Saturday, April 15, 2017

Gujarat is among 3 Indian states without minorities' commission: Rights group to send 1 lakh protest postcards

A Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad
By Our Representative
In an unusual move, the newly-formed civil rights organization, Minority Coordination Committee Gujarat (MCCG), has decided to begin a state-wide campaign to press for the demand to form a state minorities’ commission by sending around one lakh hand written post cards to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.
Claiming to be non-political and not attached with any non-government organization, MCCG convener Mujahid Nafees said, “While the post cards will be sent from across Gujarat over the next few weeks, we have listed the demands for minorities’ welfare, which will be converted into a representation to Rupani. The representation will attract similar endorsements.”
Regretting that Gujarat is one of the very few Indian states which do not have a minorities’ commission, Nafees said, “We are hopeful that Rupani, who is a Jain, a minority community, will surely look into our demand.”
Almost all major states of India, with the exception of Gujarat, Odisha and Jammu & Kashmir, have state minorities’ commissions. The last one to be formed was in Haryana, in 2014. If they are functioning as statutory bodies in several states, in some others, like in Madhya Pradesh, they have been kept headless.
While Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have joint minorities’ commissions, Odisha has an ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Department. Mehbooba Mufti’s Jammu & Kashmir government, which is in coalition with BJP, declared in February 2017 that the state does not need a minorities’ commission, dismaying Hindus and Sikhs, who are the main minority groups.
Earlier, during a meeting, activists of the MCCG regretted that the Congress in Gujarat has not raised the issue of having a minorities’ commission, or demanded a department exclusively dealing with minorities. The meeting was told, the Gujarat government, in a written answer, told a query that the state does not have a minorities’ commission because it does not have the “required percentage of minorities.”
Finding the argument strange, Nafees said, “The population of minorities in Gujarat is 11.5% (as per data of Census 2011, which includes Muslims 9.7%, Jains 1.0%, Christians 0.5%, Buddhists 0.1%, and others 0.1%.” In Punjab, which has a minorities’ commission, there are just 3.8% people who could be qualified as minorities -- Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains. 
According to Nafees, these facts show that “minorities in Gujarat are more underprivileged than elsewhere”, even as providing figures to show how the government has remained indifferent towards minority concentrated blocks and towns, identified by the Government of India.
During 2013-16, he said, no additional classrooms were allotted in these areas, no new housing facilities were built, no new projects were sanctioned for infrastructure development, no help was forthcoming to individual and group micro-enterprises, no new primary schools were opened under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and no drinking water facilities were extended.
“In Gujarat 75% Muslim children take admission at primary schools, but in 8th standard this percentages decreases 45%”, Nafees complained, adding, “Further, only 26% reach matriculation or Standard 10”, he said, adding, the situation has got aggravated as “Gujarat is witness of one of the worst internal migrations of independent India: Due to 2002 riots about 2 lakh people were forced to migrate to mainly Muslim ghettos in big cities.”
Apart from having a separate minorities’ commission, other demands worked out by MCCG include having separate financial provision for development of minorities, government higher secondary schools in minority localities, recognition of madarsa degree or certificate as equivalent to government degree or certificate, and special policy for the rehabilitation of internally displaced minorities due to communal riots.

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