Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Positive discrimination

by Dina Nath Mishra

The Constitution has inbuilt positive discrimination in favour of minorities in the form of Fundamental Rights. In no other democracy, have minorities the rights denied to the majority community.

Add to it the vote bank politics practiced by most political parties. This causes disintegration of society, and ultimately of the nation and the State. It has created such a scramble in our polity that many sections have attempted the judicial route to gain minority status.

Temptation of minority privileges lured the Jains to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court, but the three-Judge bench comprising Chief Justice R C Lahoti, Justice D M Dharmadhikari and Justice P K Balasub-ramanyam disposed of the appeal. Some of the observations, if properly considered and followed, have the potential to strengthen the nation at large.

The Supreme Court has observed: "The goal of the Constitution was to create conditions where there was no need to protect the rights of the minority or the majority community. The commissions, instead of encouraging claims from communities for being added to a list of notified minorities, should suggest ways to help create social conditions where the list is done away with altogether.

If each minority group felt scared of the other group, an atmosphere of mutual fear and distrust would be created posing serious threat to the integrity of the nation leading to sowing of seeds of multinationalism. Encouragement to such fissiparous tendencies would be a serious jolt to the secular structure of the constitutional democracy."

However, the Bench cautioned, that "we should guard against making our country akin to a theocratic state based on multinationalism. In a caste-ridden society, no group can claim to be in majority. There are minorities among the Hindus. Many sections claim minority status because of their number and expect protection from the State on the ground that they are backward".

The Supreme Court must have been watching the macabre dance of minoritism, be it a parallel judicial system following the Deoband School of Islam or the All India Muslim Personal Law Board or other schools, the ownership claims of Taj Mahal by the Waqf Board, growing Islamic fundamentalism and acts like the recent Jaunpur rail blast allegedly by SIMI members in East Uttar Pradesh. The decision goes a long way in safeguarding the integrity of the nation, if properly digested by the organs of the State, media and the people.

India never had any concept of majority or minority. Tolerance was our hallmark. Conversion was an unknown phenomena. Whether it was the case of Christianity coming to Kerala, the Parsis making their way to the sea shores of Gujarat or the Jews coming to the coasts of Gujarat and Maharastra or even in the East, they were not only welcomed and protected but also given land for habitation and practice their religion.

That was the level of generosity and tolerance. But with the advent of Christianity and Islam, the dogma of crusade and Islamic sword changed the course of history. Both these faiths recorded unprecedented bloodshed in the name of religion. The recorded history of expansion of Islam written by Muslim scholars bear testimony to it. With the spread of colonial empires, the aboriginees of America and Australia were annihilated.

But the story of India is different. Noted Mumbai columnist Muzaffar Hussain writes in his book Insight Into Minoritism: "If we glance over the origin of the word 'minority', we find that this system has been continuing since the British rule. After the 1857 Freedom struggle, the British rulers started sowing the concept of minoritism.

They evolved a scheme to classify the minorities on the basis of race and propagated Christianity among people of socially and economically backward classes. Their aim was to earn their sympathy and allegiance for the British rule. The British also made efforts to divide the Indians in the name of religion.

In 1909, the then Governor floated a suggestion to Aga Khan for creating privileges for the Muslims as the minorities. The Muslims were given two kinds of voting rights: The first was for the general election along with the Hindus and the second was exclusively for electing the representatives of the Muslims. The Hindus were not entitled to cast their votes for the second category."

The August 8 judgement of the Supreme Court dwelled on the question of minorities during the Freedom struggle and Partition: It said: "It is against the background of Partition, that at the time of giving final shape to the Constitution, it was felt necessary to allay fears among the Muslims and other religious communities by providing them special guarantee and protection of their religious, cultural and educational rights.


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