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Case of minorities - The Hindustan Times

Editorial ()
8 February 1997

Title : Case of minorities
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Hindustan Times
Date : February 8, 1997

Given the traumatic circumstances in which the Indian State was
formed, it is not surprising that the founding fathers of the
Constitution dealt with the question of minorities in considerable
detail. After all, the country was partitioned something which was
inconceivable even two or three years before the fateful event -
because of the supposed apprehensions of a minority community. To
allay these fears, the Constitution accorded the right to the
minorities to run their own educational institutions and the "right
to conserve" their "language, script or culture". It cannot be
denied that this wise step helped India to blossom as an ideal
multi-cultural State, free from the kind of sectarian strife which
has afflicted Pakistan where the followers of even some Muslim
sects have been relegated to the status of second class citizens.
What the framers of the Constitution did not envisage, however, was
that, in course of time, these rights and privileges would become
virtual playthings in the hands of politicians and used more to set
apart the various communities than to integrate them. In this
context, the parallel with the issue of reservations also becomes
evident.

The initial reservations were only for the patently disadvantaged
Scheduled Castes and Tribes and that, too, for a limited period.
But the stipulated periods were not only routinely extended, the
whole issue became such a matter of vested interest for certain
groups that reservations were prescribed for communities which were
never as disadvantaged as the SC/ST and found no mention in the
Constitution. As the absurdity of the entire process became
increasingly evident, the judiciary had to step in, first, to limit
reservations to 50 per cent of the available facilities and then to
call for the elimination of those who have visibly benefited from
the quota system. In determining the question of which group
constitutes a minority by setting up a large bench, the Supreme
Court obviously wants to clear all confusions in this respect. The
step is all the more necessary because the privileges enjoyed by
minority institutions persuaded a respectable organisation like the
Ramakrishna Mission to claim that its followers were not Hindus, so
that it could also enjoy such rights. Clarifications are necessary
because religious and linguistic minorities in one State may be in
the majority in another and vice versa. Even as the judicial
verdict is required to ensure that Articles 29 and 30 are not
misused by crafty politicians and "educationists", it has to be
ensured that no citizen, of whatever caste or creed, feels
aggrieved because of the special rights enjoyed by a certain group.
The rights of religion, culture, language, etc., have to be
preserved, of course, but they must blend harmoniously with the
overall citizenship rights.



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