Tuesday, December 26, 2017

BJP leaders "pooh-poohed" minority status to Hindus in J&K 20 yrs ago, NDA govt "cold shouldered" recommendation

By Our Representative
In a significant revelation, a former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has said that a report, prepared under him, recommending to the NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee that Hindus be treated as minorities in non-Hindu majority states of India was “pooh-poohed” by BJP leaders and “cold shouldered” by the government.
According to former NCM chairman Tahir Mahmood, who was also member of the Law Commission of India, this happened “two decades” ago, when he “personally prepared a special report titled ‘Hindu Minorities in India’, written after visiting the states concerned and hearing local leaders.”
“My report, recommending state-level minority status for Hindus in Jammu & Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Punjab, was endorsed by the Commission and submitted to the central government, then led by the BJP”, Mahmood says in an article, adding though, it was rejected.
Mahmood’s stark revelation comes amidst a petition filed in the Supreme Court seeking to recognize Hindus as a religious minority in certain states, but says Mahmood, “If the petitioner’s idea has his party’s support it is intriguing.”
There are two petitions on the issue. One of them, filed by Ankur Sharma, a Jammu lawyer, came up for hearing the Supreme Court this month, insisting on the need to set up minorities commission in J&K, because, according to him, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians were “unable” to access benefits meant for minorities in the state, where 68.3% of the population is Muslim.
Sharma’s plea came after a BJP lawyer-leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, petitioned the apex court to direct the Government of India to confer minority status on Hindus in seven states, including J&K, and a Union Territory.
On the advice of a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Upadhyay withdrew his petition and has now approached the National Commission for Minorities, which is said to be considering the matter.
According to Sharma, in J&K, in the absence of a minorities commission, “crores worth aid are being given away to a certain community, which is the majority Muslim community, in an illegal and arbitrary manner”.
Says Mahmood, the apex court said, since J&K does not fall within the purview of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, a state minorities commission can only be set up "through legislation by the state assembly or an administrative order by the state government."
He notes, in the Constitution, Article 29 proclaims that “any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have a right to conserve the same”.
He adds, "Article 30 recognises the right of a religious or linguistic minority to establish and administer educational institutions."
"Read together, the two provisions may be taken as the constitutional charter for religious and linguistic minorities at all levels", he underlines, adding, however, "The Constitution does not specify a mechanism for identifying groups of citizens covered by either of these provisions."
According to Mahmood, "The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, confined in application to religious minorities, does not list them either; it only states that for the purposes of the Act the word 'minorities' means communities 'notified as such' by the central government."
Based on this, he says, a notification "issued under this provision in 1993 proclaimed Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis as minorities".
Mahmood adds, "The Jains protested against their exclusion and, on taking over as the Commission’s chairman, I took the position that since the Constitution and the laws bracket Jains with Buddhists and Sikhs, the government had two options: either drop Buddhists and Sikhs from the list or to extend it to Jains."
Fifteen years later, the government went for the second option – on the persistent demand of some Jain leaders, the 1993 notification was modified to include their community among the minorities.

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