Problems of Religious Minorities in India
This article explain What are Religious minorities, religious minorities in India and their problems...
Problems of Religious Minorities A Big Challenge to the Secular Democracy in India The problems of minorities, who are relatively lesser in numerical strength than the majority community, have been gaining too much importance in the politics of many nations in the world. Both the developed and developing countries are also caught in the problems associated with the minorities. In many third world nations, nowadays, racial tensions, communal violence and ethnic clashes make headlines almost daily. For instance, the ethnic conflict between the Buddhists and the Tamils is still going on in Sri Lanka, which has put a major obstacle in the way of economic development of that country. India, which is known as a peace-loving nation, is also not spared by the problems of minorities. India is a multi-religious country and her society is pluralistic in nature from the religious and other points of view. Since a very long time, people belonging to various religious communities have been living together in this country. Not only major religious communities are spread all over the country, but the people belonging to all religious communities reside in each village and town in the country. Religious minority groups in India are chiefly the Muslims, the Christians, the Sikhs, the Jains and the Buddhists, who have been able to preserve their group identities and have also stayed in the mainstream of national politics. The Muslims in India constitute the largest religious minority in the country. Though a minority in its numerical strength, it is as big as to make it the second biggest Muslim population in the world, next to Indonesia. The Muslims constituted 13.4 per cent of the Indian population according to the 2001 census, and form an important segment in the social fabric of the country. But economically, Muslims are the most backward community with the lowest employment rate. With such backward economic status, there was hardly any incentive for a modern secular education. Unlike the Muslims, the Christians are the second largest and oldest religious minority in the country. It is chiefly spread in south India, particularly in Kerala. Consistent with the social philosophy of their religion, the Christians, in India are well represented in the social welfare activities of the country with particular concern for the service of the unprivileged. Their role in the sphere of health and education is well recognised. But recently, some Christian missionaries of the country have been alleged to be involved in conversion activities that led to communal conflicts which witnessed large scale attacks on the churches and Christians in Gujarat, Orissa and several other states. The very recent attacks on Christians and churches in the Kandhamal district of Orissa shook the entire Christian community of the world. Similarly, the early part of the 20th century witnessed the rise of numerous Sikh sectarian organisations that emphasised the distinct Sikh identity. Sikhism is another important religion in India which is spread in different parts of the country, especially in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Bihar, etc. Claiming Punjab as their motherland, the Sikhs have developed a very strong sub-national identity, carrying with them the vital elements of the Punjabi culture. The Sikhs are excellent cultivators in the rural areas; they have played a very significant role in the Green Revolution of the country. In urban areas, most of them earn their livelihood in the trade and commerce sectors. They have always maintained a larger share in defence forces of the country. Like the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, other religious
minorities of the country, such as the Jains and the Buddhists have also stayed in the mainstream of Indian politics. The Constitution of India has provided the minority groups with some safeguards. The Preamble of the Constitution describes the concept of secularism which means that the State has no religion of its own, and there is equal respect for and protection to all religions. No one is to be discriminated on grounds of religion and everyone is guaranteed full and equal freedom of religion. Article 30 of the Indian Constitution states that the minorities have rights to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. This includes the right to choose the medium of instruction, curricula, and subject to be taught. Minorities can impart instructions to their children in their own languages. The National Commission for Minorities undertakes review of the implementation of the policies formulated by the Union and state governments with regard to minorities. It looks into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities, and conducts research and analysis on the question of avoidance of discrimination against the minorities. The minority communities have to face several problems in India. The minorities are not able to integrate properly in the Hindu-dominated society. There is apprehension among some sections that for enlarging its base, the Christian community is involved in converting the low caste Hindus or tribes to its own community or religion, resulting in the killing and intense conflict between the majority Hindus and the Christian minority. This has created too much insecurity and fear among the Christian minority in India. The minorities claim that unlike their Hindu counterpart, they are relatively deprived in areas like employment, politics and social facilitation. According to them, they are poorly represented in civil services as well as in medical and engineering colleges. The serious communal riots especially after 1960s have instilled a sense of insecurity among the Muslims and tend to push them into their narrow communal shell. The anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat during February-May 2002 supposedly in retaliation to the Godhra incident has shaken not only the Indian Muslims, but all the concerned Indian citizens. During the caste conflicts, communal violence, etc., the minority groups seek police protection. But the government in power also finds it difficult to provide such protection for all the members of minorities. For instance, the Modi government in Gujarat was unable to provide protection for the Muslims after the Gujarat massacre, in which huge numbers of Muslims were killed. Again, the then Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre was severely criticised for its failure to provide adequate security for the Sikh community of Delhi because of the communal riots that broke out after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Now, secularism began to be used merely as a slogan of opportunism. The politicians found it easy to align a large number of multi-cultural citizens into culturally distinct groups for the realization of their vested interests. Most of the communal riots in the country have been the handiwork of disgruntled politicians, anti-social elements and criminals. Demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, the Mumbai riots, and the Godhra carnage and subsequent massacres in 2002 revealed the serious weakness and susceptibility of India‟s commitments towards democracy and secularism. Thus, the condition of religious minorities in India continues to be very complex and critical. In order to improve the condition of the religious minorities in India, the government in power should make every effort to restore their confidence. It is also necessary to create conditions in which the minorities are assured that their constitutional and legal rights are safeguarded. The government should seriously respond to the real needs and requirements of the poor and needy minority groups. The government should seriously consider the
Sachar Committee Report without any delay and implement its recommendations. Peopleto-people contact, social consciousness, abolition of illiteracy etc. may prove useful confidence-building measures. The secular values must be internalised by the people and political parties. No political party should be permitted to contest election by exploiting the emotions of a particular community. Efforts should also be made to promote liberal social reforms to deal effectively with communalism and the influence of communalist leaders. The secular political class of India should campaign for widening the base of education for Muslims. The religious minorities have to be empowered educationally and economically. The progress of the country can be achieved if all the religious communities in India live in perfect harmony
‘Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for Welfare of Minorities’. (A) Enhancing opportunities for Education. (1) Equitable availability of ICDS Services The integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is aimed at holistic development of children and pregnant/lactating mothers from disadvantaged section, by providing services through Anganwadi Centres such as supplementary nutrition , immunization, health check-up, referral services, pre-school and non-formal education. A certain percentage of the ICDS projects and Anganwadi Centres will be located in blocks/villages with a substantial population of minority communities to ensure that he benefits of the scheme are equitable available to such communities also. (2) Improving access to School Education Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, and other similar Government schemes, it will be ensured that a certain percentage of such school are located in villages/localities having a substantial population of minority communities (3) Greater resources for teaching Urdu Central assistance will be provided for recruitment and posting of Urdu language teachers in primary and upper primary schools that serve a population in which at least one-fourth belong to that language group. (4) Modernizing Madarsa Education The Central Plan Scheme of Area Intensive and Madarsa Modernization Programm provides basis educational infrastructure in areas of concentration of educationally backward minorities and resources for the modernization of Madarsa education. Keeping in view of importance of addressing this need, this programme will be substantially strengthened and implemented effectively.
(5) Scholarships for meritorious students from minority communities Schemes for pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for students from minority communities will be formulated and implemented. (6) Improving educational infrastructure through the Maulana Azad Education Foundation. The Government shall provide all possible assistance to Maulana Azad Educaion Foundation (MAEF) to strengthen and enable it to expand its activities more effectively. (B) Equitable Share in Economic Activities and Employment (7) Self-Employment and Wage Employment for the poor The Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna(SGSY), the primary self-employment programme for rural areas, has the objective fo bringing assisted poor rural families above the poverty line by providing them income generating assets through a mix of bank credit and Governmental subsidy. A certain percentage of the physical and financial targets under the SGSY will be earmarked for beneficiaries belonging to the minority communities living below the poverty line in rural areas. The Swarnjayanti Shahary Rohgar Yojna(SSRY) consists of two major components namely, the Urban Self-Employment Programme (USEP) and the Urban Wage Employment Programme(UWEP). A certain percentage of the physical and financial targets under USEP and UWEP will be earmarked to benefit people below the poverty line from the minority communities. The Sampurna Grameen Rozgar Yojna(SGRY) is aimed at providing additional wage employment in rural areas alongside the creation of durable community, social and economic infrastructure. Since the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programm(NREGP) has been launched in 200 districts, and SGRY has been merged with NREGP in these districts, in the remaining districts, a certain percentage of the allocation under SGRY will be earmarked for beneficiaries belonging to the minority communities living below the poverty line till these districts are taken up under NREGP. Simultaneously, a certain percentage of the allocation will be earmarked for the creation of infrastructure in such villages, which have a substantial population of minorities. (8) Upgradation of skill through technical training A very large proportion of the population of minority communities is engaged in low-level technical work or earns its living as handicraftsmen. Provision of technical training to such people would upgrade their skills and earning capability. Therefore, a certain proportion of all new ITIs will be located in areas predominantly inhabited by minority communities and a proportion of existing it is to be upgraded to „Centres of Excellence‟ will be selected on the same basis. (9) Enhanced credit support for economic activities The National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC) was set up in 1994 with the objective of promoting economic development activities among the minority
communities. The Government is committed to strengthen the NMDFC by providing it greater equity support to enable it to fully achieve its objective. Bank credit is essential for creation and sustenance of self-employment initiative. A target of 40% of net bank credit for priority sector lending has been fixed for domestic banks. The priority sector includes, inter alia, agricultural loans, loan to small-scale industries & small business, loans to retail trade, professional and self-employed persons, education loans, housing loans and micro-credit. It will be ensured that an appropriate percentage of the priority sector lending in all categories is targeted for the minority communities. (10) Recruitment to State and Central Services In the recruitment of police personnel, State Governments will be advised to give special consideration to minorities. For this purpose, the composition of selection committees should be representative. The Central Government will take similar action in the recruitment of personnel to the Central police forces. Large scale employment opportunities are provided by the Railways, nationalized banks and public sector enterprises. In these cases also, the concerned departments will ensure that special consideration is given to recruitment from minority communities. An exclusive scheme will be launched for candidates belonging to minority communities to provide coaching in Government institutions as well as private coaching institutes with credibility. (C) Improving the conditions of living of minorities. (11) Equitable share in rural housing scheme The Indira Awaas Yojna(IAY) provides financial assistance for shelter to the rural poor living below the poverty line. A certain percentage of the physical and financial targets under IAY will be earmarked for poor beneficiaries from minority communities living in rural areas. (12) Improvement in condition of slums inhabited by minority communities. Under the schemes of Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme(IHSDP) and Jawaharlal Nahru Urban Renewal Mission(JNURM), the Central Government provides assistance to States/UTs for development of urban slums through provision of physical amenities and basic services. It would be ensured that the benefits of these programmes flow equitable to members of the minority communities and to cities/slums, predominantly inhabited by minority communities. (D) Prevention & Control of Communal Riots (13) Prevention of communal incidents In the areas, which have been identified as communally sensitive and riot prone districts and police officials of the highest known efficiency, impartiality and secular record must be posted. In such areas and even elsewhere, the prevention of communal tension should be
one of the primary duties of the district magistrate and superintendent of police. Their performance in this regard should be an important factor in determining their promotion prospects. (14) Prosecution for communal offences Severe action should be taken against all those who incite communal tension or take part in violence. Special court or courts specifically earmarked to try communal offences should be set up so that offenders are brought to book speedily. (15) Rehabilitation of victims of communal riots. Victims of communal riots should be given immediate relief and provided prompt and adequate financial assistance for their rehabilitation.
Essay on Problems of Minorities in India
– India is a multi-lingual and a multi-
religious country. Indian society is pluralistic in character from the religious and other points of view. Since a very long time people belonging to various religious communities has been living together in this country. Though the majority of the people living in this land are Hindus [82.41%], people belonging to other religious communities such as Muslims [11.67%], Christians [2.32%], Sikhs [2%], Buddhists [0.77%], Jains [0.41%] and others rO.43%] are also living along with the Hindus by enjoying on par similar rights and opportunities. By virtue of their numerical strength, the Hindus constitute the majority while the rest of the religious communities come under what is known as “religious minorities”. Regarding the concept of “minority” in the Indian context, it can be said that the term has not been properly defined anywhere in the Indian Constitution. But “minority status” has been conferred on many groups. i. According to the Article 29 of the Constitution, any group living within the jurisdiction of India is entitled to preserve and promote its own language, script or literature, and culture. ii. Article 30 states that a minority group “whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institution of their choice. ” Problems of Religious Minorities Racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities are subject to some or the other problems everywhere. The two main problems which they normally face are: (i) the problem of prejudice and discrimination, and (ii) the problem of preserving their distinct social and cultural life. 1. Problem of Prejudice and Discrimination: In the Indian context, discrimination especially in providing opportunities to people of different religious communities is, not at all in practice. The Preamble of the Constitution itself declares that all people irrespective of their caste, class, colour, creed, sex, region or religion will be provided with equal rights and opportunities. Articles 15(1) and 15(2) prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion. Article 25 promises the right to profess, propagate and practise religion. It is clear that there is no legal bar on any religious community in India to make use of the opportunities [educational, economic, etc.] extended to the people. It is true that some religious communities [for example, Muslims] have not been able to avail themselves of the opportunities on par with other communities. This situation does not reflect any discrimination. It only reveals that such communities have been lagging behind in the competitive race, mainly because of the lack of educational qualification.
As far as prejudices are concerned, prejudices and stereotyped^ thinking are common features of a complex society. India is not an exception to this. Commonly used statements such as – “Hindus are cowards and Muslims are rowdies; Sikhs are dullards and Christians are converters “, etc. – reflect the prevalent religious prejudices. Such prejudices further widen the social distance among the religious communities. This problem still persists in India. Except in some sensitive areas this problem of prejudice is not disturbing the routine life of different communities, including that of the minorities. 2. Problem of Preserving Distinct Social and Cultural Life: India is one among the very few nations which have given equal freedom to all the religious communities to pursue and practise their religion. Article 25 of the Constitution provides for such a right. Added to this, Article 3D (1) states all minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. They are given the right to preserve their socio-cultural characteristics. It has set up a “Minorities Commission” to help the minorities in seeking justice. No minority community can have a grievance against any government particularly in this matter. Some of the Problems of Minorities in India: In spite of the provisions of the constitutional equality, religious minorities in India, often experience some problems among which the following may be noted. 1. Problem of Providing Protection: Need for security and protection is very often felt by the minorities. Especially in times of communal violence, caste conflicts, observance of festivals and religious functions on a mass scale, minority groups often seek police protection. Government in power also finds it difficult to provide such a protection to all the members of the minorities. It is highly expensive also. State governments which fail to provide such protection are always criticised. For example, (i) the Rajiv Gandhi Government was severely criticised for its failure to give protection to the Sikh community in the Union Territory of Delhi on the eve of the communal violence that broke out there soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. (ii) The Gujarat State Government was criticised for its inability to provide protection to the Muslim minorities in the recent [Feb. Mar. - 2002] communal violence that burst out. (iii) Similarly, the Government of Jammu-Kashmir‟s inefficiency in providing adequate security to the Hindu and Sikh minorities in that State against the atrocities of Muslim extremists is also widely condemned. 2. Problem of Communal Tensions and Riots: Communal tensions and riots have been incessantly increasing since independence. Whenever the communal tensions and riots take place for whatever reason, minority interests get threatened; fears and anxieties become widespread. It becomes a tough task for the government in power to restore the confidence in them.
3. Problem of Lack of Representation in Civil Service and Politics: Though the Constitution provides for equality and equal opportunities to all its citizens including the religious minorities, the biggest minority community, that is, Muslims in particular, have not availed themselves of these facilities. There is a feeling among them that they are neglected. However, such a feeling does not seem to exist among the other religious minority communities such as the Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, for they seem to be economically and educationally better than the majority community. 4. Problem of Separatism: Some of the demands put forward by some religious communities in some areas are not acceptable to others. This has widened the gap between them and others, Examples: The separatist tendency present among some Muslim extremists in Kashmir and their demand for the establishment of Independent Kashmir is not acceptable to others. Such a demand is regarded as anti-national. Similarly, some of the Christian extremists in Nagaland and Mizoramare demanding separate statehood for their provinces. Both these derrjands are supportive of “separatism” and hence cannot be accepted. Supporters of such demands have been causing lot of disturbances and creating law and order problems in the respective states. 5. Failure to Stick on Strictly to Secularism: India has declared itself as a “secular” country. The very spirit of our Constitution is secular. Almost all political parties including the Muslim League claim themselves to be secular. But in actual practice, no party is honest in its commitment to secularism, Purely religious issues are often politicised by these parties. Similarly, secular issues and purely law and order problems are given religious colours. These parties are always waiting for an opportunity to politicalise communal issues and take political advantage out of it. Hence, the credibility of these parties in their commitment to secularism is lost. This has created suspicion and feeling of insecurity in the minds of minorities. 6. Problem Relating to the Introduction of Common Civil Code: Another major hurdle that we find in the relation between the majority and the minority is relating to the failure of Governments which have assumed power so far, in the introduction of a common civil code. It is argued that social equality is possible only when a common civil code is enforced throughout the nation. Some communities, particularly the Muslims oppose it. They argue that the imposition of a common civil code, as it is opposed to the “Shariat” will take away their religious freedom. This issue has become controversial today. It has further widened the gap between the religious communities. It is true that communal disturbances, religious conflicts, group clashes are taking place frequently in India. In spite of these disturbances the nation has maintained its secular character for the past 55 years. Further, the government has
been making special efforts to safeguard the interests of the religious minorities. Some of the governmental efforts in promoting the welfare of the minorities are mentioned below.
UN Declaration of 18th December 1992 In order to strengthen the cause of the minorities, the United Nations promulgated the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” on 18th December 1992 proclaiming that: “States shall protect the existence of the National or Ethnic, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.” The National Commission for Minorities has been observing the 18th December as a Minorities Rights Day every year.