It is the time we define “Minority” in India
The issue of minority is reignited after Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister of Minority Affairs, started a spree of apparent appeasement announcements for providing 100% state funds for: free UPSC coaching to Muslims girls, scholarship to 5 Cr. minority (read as Muslim) students, and complete funding for health and educational infrastructure on the waqf board properties.
Since the time, India became conscious about having her own Constitution, the definition of the term “Minority” is missing. Till date the proper definition for “Minority” is unfortunately missing in the constitution.
Motilal Nehru Committee, in 1928 tried, for the first time, drafting of the constitution for India. But thanks to Nehru ji, he, in spite of drafting many provisions for minority, didn’t define the term “Minority” or procedure otherwise. The demand for such definition again peaked post-independence, again, even after using word, “Minority”/”Minorities” several times under Article 29, 30, 350A and 350B, thanks to the Nehru ji, Chairman of Union constitution Committee, the term remained undefined.
There are different dimensions for the state of being Minority i.e. Religious, Linguistic and Ethnic. Today, the state of being ethnic minority is least talked term in main stream media as voices from North Eastern India or island UTs hardly reach to Studios in NCR or to Khan Market for print media. But there is also a need to address the issue of Ethnic minorities.
Whereas, issues around linguist Minorities is more settled compared to Religious minorities. Still there is a need for better adoption and awareness for a common language in nation to overcome the linguistic hazards and miscommunications for migrants within the country.
However, the major issue is for the state of religious minority. It is so widely debated that “Religious minority” has now assumed as a default meaning for the term “Minority”, if mentioned anywhere. Though a section demands for defining minority at the Union Govt level. But doing that would be like purchasing same T-shirts of same size for all 29 children, of which youngest was born just in 2014.
Hence in TMA Pai Foundation Vs The State of Karnataka, 2002 case, Supreme court clarified that ‘A Minority either linguistic or religious is determinable only by reference to demography to state and NOT by taking into consideration of the population of the country as a whole.’ This Judgement was again a reiteration of DAV College Bhatinda Vs State of Punjab, 1971 case. So it can be inferred that judiciary is consistent on it’s stand for determining minorities based on state data for every state separately, since 1971.
But still National Commission on Minorities Act, 1992, section 2(C) defines minority as “a community notified as such by Central Government”
Thus Question arise, what should be the limit of determining minority? Drawing a parallel, only 25% of population in India speaks Hindi as mother tongue. But Hindi, being argued as a language having sufficient speakers, is not a minority language in India. So on that same ground does it mean, Muslims in India being the largest population of Muslims in a country in the world or be it Christians in India which constitutes more than 3 times the total Population of Portugal or Greece, shall not be the part of minorities in India?
Again Hindus, a taken for granted majority in India, is a minuscule minority in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Lakshadweep, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir (& Ladakh) but there is never any such free coaching or scholarship announcement by Ministry of Minority Affairs, for minorities in those states.
So before taking up any upliftment measure, states should define the minorities properly based on a consistent guideline laid by the supreme court, followed by thorough assessment of demographic data of that state, while center can order states for this, if needed. The central schemes for minorities should be based of minorities defined by the state only and shall not be discriminating based on religious lines. These might solve India’s ever-looming issue of minorities.
Mechanical Engineer, Student for Masters in Economics. Checkout my Twitter profile.