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Major worry over minority tag

Not just political parties, even institutions governed by National Commission for Minority Education are opposing the move to define 'minority'. Chetan Chauhan finds out why.
Hindustan Times | By Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2007 02:13 AM IST

Not just political parties, even institutions governed by the National Commission for Minority Education are opposing the move to define the term minority. The reason: not only will it change the character of minority-run institutions in India, it is also against the basic framework of the Constitution.

For instance, students and institutions now claiming minority status in states like Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya and Mizoram will no longer be members of the minority community. In these states, Hindus will be the new minorities.

The 103rd Constitutional Amendment seeks to have state-wise minority status rather than national status, as is the norm now. Minorities in states will be decided through a presidential notification in consultation with the state government. The amendment will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament starting in August.

The National Commission for Minority Education says the amendment will make Christian students from Meghalaya and Mizoram ineligible for admission in Christian colleges like St Stephens, as they will not have domicile minority status.

Likewise, Sikhs from Punjab and Muslims from J&K will not have minority status. Christian-run institutions in Kerala may also lose their minority tag.

"It will create a divide between the so-called minority communities. In some states, they will have minority status and in others they won’t," a commission official told HT. He added, "In case the states don’t declare minority communities, it can even lead to confusion."

Commission member BS Ramoowalia said: "Muslims will be increasingly alienated in Kashmir, as will Sikhs in Punjab, Christians in Northeast."

Commission chairperson MMA Siddique has written to HRD Minister Arjun Singh and Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay saying the constitutional amendment that the Cabinet approved in May first week is against the spirit of Article 30 of the Constitution.

"Articles 25 to 30 guarantee protection of religious, cultural and educational rights to both majority and minority communities. Therefore, it was felt not to define minority. We cannot supersede this vision," Siddique has written.

He has quoted BR Ambedkar saying in the Constituent Assembly that the term minority is used to "prevent political safeguards" and its definition can result in its interpretation in a narrow sense. The government decision, the Commission felt, will defeat the purpose of Article 30.

The Akali Dal is backing the commission and has written to the PM opposing the move.

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