Muslims should no longer be considered a religious minority community in Uttar Pradesh, ruled the Allahabad High Court on Thursday.
The court’s ruling, which could have far reaching political and social consequences, came after it considered various demographic criteria relating to Muslims in the census reports of 1951 and 2001.
Muslims account for roughly 20 per cent of the 16.6 crore population of Uttar Pradesh, according to state government figures released in 2005.
Coming only two days ahead of the first phase of assembly polls, the ruling drew a prompt reaction from Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who announced in Lucknow that his government would seek its review.
The ruling was given on a writ petition filed by a madrasa in Ghazipur, challenging out of turn grants-in-aid to certain other minority institutions. Justice S.N. Srivastava also directed the state government to treat all members of the Muslim community equal to other non-minority religious communities — without any discrimination in accordance with the law.
Representatives of the Muslim community said the ruling went against the spirit of a previous Supreme Court judgment. The All India Muslim Personal Board (AIMPLB) appealed to the UPA government at the Centre to take up the matter in the Supreme Court.
AIMPLB member and senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani told HT that a Supreme Court bench in August 2005 had laid down guidelines for assessing minority status. The court had said that state, and not nation or region, should be considered as the unit to determine minority status. The apex court had said that if the population of a group was less than 50 per cent it should be considered a minority, Jilani said.
Prominent Shia cleric Kalbe Jawad said he would move the Supreme Court against the ruling, which, according to him, encourages communal forces. The Naib Imam Eidgah, Maulana Khalid Rashid said the high court verdict would harm the Muslim community, as financial assistance from the government to it would cease.