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Minority status for Hindus

Shiban KhaibriIndia, a federal constitutional republic having a Parliamentary system of Government, being the most populous democracy in the world consists of 29 States and 7 Union Territories, Telangana being the latest one entering into the family of States. According to latest census we have with us, there are as many as eight states where Hindus are in minority. These states are Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Lakshadweep, Mizorum, and Meghalaya. The UN declaration Of Minority Rights 1993 believes that constant promotion and realization of the rights of ethnic,  linguistic  and religious minorities as an integral part of the development of society as a whole and within a democratic framework based on the Rule of Law, would contribute towards strengthening friendship and cooperation among societies of the State. Much before that, the founding fathers of the Constitution of India in 1950 have protected and guaranteed the rights of the minorities under Article 29. However, we do not appear to have a pointed definition of the term “Minorities” in our constitution but the same is inferred from what we call as dominated and vulnerable groups, to get sense of a minority, a numerical test being the accepted objective  principle. The below 50% norm of the numerical test having been recognized by the Honb’le Supreme Court could be interpreted to be referring to the population of a religious community. Minority status of a community, was thus going to be decided in respect of the population of a State.  The main focus of the constitutional guarantee is to create a sense of confidence in the minorities that they are protected by the law established by the constitution to be treated equally on par with the majority to remove any possibility of any discrimination.The question is what about such rights of and protection under the constitution to Hindus in the State of Jammu and Kashmir with just 28.4% of their population?  In Kashmir valley, Muslims are 96.4% and Hindus 2.45% followed by other religious groups. Why should they not enjoy the rights under the constitution as a religious minority? The intriguing situation and the increasing neglect of this issue is with the minuscule minority of Hindus with 2.5% in Lakshadweep; Mizoram with 2.75%, Nagaland with 8.75 %, Meghalaya with 11.53%. The position with the remaining states being Arunachal Pradesh 29%, Manipur 31.39%, and Punjab with less than 39%. A PIL was submitted in the Supreme Court of India pleading for Hindus being declared as minorities in these 8 states so that they are given legitimate rights. The Apex Court did not reject the petition as is generally made of but in its wisdom decided the matter to be referred to the National Minority Commission.  “We cannot issue such orders, go to the Commission, they are the most competent body”, a bench headed by Justice Gogoi observed. After this observation, the petition was withdrawn. The petitioner had pointed out that in these 8 states, the minority rights of Hindus were siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily to the majority population because neither the Central nor the State Governments had (so far) notified Hindus as minority under Section 2(c) of the National Commission of Minority Act thus depriving Hindus of their constitutional rights guaranteed under Articles 25 to 30.Let the situation, prevailing as on date, in the State of our Jammu and Kashmir be appraised in the sensitive matter of Hindus being not recognized, notified and thus declared a minority in the context of the brief outline on the matter given in the above lines. National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 extends to the whole of India excepting our State of Jammu and Kashmir, “thanks” to the Article 370. The Central Governments that have been in power so far, including the present one, have been subjecting the Hindu minority of this State to gross injustice in this respect for neither making a notification itself nor having impressed upon various Governments in the State to have the office of the National Commission of Minorities in the State to function, monitor , recommend, suggest , supervise and ensure benefits provided to Hindus of this state as enshrined to be guaranteed in the constitution of India. The State Governments, therefore, have confirmed the apprehensions of Hindu minorities that they were destined to suffer because they were Hindus. A glaring injustice has thus been perpetuated to the extent that it has set in a sense of being discriminated against.How can it be explained that the Muslim majority of the State is entitled to all the benefits accrued to Muslims as a minority at the national level as well as at the State level while Hindus on the principle of numerical strength as also religious grounds stand to lose such benefits? It may be recalled that  Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians or Parsis and Jains have been notified as minority communities by Government of India in official Gazette under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992. There is one full fledged Ministry for Minority Affairs in the country. Early this year the Supreme Court asked the representatives of the Central and State Governments to “sit together” and take a considered decision for formation of a Minority Commission for the State. It is shocking to observe that the State Government is continuously opposed to setting up of a Minority Commission in the state and has made it known in the Apex Court as well. Central and State welfare schemes are thus not meant for Hindus in the state nor do they derive any benefit there from in any manner whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that the Central Government and other agencies are regularly monitoring the periodic progress made under different schemes and benefits reached out to targeted sections. Reports are sought from institutions like Banks and other departments in charge of welfare schemes. Just illustrating the point with an example of scholarships provided by the Central Government Ministry of Minority Affairs,  97% have reportedly been provided to Muslim majority in the State.Those political leaders and self styled liberal democrats wearing secular hats maintain stoic silence, Award Wapsi Club and the new one joining these — “Not in my Name” brigade are equally tight lipped over the issue of Hindus in the State of Jammu and Kashmir not treated as a religious minority and not coming under the statutory umbrella of (non existent) Minority Commission in the State. Not a single statement just for the sake of the formality has come from these leaders and intellectuals especially after the ethnic minority, the original inhabitants of the valley, Kashmiri Pandits having been hounded out from there 27 years back. Even for microscopic numbers of Hindus in Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland neither the Central Government nor the respective state Governments have thought it worthwhile not to let these people feel being neglected, forgotten, avoided and thus injustice(d). Most of political leaders openly and lavishly talk about reservations for the Muslims. The “golden words” spoken by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Minorities had the first  right on the resources of the country proves the point which has the potential of landing at the belief that prejudice trumped justice. Why should the political parties not take a stand when it is the issue of the Hindus? This neglect raises a very important constitutional and legal issue. Modi Government should not dust off the issue any more just that the previous Governments did not care and to avoid getting a pro- Hindu tag, it may also follow suit. That would be most unfortunate.feedbackexcelsior@gmail.com

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