Minorities are integral part of India


Rajindar Sachar   

A nauseating attack by BJP-RSS loyalists has been launched against Vice President Mr. Hamid Ansari (at the function of golden jubilee celebrations of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat). I was present at the function. The speech only raised various issues and important policy matters both internally for Muslims themselves and regarding the obligations of the State, which are discussed every day in press and public meeting all over the country.

The blatantly communal critics have in this matter shown their bankruptcy of knowledge of Indian Constitution, which gives primacy to the protection of Rights of Minorities, and also of the States obligations under law.

A 9-judge Bench of the Supreme Court highlighted profound policy statements as follows;-

“The purpose of law in plural societies is not the progressive assimilation of the minorities in the majoritarian milieu.  This would not solve the problem but would vainly seek to dissolve it…. The purpose of law must be not to extinguish the groups which make the society but to devise political, social and legal means of preventing them from falling apart and so destroying the plural society of which they are members.”

Thus inclusive development in India and for that matter in any country alone is the path to prosperity. It is an undeniable truth and needs to be irrevocably accepted by all in India, namely that minorities, Muslims and Christians are not outsiders. They are an integral part of India. Let me quote what Swami Vivekanand one of the greatest spiritual personalities of India has to say of the intimate connection between the spirit of Islam and Hinduism thus, “He also told Hindus not to talk of superiority of one religion over another. Even toleration of other faiths was not right; it smacked of blasphemy. For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems Hinduism and Islam - Vedanta brain and Islam body - is the only hope……. the future perfect India.” There thus can be no real progress in India which does not include minorities, Muslims, Christians as equal stakeholders.

In this connection it is heartening to find confirmation of these principles of equal development of majority and minority as laid down by U. N. Human Right Council, Forum on Minority issued on December 14th, 15th, 2010 as follows:

“Consequently, the right of minorities to participate effectively in economic life must be fully taken into account by governments seeking to promote equality at every level. From implementing non - discrimination in employment and enforcing protection laws in the private sector to developing national economic development and international development assistance schemes.

“Governments can consider both targeted and inclusive approaches to addressing the economic and social exclusion of minorities. Targeted approaches aim at programme or project   outcomes   specifically at minorities, whereas inclusive approaches integrate minorities in a wider focus population for programme or project outcomes. If existing policies are not benefiting minorities equally or gaps in inequality are growing, targeted approaches should be considered. Decisions on policy choices should be made with the full and effective participation of all minority groups, should be transparent, and where possible, should be supported by disaggregated data demonstrating existing inequalities.

“Governments should gather and regularly publicize disaggregated data  to  measure  and monitor the effective participation of minorities in economic life. Improved data collection should be made a priority for the areas of employment and labour rights, poverty rates, access to social security, access to credit and other financial services, education and training, and property and land tenure rights.”

In the report of working group on minorities formed by UN Sub-Commission on Protection of Minorities, it was the unanimous view that the assimilative approach was not one promoted by the United Nations, and that formal recognition of minorities is the first crucial step towards their effective participation in society. This means not only participation in governance, but also involvement in the economy. Also accepted was the need for multi-lingual education and respect for cultural identity of minorities and the need to ensure fair representation of minorities within the law enforcement system and the workplace. The basic task is to reconcile the pluralism which then exists in that State, and the need to respect the identity of the various groups, with the overall concerns of non-discrimination, equality, national security, territorial integrity, and political independence.

The above declaration is a forthright rebuke to all those mischievous quarters who propagate that government actions highlighting the condition of minorities is any way divisive.

Thus the same vision was emphasised by our founding fathers/mothers of Indian Constitution. In the Fundamental Right Chapter in Part III our Constitution specifically provides  vide Articles 25 to 30 the various rights and privileges for the minorities such as:
i)     Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
ii)    Freedom to manage religious affairs
iii)    Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion
iv)    Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions
v)    Protection of interests of minorities
vi)    Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions

This was so done because it is universally established that the faith and the confidence of the Minorities in the impartial and even functioning of the State is the acid test of being a civilised State.  This is accepted wisdom, and was expressed succinctly by Lord Acton as follows:

“A state which is incompetent to satisfy different races condemns itself; a state which labours to neutralise, to absorb or to  expel them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government”.

 We need only substitute minorities for races in the above quotation to apply the test to India.

It is possible that Modi, with RSS breathing down his neck, may be powerless to take action against RSS imposed BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijyawargiya. But he should in all propriety and decorum publicly condemn and disassociate himself from this communal, low-level and false allegation by General Secretary of the Party whose government he heads. This again is Raj Dharama, which he was so strongly reminded of by the then Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2002.    

The author is a former chief justice of Delhi High Court

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2015 on page no. 11

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