Religious & Linguistic Minorities in India

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Supreme Court held that the minority status of religious and linguistic communities is “State-dependent”.

    More about the news

    • The petition:
      • The court was hearing a petition complaining that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of non-identification of ‘minority’ at State level, thus jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30.
    • The opinion of the bench:
      • The court held that every person in India can be a minority in one State or the other
      • So, a religious or linguistic community that is a minority in a particular State can inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run its own educational institutions under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution
    • Requirement of notification as ‘minority’:
      • The court also asked whether a specific notification, declaring such non-dominant communities as a ‘minority’ in the particular State, was required to be issued at all.
      • Hindus residing in certain States were unable to exercise their rights under Articles 29 and 30 in the absence of a specific notification declaring them a minority.

    Issues

    • The primary concern is the “general perception” that since Hindus were a majority, they cannot claim minority status in States where they were “definitely a minority”.
      • Hindus are a mere 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab and 41.29% in Manipur.
    • The recognition of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis nationally by the Centre as ‘minorities’ ignored the fact that religious communities like Hindus were “socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior” in several States.
    • In the case of linguistic minorities: 
      • In Punjab, Hindi-speaking people are in a minority. 
      • Likewise, people who speak all other languages except Hindi are a minority in Delhi
      • But there is no notification issued per se that these people are a minority in Delhi. 
      • Kannada or Tamil speakers are a minority in Maharashtra. But there is no such notification in these states.
    • Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act 1992, gave “unbridled power” to the Centre to notify minorities
      • TMA Pai Case
        • The apex Court stated that for the purposes of Article 30, the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered state-wise.

    Minority in India

    • About: 
      • In 2005, the Union Government notified five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis — as minorities at the national level
        • In 2014, the then government notified followers of Jainism as a minority community, making them the sixth on the national list.
      • As per the Census 2011, the percentage of minorities in the country is about 19.3% of the total population of the country. 
        • The population of Muslims are 14.2%; Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.7%, Buddhists 0.7%, Jain 0.4% and Parsis 0.006%.
    • Constitutional provisions:
      • Article 29:
        • It deals with the “protection of interest of minorities”, says that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
      • Article 30:
        • It deals with the “right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions”, and says that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
          • Minority for the purpose of Article 30 cannot have a different meaning depending upon who is legislating. 
          • Language being the basis for the establishment of different states for the purposes of Article 30, linguistic Minority will have to be determined in relation to the state in which the educational institution is sought to be established. 
          • The position with regard to the religious minorities is similar, since both religious and linguistic minorities have been put on power in article 30.
      • Article 350 A: 
        • It says there shall be a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to be appointed by the President
        • “It shall be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under this constitution and report to the President upon those matters.”

    National Commission for Minorities(NCM)

    • Background:  In 1978, the setting up of the Minorities Commission (MC) was envisaged in the Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution.
      • In 1984, the MC was detached from the Ministry of Home Affairs and placed under the newly created Ministry of Welfare, which excluded linguistic minorities from the Commission’s jurisdiction in 1988.
      • In 1992, with the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, the MC became a statutory body and was renamed as the NCM.
    • The first National Commission for Minorities with a statutory status was formed in 1993.
    • Composition of the commission: 
      • The commission consists of seven members which include a Chairperson and a Vice-Chairperson along with five other members.
      • All members of the commission must belong to minority communities enlisted as minorities, and from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity.
      • Every member of the Commission holds office for a period of three years.

    Source: TH