Time is ripe to declare Hindus as a ‘minority’ in states, where they don’t form a majority of population and also the State Minority Commissions are formed in all the states
Prashant Patel Umrao
The Constitution of India uses the word ‘minority’ or its plural form in some Articles viz Article 20 to 30 and 350A to 350B. The Constitution guarantees certain rights to minorities to protect their culture, script and languages, but it does not define the term ‘minority’. Though, there is no internationally agreed definition as to which groups constitute minorities. The UN Sub-Commissions in Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities define minority as a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state which possess and wish to preserve stable ethnic, religious or linguistic traditions.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘minority’ as a smaller group representing “less than half of the whole or predominant population”. The Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court defined it in TMA Pai Foundation case wherein the Court held that the unit for the purpose of determining the
minorities whether linguistic or religious should be the State, not the whole of India. This essentially means that
determination of minority has to be done on the basis of ‘a State as a unit’ i.e. State wise. Merely because Hindu community is numerically larger in
number at the national level, does not disqualify it to be notified as a minority for the purpose of a State.
Nine states in the country have not legislated State Minority Commission Act providing for a State Minority Commission to identify and notify minorities and to safeguard the interests of religious/linguistic minorities in the State. Consequentially, no community in these states has been identified and notified as State minority. But, benefits exclusively meant for the minority communities are being siphoned off to the majority communities in illegal and arbitrary manner. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have set up State Minorities Commissions also, but they have not identified minority at State level in spirit of the judgment of the Supreme Court.
It is duty of the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to identify the actual religious and linguistic minorities in spirit of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 and the Judgment of the Supreme Court and notify the ‘minority’ in spirit of the Article 25-30 by following the appropriate procedure, so that all the benefits available to minorities could be legally given to the actual minorities rather than un-qualified population.
PM’s Scheme Overlooked
Prime Minister’s 15 Points Programme/scheme meant for
religious and linguistic minorities is not being appropriately used, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Hindu’s legitimate share is being siphoned off arbitrarily to unqualified sections of the population, because of non-identification and non-notification of minorities at the State level.
The National Commission for Minorities has written to the Union Government to amend the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to make it applicable to Jammu & Kashmir. The denial of minority rights to the actual religious and linguistic minorities is a violation of fundamental rights of minority community and the provision of non-applicability of this Act to Jammu & Kashmir is invalid and violate Constitution and its basic structure.
Sardar Patel had clearly mentioned as Chairman of the Committee on Minorities in Constituent Assembly that all elections to the Central and Provincial Legislatures will be held on the basis of joint electorates and there shall be no statutory reservation of seats for the minorities in ‘Cabinets also’. He recommend that no special provision should be provided for the Sikhs other than the general
provisions already by the Assembly for certain minorities.
United Nations promulgated the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” on December 18, 1992 proclaiming that: “States shall protect the existence of the National or Ethnic, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic identity of minorities within their respective
territories and encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”
The notification by Central Government in 1993 notifying Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis as ‘minority’ is invalid and ultra-vires the Constitution and its basic structure. Government must exercise its power conferred by the National Commission of Minorities Act to declare Hindus as ‘minority’ for states, where they don’t form a majority of population and then Sate Minority Commission should be formed in remaining states.
(The writer is an advocate)