applicable for all religions and citizens alike, and not for minorities only.
The concept of minorityism is generally sought to be justified with an argument of protection of minorities. Protection from whom, the State or the people? This argument itself is creating a feeling of distrust in the minds of the minorities against the so called majority community. This argument sows the seeds of disunity and hatred. At the same time it gives a feeling of being second class citizens and inferiority complex in the minority communities. This is the root cause of social disharmony. There is always a talk of bringing every citizen of the country into the mainstream, but, reality is that this unnecessary concept of minorityism is taking certain religious communities away from the mainstream of our society. It is common knowledge that political parties of all colours are attempting to develop and extend this concept of minorityism or communalism to every possible sphere of public life in their zeal to get their vote. That results in frequent announcements of reservations in admissions in educational institutions, municipal bodies and legislatures, proposing establishment of Muslim banks, minority financial commission, and minority human rights commission, as if human rights of minorities are different those of from other citizens. One political party creates a Muslim university, the other openly proposes a Muslim chief minister during elections, and, has by his side on stage a picture of Osama bin-Laden to attract Muslim vote foolishly implying that all Muslims adore the terrorist. Political parties are in the race of telling the minorities that they, and nobody else, are their protectors. This communalism is being practised openly and blatantly in the name of secularism. This is bound to have a reaction and serious repercussions on the other side resulting in social disharmony, disunity and unrest in the country.
Now this poison of minorityism is spreading to various sects of the so called majority community of Hindus. The Jains, the Buddhists, Arya Samajis, and Ramakrishna Missionites, are all claiming status of minority community. The liberal trends of Hinduism have hundreds of ways of worship, and non-worship. All of them seem to be attempting to claim and enjoy these discriminatory rights of being minority community. Where will this divide end? Some have even knocked the door of the highest Court of Law praying to allow them to join this process of disintegration and disunity and be declared as a minority.
Apprehending dangers of this trend of separatism the hon?ble Supreme Court, in a recent judgment, rejected the claim of the Jains to be recognised as a separate minority community. The Apex Court observed, ?all minority commissions should suggest way of creating social conditions under which the list of notified minorities is gradually reduced and ultimately done away with all together.? Implicitly, the hon?ble Supreme Court has warned the nation of the perils of another Partition on the basis of religion if the tendency of recognition to minorityism is not checked.
It was the British who, in order to strengthen and stabilise their political power, encouraged minorityism in our country by telling minorities that they needed more rights to be protected from the majority community. Demands were met and more demands followed. Ultimately it ended in Partition of the country, resulting in unprecedented loss of life and property. Painful scars exist even today.
It would be in our national interest if the truly secular character of our Constitution is preserved by amending Articles 29 and 30 to read ?followers of all religions? in place of the expression ?minorities?.
(The writer is former speaker of Delhi Vidhan Sabha, and Chairman of the ?National Voters Council.)