Secularism in India
Dr Bhagwati Prakash Sharma
Muslims and other religious minorities are being painted as backward to justify reservations and bestow other benefits upon them, as the Constitution of India, otherwise forbids discrimination among citizens except for the backward classes and the SCs and STs. Otherwise, as per NSS data, the Muslims in India have been securing fastest economic progress in the country, since last more than one and a half decades.
The political parties, pursuing fissiparous politics of communal appeasement in India have begun to harp on a farce lie that the Muslims and other religious minorities are very backward and falling behind the mainstream society out of persistent deprivation. To the contrary, the Muslims have secured fastest economic progress in terms of poverty alleviation in last more than one and a half decades. In terms of monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MCPE) also, their progress had been comparable with the Hindus and much better than SCs and STs.
The rate of decline in poverty per annum for the Muslims has been 2.8 per cent between 1993-04 to 2009-10, as against 2.4 per cent for Hindus and SCs, and 2.1 per cent among STs. However, the decline in poverty for the community has been much better in rural areas. It was 3.4 per cent, against 2.4 per cent for Hindus. The same was little lower to 1.8 per cent in urban areas. The period between 2004-05 to 2009-10 was the most productive in terms of poverty alleviation for other religious minorities and Muslims. The poverty for other religious minorities and the Muslims has come down by 6.3 per cent and, 5.8 per cent respectively vis a vis 4.0 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively for the Hindus and SCs and STs. Other religious minorities even have a better record of poverty reduction vis a vis Hindus in urban areas too. Likewise, the rate of growth of real monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) too had been three per cent for other religious minorities while for the Muslims and Hindus, it was 1.9 per cent per annum. For the SCs and STs it was 1.7 per cent per annum during the period of 1993-94 to 2009-10. These findings are revealed in a paper presented in a seminar at United Nations by Sukhdev Throat and Amaresh Dubey, based on the government data of the National Sample Survey Organisation compiled in the 3 rounds of survey conducted in 1993-94, 2003-04 and 2009-10.
The myth of backwardness of the minorities, further needs to be exposed, fully well. The acid tests of backwardness can be the level of nutrition, the consequent child and infant mortality rates, the level of self-employment amongst any community, financial inclusion by having a bank account or the level of literacy. Muslims have the lowest child and infant mortality rates of 25.4 and 58.8 per thousand while these rates are 32.4 and 77.1 for Hindus, 39.5 and 83 for SCs and 46.3 and 84.2 for STs, 29.3 and 76 for OBCs. Other religious minorities including Christians etc. have even lower child and infant mortality rates than Muslims. Nutritional status of women among Muslims, as reflected by mean height, percentage of women below 145 cm. and percentage of women with Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18.5 Kg/m is much better than SCs and STs as well as Hindus as a whole. Another very important attribute of being socially and economically empowered is self-employment, which is highest among Muslims in comparison with all other socio-religious groups of the country. Literacy among Muslim women is also comparable with other communities and better than SC and ST women. The literacy among Muslim males is also higher in comparison with the Hindus in 11 states (including union territories) and amongst women in 13 states (including UTs). From the point of view of financial inclusion, inspite of the Islamic belief that interest based system is un-Islamic, Muslims constitute 12 per cent of all account holders in Scheduled Commercial Banks.
In light of the aforesaid facts, the repeated assertions of the government appear to be a blatant lie that Muslims and other religious minorities are backward and further regressing fast. Rather, such false pronouncements of backwardness on communal basis, vivisect the society and pose serious threat, to the unity of minds and hearts of people of India.
The government’s actions aimed at appeasing the minorities, which comprise:- (i) showering of doles, worth thousands of billions of rupees under various heads and (ii) offering reservations in admissions and public employment, are absolutely unconstitutional and the governments at the centre and states, doling out the nation’s resources, unconstitutionally, for narrow political gains deserve impeachment. Indeed the Article 14 of the Constitution grants to all citizens of the country, the right to equality and Article 15 protects citizens against any discrimination, on the basis of religion caste, race and sex. Exemptions are granted under Articles 15(4) and 16(4) against the aforesaid rights of ‘equality’ and ‘protection against discrimination’ only for making special provisions and reservations for SCs, STs and backward classes alone. There is no mention of minorities either in articles 15(4) or 16(4) providing for the special provisions and reservations. The Articles 29 and 30, which deal with the minorities, merely provide for, for to the minorities, the right to preserve their language, script and culture and the right to establish and run educational institutions of their choice. In these articles, related to the minorities, neither there is any mention of provision for any special and preferential grants for preserving their language, script and culture or for the institutions established and run by them. Nor, there is any provision of reservations for minorities. Thus provisions of any special grants for minorities, from the exchequer are unconstitutional. Reservations are not permissible for minorities under the constitution, even in the institutions established and run by the minorities. If the constitution makers would have had any intention of permitting such reservations in the institutions established and run by the minorities, they could use the words in the Article 30(1)….. “shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions ‘for their wards’ or ‘for minority community students’ or ‘for them’. Instead the Article 30(1) reads as ….. “shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. So, reservations are not permitted for minorities, even in the minority run institutions and every citizen has equal right to seek admission in such minority run institutions as well, Rather, any such discrimination is prohibited in Article 29(2) dealing with minorities. The two Articles of the Constitution related to minorities are indeed clubbed under the heading Cultural and Educational Rights and read as under:
Article 29 “Protection of interest of minorities”:– (1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof a having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.
(2) No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
Article 30 “Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions”- (1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
(2) The state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
Thus, the only protection given to the minorities is to the extent that institutions under their management should not be discriminated in disbursing grants. Otherwise, the Articles 15(4) and 16(4), explicitly allowing the government to make special provisions and reservations in public employment respectively for SC, ST and backward classes against the right to equality and the right of protection against discrimination, has no mention of minorities. Likewise, under the Articles 29 and 30 (related to minorities), the minorities are given right to conserve their language, script and culture, as well as right to establish and run institutions of their choice, without any provision of preferential treatment in the matters of financial support or of reservation for minorities, even in the institutions run by them. Therefore, the billions and billions of rupees being poured as preferential support to minorities while discriminating against the mainstream society, attract impeachment of the governments for this discrimination and funds need to be recovered from the authorities sanctioning the grants, unconstitutionally.
Rather, the Justice Rangnath Mishra Commission appointed for Religious and Linguistic Minorities in 2004 and the National Commission for minorities established in 1993 by enacting an Act in 1992 were also ultravires the constitutional provisions. As the Constitution does not provide for appointment of such commissions for minorities. The Articles 338, 338 A and 340 provides for such commissions for SCs, STs and Backwards Classes. The part XVI of the Constitution providing for the scope for special provisions relating to certain classes do not mention for such provisions for minorities on the basis of religion. In the light of the aforesaid discussion, the financial benefits doled out of public money, upon the minorities are altogether in violation of the Constitution and deserve panel action in the way, the corruption cases of misappropriation of public funds are dealt with. Such misappropriation of funds, for minority appeasement leading to the communal vivisection of society is in hundreds of billions of rupees.
Learning lessons from the fissiparous policy of communal appeasement pursued in the pre-independence period ever since entering into the Lucknow Pact in 1916 and participation in Khilafat in 1919, which led to the tragic partition of the country, is most imperative today. It needs a reversal of policies of communal appeasement comprising the doles from exchequer for the minorities and reservations in admissions and public employment for them, and right to equality of citizens respected.