- In spite of the provisions of the constitutional equality, religious minorities in India often experience some problems among which the following may be noted.
- Prejudice and Discrimination: Prejudice and discrimination are found in any situation of hostility between racial and ethnic groups and divergent religious communities.
- Prejudice refers to a ‘prejudged’ attitude towards members of another group.These groups are regarded with hostility simply because they belong to a particular group, and they are assumed to have the undesirable qualities that are supposed to be characteristic of the group as a whole.
- Discrimination, on the other hand refers to an action against other people on the grounds of their group membership. It involves the refusal to grant members of another group the opportunities that would be granted to similarly qualified members of one’s group.
- Speaking in the Indian context, discrimination especially in providing opportunities to people of different communities is, not at all in practice.The Preamble of the Constitution itself declares that all people irrespective of their caste, class, colour, creed sex, region or religion will be provided with equal rights and opportunities. Articles 15 (I) and 15(2) prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion.
- Article 25 promises the right to profess, propagate and practice religion. It is clear that there is no legal bar for any religious community in India to make use of the opportunities [educational economic, etc.] extended to the people. It is true that some religious communities [for example, Muslims] have not able to avail themselves of the opportunities on par with other communities. This situation does not reflect any discrimination. It only reveals that such communities are lagging behind in the competitive race.
- 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 and Christians are converters”, etc., reflect the prevalent religious prejudices.
- Common people who are gullible in nature never bother to find out the truth behind these statements, but are simply carried away by them. Such prejudices further widen the social distance among the religious communities.This problem still persists in India.
- In general Lack of distributive justice, differential accessibility to resources and cultural differences have been considered the main causes of inter-religious (minority) problems.
- Economic Disparity: Leads to owner disparity like educational attitudinal and cultural disparities. During the period of industrial growth, the symbol of economic progress was the growth of cotton mills. In India cotton mills increased from 74 to 206 between 1883 and 1904 of all these only one mill owner was a Muslim, the rest were Hindus, Parsis, Englishmen.
- Least Beneficiaries of Post Independence Industries: Their upper class depended upon feudal mode of production and after independence became weaker and weaker as the Indian Bourgeoisie emerged stronger. Both in UP and AP where the Muslim feudal classes were strong, they faced economic ruination with abolition of Nizam’s estate on the one hand and on the other, change in mode of production.
- Personal Law : Indian Muslims have deep distrust of those who try to tamper with it Art 44 of Indian constitution (common civil Code) reads, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” While Muslim leadership considers the state’s non-interference in the community’s personal law as the touchstone of Indian secularism. All India Muslim Political Convention passed a resolution in Dec 1970. The Parliament had no right to interfere in the personal law-based on Quran and Sunnat
- Urdu Language : Increasing neglect Urdu is not even a second regional language. Further, Muslims argue that a mere legal recognition without adequate educational facilities for its speakers would create. a dilemma. It’s largely associated with one particular religion of India, Islam.
- Everyone knows that people speak the language of the particular area in which they live. It has nothing to do with religion. The Bengali Muslim speaks Bengali, the Madrasi Muslim speaks Tamil Sindhi Muslim speaks Sindhi.
- No special effort have been made to fulfil the needs of education and ranking of the major portion of Muslim population which belongs to the lower strata of society.
- Muslims complain that in the text-books an over weightage is given to the Hindu mythological cultural and historical features.
Political Problem : Almost monopoly, the ideal of secularism was in saddle. The question was “How could the Sikhs retain their distinct and separate identity in a state nominally pledged to secularism but in actual practice increasingly Hindu?”
Sikhs formed three important concessions for their constituency :
(a) Service formula, (b) the Parity formula, (c) The Sachar formula
- Established numerical proportions of Hindus and Sikhs in the bureaucracy of the Punjab Govt
- Number of Sikhs and Hindus in the ministry would be equaL
- Provides details for the teaching of Punjabi and Hindi in different areas of the Punjab.
After Akali Dal had won three post independence elections within the then felt he had sufficient support to demand Punjabi Sabha or a Separate State or Linguistic basis.
- A number of UP villages the economic status of Christians declined after their cooperative failed (United Church of North Indian Survey, 1968).
- A Lucknow study showed, after independence, Christians of that city had the lowest per capita income of the ten communities.
- Christian leaders report that the proportion of govt workers from the Christian community in civil service jobs is actually less than 2% of their population.
The real problem confronting the community is not political but demographic- one of the steadily declining numbers. In 1981census it was recorded that there was a decline of 20,000 in 10 years..
Possible reasons :
Inbreeding, reduction of fertility rate, late marriages, and out of community marriages. Moreover, The Marwaris in Assam, Bengal and Bihar are a minority, but they control trade and business in these states. They are treated as ‘outsiders’ and ‘exploiters’, ‘Sons of the Soil’ movement have been reported in Assam, Bengal Orissa and Karnataka, and subsequently Marwaris were looted, killed in Bolengir (Orissa). One of
serious implications of these movements is that people can not move freely from one state or region to other state or regions.
Other Common Problems of Minorities
- Problem of Preserving distinct Social and Cultural Life:
- Problem of Providing Protection :
- Problem of Communal Tensions and Riots:
- Problems related to language:
- Problems related to religion:
- Problems related to family and marriage.
- Problems related to general life.
- Problems of anomy.
A Fact File of Minorities
- Majority of Muslims live in the cities and almost all Jains live in cities, whereas the Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians live in village and towns.
- The rate of procreation is the highest among the Muslims followed by Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Christians in the same order. Christians have the lowest rate of reproduction.
- A demographic study of the minorities shows that the ratio of women is less than men in almost all the religious communities, except Christians where the women are more than men. This ratio is the lowest among the Sikhs.
- All the main minorities try to retain their identity. Each one of them has a particular way of worship, and different customs and traditions.This diversity is visible in their day-to-day practical lives.
- The religious diversity and plurality of Indian society has been creating situation of conflict from time to time. It is one of the main problems in the present times as well and communal riots fundamentalism and separatist tendencies are shaking the foundations of the Indian society.
- After Independence India has been acknowledged as a secular state. The Constitution clearly states that all religions are equal and the followers of each religion have equal rights. No citizen of India shall be discriminated against on the basis of religions, caste, race or gender.
- On the practical level the government has not been able to keep aloof from various religious matters and conflicts.Some leaders of religious communities have openly declared that their religion is comprehensive and includes the social religious and political aspects in its fold.Thus, they cannot keep politics out of it.
- According to K.L. Sharma the literacy rate among the Parsis, Jains, Jews and Christians is higher than others. With the exception of the Christians all of them are involved in trade and business.
In spite of all these diversities there is an underlying unity in the Indian society. In fact, religion has been our greatest treasure.The differences are linguistic and superficial. A deeper study of religions reveals the underlying oneness in them.As a matter of fact, the declaration of secularism is an acceptance of that intrinsic universality of all religions, especially of the Indian origin.The need of the hour is to realize the religiousness of all religions more than the outer layer of rituals and traditions, as spirituality, which is the predominant feature of Indian society, is above religions and communities.
There are so many examples in the Indian history related to minority communities who have made their significant contributions in the field of social cultural and political development. During the freedom movement minority groups were very active in their participation. Some of the examples of their participation are as follows:
- Politically they have occupied the posts ranging from the President of the world’s largest democracy to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India.
- Punjab, land of Sikhs, is the foremost producer of wheat as well as rice and they have made Green Revolution a great success.
- In the field of cultural activities minorities have made their significant contributions. Urdu language is an excellent example of cultural tradition of Hinduism and Islam.
- Many Muslims, Christians and the members of other minorities have also made their remarkable contribution to literature in other Indian languages. They have also contributed to classical music, dance and films etc.
- By the efforts of minority communities, science, journalism and sports have become richer in India.
- In the industrialization of the country, Parsis have played their splendid roles.
- In this way, minority communities have made their best in promoting national integrity and co operations.
Minorities and Marginalisation
- The Constitution provides safeguards to religious and linguistic minorities as part of our Fundamental Rights. The term minority is most commonly used to refer to communities that are numerically small in relation to the rest of the population. However, it is a concept that goes well beyond numbers. It encompasses issues of power, access to resources and has social and cultural dimensions.
- The Indian Constitution recognised that the culture of the majority influences the way in which society and government might express themselves. In such cases, size can be a disadvantage and lead to the marginalisation of the relatively smaller communities. Thus, safeguards are needed to protect minority communities against the possibility of being culturally dominated by the majority. They also protect them against any discrimination and disadvantage that they may face.
- Given certain conditions, communities that are small in number relative to the rest of society may feel insecure about their lives, assets and well-being.This sense of insecurity may get accentuated if the relations between the minority and majority communities are fraught. The Constitution provides these safeguards because it is committed to protecting India’s cultural diversity and promoting equality as well as justice. The judiciary plays a crucial role in upholding the law and enforcing Fundamental Rights. Every citizen of India can approach the courts if they believe that their Fundamental Rights have been violated. Now let us understand marginalisation in the context of the Muslim community.
Muslims and Marginalization
- Muslims are 13.4 per cent of India’s population and are considered to be a marginalised community in India today because in comparison to other communities, they have over the years been deprived of the benefits of socio-economic development. The data in the three tables below, derived from different sources, indicate the situation of the Muslim community with regard to basic amenities, literacy and public employment
- Recognizing that Muslims in India were lagging behind in terms of various development indicators, the government set up a high-level committee in 2005. Chaired by Justice Rajindar Sachar, the committee examined the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. The report discusses in detail the marginalisation of this community. It suggests that on a range of social economic and educational indicators the situation of the Muslim community is comparable to that of other marginalised communities like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. For example, according to the Report the average years of schooling for Muslim children between the ages of 7-16 is much lower than that of other socioreligious communities.
- Economic and social marginalisation experienced by Muslims has other dimensions as welL Like other minorities, Muslim customs and practices are sometimes quite distinct from what is seen as the mainstream. Some- not all- Muslims may wear a burqa, sport a long beard, wear a fez, and these become ways to identify all Muslims. Because of this, they tend to be identified differently and some people think they are not like the ‘rest of us’. Often this becomes an excuse to treat them unfairly, and discriminate against them. This social marginalisation of Muslims in some instances has led to them migrating from places where they have lived, often leading to the ghettoisation of the community. Sometimes, this prejudice leads to hatred and violence.
- In the case of the Muslim community there is a link between economic and social marginalisation. The experiences of all these groups point to the fact that marginalisation is a complex phenomena requiring a variety of strategies, measures and safeguards to redress this situation. All of us have a stake in protecting the rights defined in the Constitution and the laws and policies framed to realise these rights. Without these, we will never be able to protect the diversity that makes our country unique nor realise the State’s commitment to promote equality for all.
Some Other Problems of minorities
- The level of education among the minorities especially Muslims are very low.
- The per capita income of the minorities is low and hence they are forced to live in dismal living conditions and to lead avocations unsuited to them.
- Economic opportunities are unavailable or when available the skills to tap them are missing. Their share in government services is very low.
- They area made the victims of communal violence.
Approaches to the minority problem
- He can see the importance assumed by problems of minorities. It is not just related to numerical representation in a society. It is related to its operssion. Besides, it is to be precised on the basis of language, culture religion etc. in relation to that of a dominant group.
- A whole lot of theories have been advanced about the nature, causes and implications of the problems of minorities. Some consider that ethnic identity among minority groups is natural and primordial. The scholar who stress the cultural differences say that prinordialism and linguistic differences among minority groups tend to generate conflict rather than co-operation among then.
- Other scholars consider the utilitarian bent of minority groups and state that it is representing a power struggle.They feel that cultural factors are incidental to this process. These scholars feel that the minority identity should be seen in the context of development where each group tries to forge an identity in its struggle for scare resources various approaches have been adopted towards a solution of the minority while some suggested assimilation. Other suggested protection and for some the way out was to get rid of minority community itself, by persecution, deportation etc.
- Earlier problem was essentially one of the conflict or religions and ethnic groups. But these days the problem is essentially related to national minorities.A nation state prefers if possible a homogenous religion, language, ethnic identify etc.
- In the words of clude,”The rise of the problem of minorities was a logical consequence of the ascendency of nationalism. It is injected into politics this principle that the state should be nationally homogeneous and a nation should be politically united.
- This gave rise to unrestricted control over given territory, uniformity of laws, languages, customs etc. irrespective of differences. Homogeneity is never a reality thus there are constant efforts by the majority to assimilate the minority. The welfare and security of state were primary consideration. As a result the minority considerations. As a result the minority considerations were sidelined. It was not long before the various majority ethnic groups realized this kind of subjugation and faught for their rights.
- The assimilation of heterogenous groups through coercion is not so bluntly adopted states now prefer adopting others indirect methods. Discrimination is one such method
Discrimination and Annihilation :
- Due to minority’s district characteristics, they are subjected to great deal of discrimination. The discrimination may be in form of fewer government funds for minority educational institutions etc.very often they are discriminated to their social life.
- They are subjected to ridicule and segregation which compels them to stay away from the majority. That is why we find that minority groups stay together in ghettos away from the majority Raganath Mishra commission and sachar committee appointed by GOI dwell’s deeply on this problem in India.
- This discrimination infact leads to assimilation among some ambitions members of minority community.These people in order to advance themselves seek to rid themselves of their disabilities deliberately surrendering their typical features.
- In case assimilation is found to be impossible. Some states resort to very direct method of anihilation where members of minority group are eliminated by expulsion or by massager. We can find this example in Rohingya minority problem in Myanmar.
Tolerance and Equality :
- The policy of tolerance and fair treatment is adopted by many states when dealing with minority community.A great deal of leeway is given for preservation and pursuance of the minority’s social and cultural life. Though the states may have in mind the assimilation of various miniority groups as the final goal It will nevertheless a adopt a tolerant attitude towards minority groups as long as the minority community do not cause any destabilizing effect on the nation state.
- We find this policy of tolerance and fair, treatment guiding the provisions in our Indian constitution. The constitution establishes no state religion, guarantees equal opportunity to all irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Thus, we find that constitution envisages fair treatment for all However the question that has been asked many times is how are the minority group faring under constitution? It is true that there is equality on the paper, but is it really practiced?
- It is contention of the many minority groups, also studies have revealed that these groups suffer a great deal of discrimination in social life, in securing job, in getting funds for educational institutions, in their social interaction and so on. In any case a great deal seems to depend on the bargaining power a particular disadvantaged group has. Some are at disadvantage in their efforts to bring to state’s notice that certain of their socio-cultural rights needs protection.
PM’s new 15 Point Programme for Minority Welfare
The government has announced Prime Minister’s new 15-point programme, for the welfare of minorities in India. The progrmmes is to be executed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Under the programme, students belonging to minority communities in the country i.e. Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, and Parsis could be able to get benefits specified under the scheme.
- Equitable availability or ICDS Services
- Improving access to school education
- Greater resources for teaching Urdu
- Modernizing Madarsa education
- Scholarships for meritorious students from minority communities.
- Improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation.
- Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor.
- Upgradation of skill through technical training.
- Enhanced credit support for economic activities.
- Recruitment to State and Central Services.
- Improvement in condition of slums inhabited by minority communities.
- Prevention of communal incidents
- Prosecution for communal offences.
- Rehabilitation of victims of command riots.
Significance of the new programme
- The new progrmmes will go a long way in improving the conditions of minorities.
- By improving education and exposing minorities to modern education, the programme will lead to skill development and skill improvement among the minorities which will ultimately make them suitable for the modern jobs available in the country and abroad.
- Their economic conditions will be improved
- The programme clearly talks about the rehabilitation of the victims of communal violence, which has been a serious problem in India.
Constitutional Safeguards to minorities
In India, the National Constitution of 1950 or any other Constitutional document does not define the word ‘Minority’.The Constitution only refers to Minorities and speaks of those “based on religion or language “. In the Constitution of India, the Preamble (as amended in 1976) declares the State to be “Secular”, and this is of special relevance for the Religious Minorities. Equally relevant for them, especially, is the prefatory declaration of the Constitution in its Preamble that all citizens of India are to be secured “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship and “equality of status and of opportunity.”
The Constitution of India has provided two types of safe-guards -general and specific to safeguard various interests of the minorities. In the first category are those provisions that are equally enjoyed by both groups. The provisions ensure justice- social economic and political equality to all. The second category consists of provisions meant specifically for the protection of particular interests of minorities.
- People’s right to “equality before the law” and “equal protection of the laws”;
- Prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth;
- 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);
- 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.
- 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;
- People’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion – subject to public order, morality and other Fundamental Rights;
- Authority of State to make law for “regulating or restricting any economic financial political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice”, and for “providing for social welfare and reform”;
- Authority of State to make laws for “throwing open” of Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist “religious institutions of a public character” to “all classes and sections of the respective communities”;
- Sikh community’s right of “wearing and carrying of kirpans” ;
- 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, to. “Manage its own affairs of religion”, and own and acquire movable immovable property and administer it “in accordance with law”;
- People’s “freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion”;
- People’s “freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions” wholly maintained recognized or aided by the State;
- Right of “any section of the citizens” to conserve its “distinct language, script or culture”
- 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”;
- Right of all Religious and Linguistic Minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; and
- Freedom of Minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the State.
Part IV of the Constitution of India, containing non-justifiable Directive Principles of State Policy, includes the following provisions having significant implications for the Minorities:
- Obligation of the State “to endeavor to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities”amongst individuals and groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations;
- Obligation of State to “endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”;
- 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; and
- Obligation of State to “take steps” for “prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”.
Part IV-A of the Constitution, relating to Fundamental Duties, applies in full to all citizens, including those belonging to Minorities and of special relevance for the Minorities are the following provisions in this Part.
- Citizens’ duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India “transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; and
- Citizens’ duty to “value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture”. Some other provisions of the Constitution having special relevance and implications for the Minorities are :
- Official obligation to pay out of the consolidated funds of the States of Kerala and Tamilnadu 46.5 and 13.5 lakh rupees respectively to the local “Dewasom Funds” for the maintainance of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories of the erstwhile State of Travancore-Cochin;
- Special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of any State;
- Provision for facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage;
- Provision for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities and his duties;
- Special provision with respect to Naga religious or social practices, customary law and procedure, and “administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law.”
- Identical special provision for the Mizos; and
- Provision relating to continuation in force of pre-Constitution laws “until altered or repealed or amended by a competent legislature or other competent authority”
Part III of the Constitution gives certain fundamental rights. Some of these rights are common to all the citizens of India including minorities. These rights are enshrined in –
- Article 14: This ensures equality before law and equal protection of law
- Article 15: This prohibits discrimination on any ground i.e. religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth.
- Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except the procedure established by law.
- Article 25: This ensures freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.
- Article 26: This ensures a right to manage religious institutions, religious affairs, subject to public order, morality and health.
- Article 29: Gives minorities a right to conserve their language, script or culture. It provides for the protection of the interests of minorities by giving them a right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The State is directed not to discriminate against minorities institutions in granting aid.
- Article 350A: Directs the State to provide facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education.
- Art164(1): According to this article in states of Bihar, MP and Orissa there shall be a Minister in charge of tribal welfare who may in addition be in charge of the welfare of the scheduled castes and backward classes.
- Art 244(1): Regarding administration of scheduled areas and tribal areas – (1) The provisions of the Fifth schedule shall apply to the administration and control of the Scheduled areas and Scheduled tribes in any state other than the state of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. (2) The provisions of the sixth schedule shall apply to the administration of the tribal areas in the state of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
- Art 244(A): Formation of an autonomous state comprising certain tribal areas in Assam and creation of local legislature or Council of Ministers or both thereof. Parliament may by law form within the state of Assam an autonomous state comprising (whether wholly or part) all or any of the tribal areas.
- Art 275: Provided that there shall be paid out of consolidated fund of India as grants-in-aid of the revenues of a state such capital and recurring sums as may be necessary to enable the state to meet the costs of such schemes of development as may be undertaken by the state with the approval of the Govt of India for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the scheduled tribes in that state or raising the level of administration of the scheduled areas therein to that of the administration of the rest of the areas in that state. Provided further that there shall be paid out of the consolidated fund of India as grant-in-aid of the revenues of the state of Assam sum capital and recurring.
- Art 330: Reservation of seats for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the House of People.
- Seats shall be reserved for scheduled castes.
- The scheduled tribes except the scheduled tribes except the scheduled tribes in the autonomous districts of Assam.
- The scheduled tribes in the autonomous districts in Assam.
- Art 332: Reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the states.
- Seats shall be reserved for the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes (except the ST’s of autonomous districts of Assam) in the Legislative Assembly of every state.
- Seats shall be reserved also for the autonomous districts in the Legislative Assembly of the state of Assam.
- Art 334: Reservation of seats and special representation in Legislative Assemblies and House of People to cease after fifty years.
- Art 335: Claims of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to service and posts-The claims of the members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes shall be taken into consideration consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration in the making of appointments to service and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a state.
- Art 338: National Commission for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes
- Art 339: Control of the Union over the administration of Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
- Art 340: Appointment of a commission by the president to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
Art 341: Power of the President to specify the castes, races or tribes or posts of or groups within castes, races or tribes as scheduled castes.
- Art 342 : Power of the President to specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as scheduled tribe.
- Art 350(A) : Facilities for instruction in mother tongue of a minority group.
- Art 350(B) : Special officer for linguistic minorities.