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Why religion based minority and majority in India

Posted by Admin on June 27, 2014 | Comment

If you are a close and regular observer of news, it should not have missed your attention that at the beginning of the year, Jains were notified as a minority community. Thus, they joined the category of already designated ‘religious minorities’ – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. India also has a National Commission for Minorities (NCM), which was established under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. But amidst all these, don’t you think you have forgotten to ask, why was this idea of religion-based minority or majority conceived?

Why religion based minority and majority in India

Religion-based Minority – What the Indian Constitution Says

The nation still reverberates with Mahatma Gandhi’s call for ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ (Equal respect for all religions). But the contradictions within the governments of Independent India become evident when you see their approach to matters related to religions, particularly special privilege showered on particular religious minorities under Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution. Is that the right interpretation of secularism? According to Article 25, all the citizens are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience” and have the right to practise and propagate any religion. However, the Constitution does not permit the Government to allow preferential treatment to any religion.

The Constitution does not define the term “minorities” anywhere but it has a passing reference in some Articles. It describes minorities as “any section of citizens having a distinct language, script and culture”. Although the Constitution categorises minorities in terms of religion and language, confusion still prevails with regard to the groups that can be considered as minorities.

Defining Minority in India – The Feasible Approach

The global community associates minority with ‘power relationship’, claiming that possibility of a community being dominant or sidelined is directly proportional to the power it wields. But this does not apply to policy-makers in India. They probably arrived at their inferences about minorities by judging a group by its size. By doing that, we only get to know its share in the country’s population, but we have no clue whether a particular group is powerful or powerless; or whether it is “represented or under-represented.”

If the country has to eradicate inequity and discrimination, it has to give up the statistical approach, which doesn’t take into consideration the vulnerability factor of a community. It would be more sensible to grant minority status to those sections of people who face discrimination because of their “non-dominant” position across the country and not just in a particular state. They deserve special consideration not because they are less in number or practise different religions, but their language, caste, gender or culture is far too distinct to make them a force to reckon with.

Why do we need Uniform Civil Code

 From the day the BJP included gender equality in its manifesto, the discussion over Uniform Civil Code garnered the attention of the common people. One of the Directive Principles listed in Part IV of the Indian Constitution clearly calls for implementing a Uniform Civil Code throughout the country. Presently, different communities are compelled to follow a diverse set of laws related to personal matters like marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc. If the Uniform Civil Code becomes a reality, all these community-specific personal laws will get unified under one ‘secular law’, which will be applicable for each and every citizen of India notwithstanding his/her religious affiliation.

The reason why this never became a mandate could be found in the simple pronouncement in the draft of the Constitution, which states that Directive Principles “shall not be enforceable by any court.” Although the Constitution gives due emphasis on adopting the principles and considers them “fundamental in the governance of the country”, it never puts any obligation on the government to apply them in forming laws. Barring Goa, no other Indian state has managed to implement Directive Principles regarding the Uniform Civil Code.

The BJP government has expressed its intention to work towards achieving the objective of Uniform Civil Code. It’s undoubtedly a mammoth task that requires a series of extensive consultations with different stakeholders. The best course, however, would be to sensitise the people about the Uniform Civil Code or finding a middle ground where religion-based minority or majority communities are not given preferential treatment for vote-bank politics.