- The National Commission for Minorities Act defines a minority as “a community notified as such by the Central government.” The term “minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises religious and linguistic minorities.
- As per TMA Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka case in the Supreme Court, a minority either linguistic or religious is determinable only by reference to the demography of the State and not by taking into consideration the population of the country as a whole.
- When we discuss the term minorities we should not limit ourselves to religious minorities. Linguistic minorities, transgender etc are also considered minorities in the larger socio-political framework.
- The following communities have been notified as minority communities by the Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs;
- Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
- Across the globe, the anti-immigrant/ anti-minority sentiments are on the rise.
- The shooter responsible for the massacre at “El Paso” claimed to have been troubled by minorities gaining more power after alleged unregulated immigration.
- Europe has also witnessed a few anti-minority hate crimes. A same-sex couple was attacked in London recently while they were travelling on the bus. Brexit campaign in the UK also had strong anti-immigration messages.
- The rising civil unrest and conflicts in many parts of the world are causing a rise in refugees. Climate change has also forced a large section of the population to seek shelter in other countries.
- But when such refugees reach relatively safe countries they are targeted for their religion, race, ethnicity etc.
Geographic spread of minorities in India
- As per the Census 2011, the percentage of minorities in the country is about 19.3% of the total population of the country.
- The population of Muslims are 14.2%; Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.7%, Buddhists 0.7%, Jain 0.4% and Parsis 0.006%.
- In rural India during 2009-10, 11 per cent of households followed Islam with about 12 per cent of the population. Christianity was followed by around 2 per cent of the households constituting about 2 per cent of the population. In urban areas, the percentages of households and population following Islam were about 13 and 16 and following Christianity were about 3 and 3, respectively.
- Government of India has also forwarded a list of 121 minority concentration districts having at least 25% minority population, excluding those States / UTs where minorities are in majority (J & K, Punjab, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep).
Socio-economic status of minorities in India
According to 66th round of NSS,
- The sex-ratio for Muslims in both rural and urban areas showed a decline between 2004-05 and 2009-10; however those corresponding to Christians showed an improvement during this period.
- The average household size, in both rural and urban areas, for Muslims was higher than those of other religious groups, and the average household size was the lowest among Christians. The household size in rural areas was higher than that of urban areas for each of the religious groups.
- In rural areas, self-employment was the mainstay for all the religious groups. The proportion of households with major income from self-employed in agriculture was the highest among Sikh households (about 36 per cent). The proportion of households belonging to the household type rural labour was the highest among Muslims (about 41 per cent). In urban India, the proportion of households with major source of earnings as self-employment was highest for Muslims (46 per cent). The major source of earnings from regular wage/salaried was the highest for Christians households (43 per cent) in urban areas.
- Among all the land possessed classes, in rural areas, proportion of households belonging to the land possessed class ‘0.005-0.40’ hectare was the highest for all the major religious groups, which was more than 40 per cent.
- About 43 per cent of Christian households and 38 per cent of Muslim households cultivated more than or equal to 0.001 hectare of land but less than 1.00 hectare of land. The proportion of households cultivating more than 4.00 hectares of land was the highest for Sikhs (6 per cent), followed by Hindus (3 per cent).
- For both rural and urban India, average Monthly per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) was the highest for Sikh households followed by Christians. At the all-India level, the average MPCE of Sikh household was Rs. 1659 while that for Muslim household was Rs. 980.
- The literacy rate among persons of age 15 years and above was the highest for Christians, for both the sexes in rural and urban areas. The proportion of persons of age 15 years and above with educational level secondary and above was the highest for Christians, followed by Sikhs.
- The current attendance rates in educational institutions were higher among males than females and also higher in urban areas than in rural areas. The current attendance rates in educational institutions among persons of age 0-29 years were the highest among Christians for rural males, rural females, urban males and urban females.
- The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for male was much higher than female for all religious groups – the differential being greater in urban areas. The male-female differential in LFPR was the lowest among Christians. The LFPR for rural male, rural female and urban female was the highest for Christians while that for urban male was the highest for Sikhs.
- Work Participation Rate (WPR) for male was much higher than female for all the religious groups – the differential being greater in the urban areas. The male-female differential in WPR was the lowest among Christians.
- In rural areas, majority of male workers belonged to the categories not literate (28 per cent) or literate and up to primary (28 per cent) while majority of female workers belonged to the category not literate (59 per cent). The proportion of male workers with general education level secondary & above was the highest for Christians (32 per cent), followed by Sikhs (30 per cent). In urban areas, majority of male workers belonged to the education category level secondary & above (52 per cent). Among urban males, proportion of workers with level of education secondary & above was 58 per cent each for Christians and Sikhs whereas those were 30 per cent for Muslims.
- The unemployment rate in rural areas is less than that of urban areas. In rural areas, during 2009-10, unemployment rate was the highest for Christians for both males (3 per cent) and females (6 per cent). In urban areas, unemployment rate was the highest for Sikhs for both males (6 per cent) and females (8 per cent).
Importance of recognition of rights of minorities
- The Indian socio-economic fabric is very complex because it is much affected by caste, religion and all the more regional / linguistic differentials.
- At the same time, the Indian economic, social and political institutions which are persisting since centuries have a historical basis
- These factors have given a unique character to Indian society. It has become a conglomeration of various layers and segments divided and sub-divided.
- The visionary framers of the Constitution were conscious of the insecurities of the minorities and, therefore, provided them the right to propagate and practise their religion freely, and assured protection to their places of worship.
- Mahatma Gandhi went to the extent of saying that the claim of a country to be civilised depends on the way it treats its minorities.
Issues involved in defining religious and linguistic minorities
International laws describe minorities as a group that possess distinct and stable ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristic than rest of the population of the land. In India, though the constitution uses the term minority at 4 specific instances, it doesn’t define the term, making it subject to judicial interpretation.
Presently the following 2 groups are considered as minorities based on their numerical inferiority:
- RELIGIOUS MINORITIES as per National Commission for Minorities Act 1992.
- LINGUISTIC MINORITIES which are groups having a separate spoken language and is a matter pertaining to the individual states of India.
Parameters to define minority in India
- Threat to extinction – Allahabad HC stated that muslims are not minority in UP as they do not have any threat to extinction.
- Numerical inferiority – SC has consistently maintained that numerical inferiority is the defining parameter. On basis of religion- Hindus in Punjab, NE.
- Statewise definition – SC has stated that minorities are to be defined on state level as states were created on basis of linguistic distinction. But in the recent decade, we have seen that linguistic distinction is no more a distinction for demands of new states (for eg- Telangana).
- Alacrity of demands and organized representation by the prospect communities.
Lack of uniformity in determining minorities
- However, currently there is no uniform national way of determining minorities due to the following issues:
- Non-Uniform distribution of communities across India, creates a conflicting situation in declaring X community a religious minority nationally, which in certain state could infact be a majority.
- Constant migration of citizens disturbs demography. Changing the structure of religious or linguistic community now & then. hence, no constant policy can be adhered to.
- With over 1500 regional languages designation of linguistic minorities becomes cumbersome.
- Having a rigid minority group will be detrimental to society as a whole for a population boom in one group will significantly change demography.
The possible solution could be rather determine the minority status with respect to source and territorial application of legislation as pointed out in TMA Pai Case by Honourable Supreme Court of India.
Issues related to minorities
Prejudice & Discrimination
- As far as prejudices are concerned, prejudices and stereotyped^ thinking are common features of a complex society. India is not an exception to this. Commonly used statements such as – “Hindus are cowards and Muslims are rowdies; Sikhs are dullards and Christians are converters “, etc. – reflect the prevalent religious prejudices.
- Such prejudices further widen the social distance among the religious communities. This problem still persists in India. Except in some sensitive areas this problem of prejudice is not disturbing the routine life of different communities, including that of the minorities.
- This act of discrimination against the minority isn’t limited to India but is a global problem and Women get the worst of it, minority women often experience discrimination from both within and outside their communities and suffer disproportionately from the economic, social and political marginalization affecting their communities as a whole.
- Minority women are often subjected to abuse, discrimination, and stereotypes for instance, manual scavenging is often reserved for Dalit women, in both urban and rural areas and they are paid menial wages for this degrading and unsanitary task.
- These women are forced into doing undignified and ill-suited jobs and are intimidated if they try to adopt any alternative livelihoods.
- Their daily lives are immersed with hate speeches, anti-minority sentiments, violations, discrimination and they are not able to take any action in spite of having various legal rights and lack of awareness, poverty, and fear add more factor to this problem.
Problem of Identity
- Because of the differences in socio-cultural practices, history and backgrounds, minorities have to grapple with the issue of identity
- This give rise to the problem of adjustment with the majority community.
Problem of Security
- Different identity and their small number relative to the rest of the society develop feeling of insecurity about their life, assets and well-being.
- This sense of insecurity may get accentuated at times when relations between the majority and the minority communities in a society are strained or not much cordial.
Problem Relating to Equity
- The minority community in a society may remain deprived of the benefit of opportunities of development as a result of discrimination.
- Because of the difference in identity, the minority community develops the perception of the sense of inequity.
Problem of Communal Tensions and Riots
- Communal tensions and riots have been incessantly increasing since independence.
- Whenever the communal tensions and riots take place for whatever reason, minority interests get threatened.
Lack of Representation in Civil Service and Politics
- The Constitution provides for equality and equal opportunities to all its citizens including the religious minorities
- the biggest minority community, that is, Muslims have a feeling among them that they are neglected
- However, such a feeling does not seem to exist among the other religious minority communities such as the Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, for they seem to be economically and educationally better than the majority community.
Problem of Providing Protection
- Need for security and protection is very often felt by the minorities.
- Especially in times of communal violence, caste conflicts, observance of festivals and religious functions on a mass scale, minority groups often seek police protection.
- Government in power also finds it difficult to provide such a protection to all the members of the minorities.
- It is highly expensive also. State governments which fail to provide such protection are always criticised.
- For example, (i) the Rajiv Gandhi Government was severely criticised for its failure to give protection to the Sikh community in the Union Territory of Delhi on the eve of the communal violence that broke out there soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. (ii) The Gujarat State Government was criticised for its inability to provide protection to the Muslim minorities in the recent [Feb. Mar. – 2002] communal violence that burst out. (iii) Similarly, the Government of Jammu-Kashmir’s inefficiency in providing adequate security to the Hindu and Sikh minorities in that State against the atrocities of Muslim extremists is also widely condemned.
Failure to Stick on Strictly to Secularism
- India has declared itself as a “secular” country. The very spirit of our constitution is secular.
- But in actual practice there is lack of commitment to secularism, purely religious issues are often politicised by these parties.
Problem of Lack of Representation in Civil Service and Politics
- Though the Constitution provides for equality and equal opportunities to all its citizens including the religious minorities, the biggest minority community, that is, Muslims in particular, have not availed themselves of these facilities. There is a feeling among them that they are neglected.
- However, such a feeling does not seem to exist among the other religious minority communities such as the Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, for they seem to be economically and educationally better than the majority community.
Under-representation in Higher education
- All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report for 2018-19 was released by the HRD ministry. The survey, undertaken as an annual, web-based, pan-India exercise on the status of Higher Education since 2010-11, covers all the Higher Educational Institutions in the country. The survey collects data on several parameters like teachers, student enrolment, programmes, examination results, education finance, infrastructure, etc.
Problem of Separatism
- Some of the demands put forward by some religious communities in some areas are not acceptable to others.
- This has widened the gap between them and others, Examples: The separatist tendency present among some Muslim extremists in Kashmir and their demand for the establishment of Independent Kashmir is not acceptable to others.
- Such a demand is regarded as anti-national. Similarly, some of the Christian extremists in Nagaland and Mizoram are demanding separate statehood for their provinces.
- Both these demands are supportive of “separatism” and hence cannot be accepted.
- Supporters of such demands have been causing lot of disturbances and creating law and order problems in the respective states.
Problem Relating to the Introduction of Common Civil Code
- Another major hurdle that we find in the relation between the majority and the minority is relating to the failure of Governments which have assumed power so far, in the introduction of a common civil code.
- It is argued that social equality is possible only when a common civil code is enforced throughout the nation.
- Some communities, particularly the Muslims oppose it.
- They argue that the imposition of a common civil code, as it is opposed to the “Shariat” will take away their religious freedom.
- This issue has become controversial today. It has further widened the gap between the religious communities.
Problems faced by minority women in India
- For a long time, women in India were in the clutches of patriarchal society and were denied even the basic rights, all of this was intertwined with gender inequality and abuse.
- Women were subjected to many social evils like child marriages, sati pratha, widow exploitation, devadasi system, etc.
- But in recent years, the social situation of women has significantly improved, the practice of these social evils have almost vanished and the taint of gender inequality has reduced .
- These changes were possible because of various social, economical and cultural developments in the country, increase in awareness, educational opportunities and even healthcare facilities but unfortunately these developments and changes didn’t seep to the minority communities and plenty of them remained backward and illiterate thus, making the lives of women in their community engrossed with various issues.
- Women of religious minority face challenges from everywhere and they can’t even turn to their own community for help.
- They are subjected to constant abuse, both physical and mental, they even lack the basic facilities required for a dignified life due to their poverty-ridden background.
- Belonging from a minority community and being a woman in a male dominant society, puts them in a more vulnerable position which is often taken advantage of by people from both outside and within the community.
- They encounter unjust and unfair treatment as compared to their male counterparts in every aspect of life such as: education, job opportunities, security, health care facilities, etc.
- Women of the minority community are often seen as inferiors by the majority class and are associated to menial jobs, unequal pay, forced labour, etc.
- It’s true that India’s religious minorities face many problems related to violence and discrimination, particularly Muslims are targeted, but women of the Muslim community face even more problems.
- Christians and Sikhs face lesser degree of social, economic, cultural and legal discrimination.
Factors leading to anger against minorities
- Socio-economic rise of lower strata of society constitutes a major change in social scenario.
- The backward classes not having access to proper education have had the privileges of reservation, which takes a large proportion of seats either in jobs or schools/colleges- this makes people in general category hostile towards the reserved sections, especially the minorities.
- Inability of the government to create better employment opportunities for the large section of youth has created economic backwardness
- Cultural / religious revivalism and glorification
- Political culture of appeasing minority has become one part, not acceptable to other sections.
Constitutional Safeguard for Minorities
- Article 14: people’s right to ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the laws’.
- Article 15 (1) & (2): prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
- Article 15 (4): authority of State to make ‘any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens’ (besides the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).
- Article 16(1)&(2): citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State –and prohibition in this regard of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- Article 16(4): Authority of State to make ‘any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.
- Article 25(1): people’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion –subject to public order, morality and other Fundamental Rights.
- Article 26: right of ‘every religious denomination or any section thereof –subject to public order, morality and health –to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, ‘manage its own affairs in matters of religion’, and own and acquire movable immovable property and administer it ‘in accordance with law.
- Article 27: prohibition against compelling any person to pay taxes for promotion of any particular religion.
- Article 28: people’s ‘freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions’ wholly maintained, recognized, or aided by the State.
- Article 29(1): right of ‘any section of the citizens’ to ‘conserve’ its ‘distinct language, script or culture’.
- Article 29(2): restriction on denial of admission to any citizen, to any educational institution maintained or aided by the State, ‘on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them’.
- Article 30(1): right of all Religious and Linguistic Minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- Article 30(2): freedom of Minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the State.
- Article 38 (2): obligation of the State ‘to endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities’ amongst individuals and groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.
- Article 46: obligation of State ‘to promote with special care’ the educational and economic interests of ‘the weaker sections of the people’ (besides Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).
- Article 347: special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of any State.
- Article 350 A: provision for facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage.
- Article 350 B: provision for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities and his duties;
- The National commission of Minority act 1992—this act led to foundation of the national commission on minority by the Union Government. It consist of a chairperson and 6 members ,provided at least 5, including the chairperson ,should belongs to minority community.
- Waqf Act—This act deals with the donation in Muslim community. The central waqfcouncil , a statutory body , manages the administration of waqfs in India. Waqf is permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties given by Muslim philanthropists for religious ,pious,or charitable purpose. The grant known as Musrat-Ul-Khidmat and person who makes such dedication known as Waqif.
- Citizenship amendment Act—This act gives citizenship to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afganistan within 6 years in place of 12 years. Hindus, Christians, Sikshs , Jains , Buddhists, and Parsis (all are minority in India excluding Hindu) who migrated before 2014 are eligible.
- In addition to legislative measure , the central government gives many special privilege’s to minority through its ministries, departments and commissions. , as listed below
- The ministry of minority affairs was formed in 2006 to ensure a focused approach to issues related to minorities
- The Ministry of External affairs deals with matter relating to Haj committee.
- The Ministry of Human Resource and Development deals with schemes for quality education in madarshas, and with infrastructure development for minority institutions.
MINISTRY OF MINORITY AFFAIRS
- The Ministry of Minority Affairs was carved out of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and created on 29th January, 2006 to ensure a more focused approach towards issues relating to the notified minority communities namely Muslim, Christian, Budhist, Sikhs, Parsis and Jain.
- The mandate of the Ministry includes formulation of overall policy and planning, coordination, evaluation and review of the regulatory framework and development programmes for the benefit of the minority communities.
- National commission for minority Educational Institutions:– It is a statutory body to protect and safeguard educational institutions established by religious minorities in India. It does not cover linguistic minorities.it consists of a chairman ( Judge of High court) and two other nominated by Central government , all must belong to a religious community.
- National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation:– this body under the Ministry of Minority affairs, aims to promote economic and developmental activities for minorities. It is a Public sector unit registered under Companies act as non-profit company.
- The protection of rights of minorities is provided under Article 27 of the international convent on civil and political rights . Further “United Nations declaration on the rights of persons belonging to National , Ethnic, Religious,and linguistic Minorities” is the document which sets essential standards and offers guidance to state in adopting appropriate legislative and other measures to secure the Rights of Minorities.
Government Welfare Measures for Minorities
Prime Minister’s 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities
- Government of India has formulated the “Prime Minister’s New 15-Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities”.
- An important objective of the Programme is to ensure that an appropriate percentage of the priority sector lending is targeted for the minority communities and that the benefits of various government sponsored schemes reach the under-privileged, which includes the disadvantaged sections of the minority communities.
- The Programme is being implemented by the Central Ministries/Departments concerned through State Governments/Union Territories and envisages location of certain proportion of development projects in minority concentration districts.
- Scholarship Schemes
- Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF)
- Padho Pardesh – Scheme of Interest Subsidy on Educational Loans for Overseas Studies for the Students Belonging to the Minority Communities
- Naya Savera – Free Coaching and Allied Scheme
- Nai Udaan – Support for Students for preparation of Main Examination who clear Prelims conducted by UPSC/SSC, State Public Service Commission (PSC) etc.
- Skill Development
- Seekho aur Kamao (Learn & Earn): Central sector scheme for skill development of minorities which aims to bring down the unemployment rate among minorities.
- USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/ Crafts for Development): To upgrade skill and training for the preservation of traditional ancestral arts or crafts of minorities.
- Nai Manzil: A bridge course to fill the academics and skill development gaps between madrasha student and their mainstream counterpart.
- Concessional credit through National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC)
- Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK)
- Nai Roshni – The Leadership Development of Minority Women
- Hamari Dharohar
- Jiyo Parsi – Scheme for Containing Population Decline of Parsis in India
- Waqf Management
- Qaumi Waqf Board Taraqqiati Scheme ( Scheme of Computerization of Records and Strengthening of State Waqf Boards)
- Shahari Waqf Sampatti VIkas Yojana ( Scheme for Grants-in-Aid to Waqf – Development of Urban Waqf Properties)
- Reasearch/ Studies, Monitoring and Evaluation of Development Scheme Including Publicity
Support to Institutions
- Corpus Fund to Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF)
- Equity to National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC)
- Grant in Aid Scheme to State Channelising Agencies of National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation
- In order to protect our constitutional values of individual dignity, Equality and liberty we must strive to discourage and remove hate filled messages from our society.
- Political leadership must take a leadership role in disowning hateful elements within their party and uphold their commitment to our constitution.
- A comprehensive anti-hate legislation and policy must be brought to act as a deterrent against hate crimes.
- Recent positive developments like decriminalisation of homosexuality have shown that our society is empathetic towards minorities. A few anti-social elements must not be allowed to jeopardise gains made in this regard.
- Only a coalition of the oppressed castes, classes and gender across religions can overcome communalism
- The scourge and cycle of communal hatred and violence can be stopped only by ending first the history of false equivalences and selective silences.
National Commission for Minorities
- Under the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992, the Union Government has established the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to protect and promote the welfare of the 6 religious minorities’ communities.
- Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified as minority communities by the Union Government at the national level.
- The original notification of 1993 was for 5 religious communities; Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims.
- In 2014, the Jains community was also added.
- As per Census 2001, these six communities consist of 18.8% of the country’s population.
- The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is in line with the United Nations Declaration of 1992 which states 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.”
- A Chairperson
- Five members are to be nominated by the Central Government from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity. ;
- All the members shall be from minority communities.
Functions and Power of the Commission
- To evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.
- To monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
- To make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
- To look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
- To conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to the socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.
- Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter relating to Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.
- Any other matter which may be referred to by the Central Government.