Define ‘minority’: Supreme Court asks panel to review state-wise populations
The Supreme Court has directed the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to “consider” a representation to include Hindus as minorities in eight states of the country. A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said the decision should be taken “preferably, within three months.”
The direction came when the court heard a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay. According to the petition, Hindus in eight states — Lakshadweep (2.77% of the population according to Census 2011), Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75 %), Meghalaya (11.53%), Jammu and Kashmir (28.44%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (41.39%) and Punjab (38.49%) — are numerically in minority in terms of population despite being the majority community in the entire country.
To be sure, the petition seems to have got the facts wrong about Manipur, where Hindus account for the majority, although the state also has a Christian population of roughly the same size.
The Centre, the petition alleged, was acting in an arbitrary manner by designating only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis as minorities in the country, not Hindus.
Senior advocate professor Bhim Singh said the issue of minority and majority was settled once and for all by the constituent assembly while drafting the Constitution.
“The Constitution framers held that the issue of majority and minority should be viewed nationally and not at state levels. So, there is no question of following any other model once the matter is settled,” he said.
Upadhyay said Muslims are actually the majority in Lakshdweep and J&K and in significant numbers in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
“Hindus are real minority But, their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily to majority population because Central Government has not notified them a ‘minority’ under Section 2 (c) of the NCM (National Commission for Minority) Act,” he said in his petition. Therefore, the members of the community are being deprived of their rights under the constitution, he added.
Senior advocate R S Suri said, “Hindus should be given minority community status in these states as it all depends on the population of the community and granting of minority status will also give protection to the Hindus. “
Under section 2 (c) of the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992, the Centre has notified only five communities – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis – as “minority.”
The notification has been made without defining minority and framing parameters for identification of minority.
“Christians are majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and there is significant population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal but they are treated as minority. Likewise, Sikhs are majority in Punjab and there is significant population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana but they are (treated as) minority,” reads the petition.
The petition’s argument is that the wrroneous definition of minorities disadvantages Hindus.
“The government offered 20000 scholarships in field of technical education for minority students. In J&K, Muslims are 68.30% but government allotted 717 out of 753 scholarships to Muslim students but none to Hindus,” it said.