Hindus not a minority in J-K, welfare schemes only for ‘needy’: State govt to SC
Jammu and Kashmir does not acknowledge Hindus as a “minority” in the state as it goes by the Centre’s national list of minorities, according to an affidavit filed by the PDP-BJP coalition government in the Supreme Court last week.
The state government told the top court that benefits of Central schemes would only be extended to “meritorious” and “needy” members of those communities that are notified by the Centre, suggesting that members of the Hindu committee would not be eligible.
The J&K affidavit referred to a Central government notification of 1993 that lists Muslims as a minority. The other minority groups, as per the document, are Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. In 2014, the Jain community was added to this list.
“The benefits flowing out of the scheme prepared by the Central government are targeted to the needy and meritorious beneficiaries of the minority community as notified by the Centre for Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Punjab and Lakshwadeep,” the affidavit said.
In case the notified minority is the majority in a state, the benefits are to be earmarked to other notified minorities for the purpose of fixing physical and financial targets, the affidavit added.
The state government was responding to a petition in the top court that asked for Hindus to be declared a minority community in Jammu and Kashmir and seven other states.
J&K is the lone Muslim-majority state in India, where 79.8% of the 1.2 billion people are Hindus. According to the 2011 Census, the state has over 8.5 million Muslims, which is 68.31% of its total population of 12.5 million. Hindus account for 28.43% of the population at 3.56 million.
The state government said that the national commission for minorities act extends to the whole of India, except J&K. Therefore, the government said, it was not bound to identify minorities within the state. The affidavit said the law does not govern how Central government schemes should be implemented.
The petition, filed by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma, also pleads for setting up of a minorities commission in the state in accordance with the top court’s 15-year-old directive.
The state government said it will “consider and examine” the “need and feasibility” of establishing a state minorities commission. It would be done “at the relevant time” and “as and when need arises” based on “critical study of social backwardness of minorities spread across various regions of the state”.
After Sharma’s public interest litigation, the Central government in March constituted a committee headed by the secretary of the minority affairs ministry to examine issues related to minorities in Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court will hear the case again next January.