What constitutes a Minority Community?
The expression ‘minority’ has been used in Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution but it has not been defined anywhere. The Preamble of the Constitution proclaims to guarantee every citizen ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith & worship’. Group of Articles 25 to 30 guarantee protection of religious, cultural and educational rights to both majority and minority communities. It appears that keeping in view the constitutional guarantees for protection of cultural, educational and religious rights of all citizens, it was not felt necessary to define ‘minority’.
Minority as understood from constitutional scheme signifies an identifiable group of people or community who were seen as deserving protection from likely deprivation of their religious, cultural and educational rights by other communities who happen to be in majority and likely to gain political power in a democratic form of Government based on election.
In the background of constitutional scheme, the provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 Act therefore instead of giving definition of ‘minority’ only provide for notifying certain communities as ‘minorities’ who might require special treatment and protection of their religious, cultural and educational rights.
The definition of ‘minority’ given under the Act in section 2(c) is in fact not a definition as such but only a provision enabling the Central Government to identify a community as a ‘minority’ which in the considered opinion of the Central Government deserves to be notified for the purpose of protecting and monitoring its progress and development through the Commission.1
Five communities were inserted into this provision as National Minorities – Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists. To this list, another community was added on 27 January 2014, with great opposition from those already availing minority benefits – Jains.2
The reason why Article 30(1) was embodied in the Constitution has been set out by Chief Justice Ray in the case of St. Xaviers College v. State of Gujarat. The relevant portion reads as follows:
“The right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice has been conferred on religious and linguistic minorities so that the majority who can always having their rights by having proper legislation do not pass a legislation prohibiting minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Every section of the public, the majority as well as minority has rights in respect of religion as contemplated in Articles 25 and 26 and rights in respect of language, script, culture as contemplated in Article 29. The whole object of conferring the right on minorities under Article 30 is to ensure that there will be equality between the majority and the minority. If the minorities do not have such special protection they will be denied equality.”3
However, what we see happening in Bharat is the opposite: the rights meant to protect the interests of the minorities are being systematically misused to deprive the majority of their rights.
Provision of “Sprinkling of non-minority students” – for what purpose?
In a number of judgments, the Supreme Court of Bharat has held that the purpose of a “minority institution” is to provide a secure environment for minority students, and such an institution can have only a SPRINKLING of non-minority students. It has been left to the State government to specify what percentage constitutes this “sprinkling”.4
The figures are astounding. In Karnataka, Siddaramaiah’s govt has decided that the “sprinkling” of non-minority students allowed means 75% – effectively, the “minority character” of the institution is compromised and it is virtually converted into a “secular” institution. The Maharashtra govt has decided that “sprinkling” of non-minority students means 49%, which is much better than Karnataka but still huge. By and large, courts have held that the number of minority students in minority institutions should at least exceed 50%. But how many of them are doing it?
In top “minority” schools of Mumbai, the number of minority students was as low as 0% to 7%. Yet these schools have been kept out of the “benefits” of the Right To Education Act. In June 2015, ten “minority” schools of Mumbai were served notices by the State Government for not having admitted even a single “minority” student in their institution.5
Christ Church High School, Byculla Principal Carl Laurie has been quoted as saying, “The student strength from the minority community is about 20-30% of the total strength. In a city like Mumbai it is impossible to get 50% Christian students. There are also around 15 Christian minority schools in South Mumbai. We admit all students from the community who come to our school”.
Interestingly, in 2012, when Karnataka minority schools were told to admit 75% of minority students, they objected on the ground that Bharat was a secular country and that they should be allowed to take students from all communities as there weren’t enough minority students!6
Following considerable pressure applied by the Christian community along with a few linguistic groups, CM Siddaramaiah’s government in 2014 reduced the percentage of minority students in minority institutions from 75% to just 25% – a complete travesty of the law in both letter and spirit.7 Parents of minority students have objected to this huge reduction in the percentage of minority seats by the Siddaramaiah government; expectedly, there has been no response from the Karnataka government to these objections.8
Obviously, the “Minority” institution tag is only aimed at garnering “secular” students and not “minority” ones, its supposed purpose of existence. This is a straightforward case of violation of letter and spirit of the Constitution and SC judgments, and misuse of constitutional provisions. If minority institutions don’t have enough minority students, they should either shut down or become secular institutions. They do neither.
The law also seems to have been interpreted perversely by deeming an institution a minority institution merely because the owner is from a minority community, even if the minority character of the institution itself is irrevocably diluted. The principle that the “minority character” should be maintained has been repeatedly compromised and diluted on various contrary arguments.
On a bare reading of the defense offered by the principals of minority institutions, the ridiculousness of the situation manifests itself. Principals of minority institutions openly say that they don’t or can’t admit enough minority students, but still claim the legal benefits of a minority institution. The refrain is, “yes, we are a minority institution but we are open to taking all students as India is a secular country”. Noble indeed, but then if Bharat is a secular country, why are these institutions granted legal favors that are not available to non-minority institutions?
In the case of P.A. Inamdar vs. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court held that the employment of expressions “right to establish and administer” and “educational institution of their choice” in Article 30(1) gave the right a very wide amplitude. The minority educational institution has, therefore, a right to admit students of its own choice; it can, as a matter of its own free will, admit students of non-minority community also. However, non-minority students could not be forced upon it. The only restriction on the free will of the minority educational institution admitting students belonging to a non-minority community is, as spelt out by Article 30 itself, the manner and number of such admissions should not be violative of the majority character of the institution, if it is thus so, it loses the protection of Article 30(1).9
The judgments of the Supreme Court say that the minority institution cannot be allowed to lose its “minority character” and hence only a ‘sprinkling‘ of non-minority students can be allowed. In the Pai Foundation case10, the Supreme Court held that to establish a minority institution, the institution must primarily cater to the requirements of the minority of that State, else its character of minority institution was lost. A loss of the “minority character” would naturally mean that the institution would not be able to retain its minority status.
But what is astounding is the wording of the judgment that defines the purpose of having a “sprinkling” of non-minority students in minority institutions – in the Kerala Education Bill vs Unknown judgment, the judges have written that the provision would “enable the distinct language, script and culture of a minority being propagated amongst non-members of a particular minority community and that would indeed better serve the object of conserving the language, religion and culture of that minority”.11
In so many flowery words, children of the majority community are allowed to join minority institutions for the purpose of propagation of the minority religion in the majority community on the grounds that it safeguards the minority!!
In its key document, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the Vatican has formally put the use of its educational institutions for evangelization in writing. Quoting from the document,
“Catholic educational institutions can and indeed must carry out a precious formative service, dedicating themselves in a particular way to the inculturation of the Christian message, that is to say, to the productive encounter between the Gospel and the various branches of knowledge.”12
Minority institutions of course are going the whole hog and filling their schools with mostly “non-minority” students for this purpose. The sort of comments made by the Courts as mentioned in the earlier paragraph, are a boon for the conversion industry, almost a legal sanction. Is this justifiable by any stretch of imagination?
Protection of the Hindu Minority in non-Hindu majority states of Bharat
In the judgment of D.A.V. College, Jullundur v. State of Punjab, Supreme Court Justice Jaganmohan Reddy has noted:
“Though there was a faint attempt to canvass the position that religious or linguistic minorities should be minorities in relation to the entire population of the country, in our view they are to be determined only in relation to the particular legislation which is sought to be impugned; namely that if it is the State legislature these minorities have to be determined in relation to the population of the State.”13
While the courts have decided that the community to be protected as a minority must be decided at State level, wherever in Bharat the Hindus are in a minority, no such protection or freedom for their establishments has been extended to them. Not even in a single state of the seven states and one union territory where Hindus are in a minority do they enjoy these protections that the global predatory religions get when they are in minority.
One must read the 2007 article by Zoya Hasan14, who lays out the grounds for opposing the right of Hindus in Kashmir to their own institutions on the pretext that non-Kashmiri Hindus too may take admission in those institutions, to understand that the whole game is to deny Hindus their rights. If Hindus are in majority in a state, the aim is to make it unviable financially for them to run their own institutions, and when Hindus are in minority, the minority rights considered so sacrosanct for non-Hindus are denied to them.
Minority Concentration Districts: Where the “Minorities” enjoy Government schemes only because they are in majority
The Prime Minister’s New 15-Point Programme for The Welfare Of Minorities was launched by the then PM Manmohan Singh in 2006. Under this plan, the UPA Government notified 90 districts in the country as “Minority Concentration Districts” where the minorities were present in sizeable numbers and classified economically backward, based on the controversial Sachar Committee report of 2006. The objective was “to prepare and implement area/problem specific special development plans for these 90 districts” and “to ensure that the benefit of programmes of poverty alleviation, education, health and provision of basic amenities etc., reach these districts in a focused manner”. The task of conducting this baseline survey of MCDs was assigned to the Indian Council of Social Science Research.
Only districts with Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis as minority concentrations were included, based on three criteria, viz.: the share of minority population religion, specific socio -economic indicators and indicators of basic amenities. The minority criterion required that a district has either a “substantial minority population of at least 25% of the total population or a large absolute minority population exceeding 5 lakhs but at least in the range of 20% to less than 25% of the total population or at least 15% of minority population, in case of six States / Union Territories where a minority community is in majority”.15,16
These areas include some places from where Hindus have now been systematically driven out after targeted violence, such as Malda in West Bengal and Muzaffarnagar in UP.17 The complete dominance of “minorities” has been rewarded and they have obtained further economic benefits running into thousands of crores annually from the Government despite not being under any kind of threat – once again making a mockery of the entire concept of “minorities”.
In the next & concluding part, we will study how the dominant globally powerful Abrahamic religions “safeguard” the rights of Hindus and other indigenous religions when they gain political power and demographic majority.
- Supreme Court Judgment: Bal Patil & Anr. Vs Union of India & Ors. http://www.judis.nic.in/supremecourt/qrydisp.asp?tfnm=27098
- Gazette of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs Notificaton dated 27 January 2014 http://www.egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2014/157933.pdf
- Supreme Court Judgment: The Ahmedabad St. Xaviers College vs State Of Gujarat & Anr, 26 April, 1974 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/703393/
- Supreme Court Judgment: Kerala Education Bill vs Unknown https://indiankanoon.org/doc/161666/
- 10 minority schools get notice for taking fewer students from own communities http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/10-minority-schools-get-notice-for-taking-fewer-students-from-own-communities/articleshow/47636695.cms
- “Government’s definition of minority schools unacceptable” http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/governments-definition-of-minority-school-unacceptable/article3630821.ece
- Minutes of meeting of the Empowered Committee of Ministry of Minority Affairs dated 19.06.2014 http://minorityaffairs.gov.in/sites/default/files/86th_Emp_minutes1.pdf
- Parents protest new minority tag criteria http://www.deccanherald.com/content/414521/parents-protest-minority-tag-criteria.html
- Supreme Court Judgment: PA Inamdar & Ors vs State of Maharashtra & Ors https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1390531/
- Supreme Court Judgment: T.M.A.Pai Foundation & Ors vs State Of Karnataka & Ors https://indiankanoon.org/doc/512761/
- Supreme Court Judgment: Kerala Education Bill vs Unknown https://indiankanoon.org/doc/161666/
- Compendium of The Social Doctrine of the Church: Part 3 Ch 12, 1a para 532 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html
- Supreme Court Judgment: DAV College Jalandhar vs State of Punjab https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1596466/
- Defining India’s Minorities http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/Defining-Indiarsquos-minorities/article14794192.ece
- 90 districts identified as Minority Concentration Districts http://twocircles.net/2007jun22/90_districts_identified_minority_concentration_districts.html
- Ministry of Minority Affairs Annual Report 2008-09 Government of India http://minorityaffairs.gov.in/sites/default/files/ar0809e.pdf
- Ministry of Minority Affairs Notification dated 10 February 2014: Programmes for Minority Concentration Districts under Multi Sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=103356
(Featured Image Credit: https://featuresgalleried.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/are-indian-tribals-hindus/)
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