“In the long run, it would be in the interest of all to forget that there is anything like majority or minority in this country and that in India there is only one community.”
—Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Constituent Assembly Debates (Proceedings) – Vol VIII, Wednesday, May 25,1949
The State of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) is a bunch of contradictions and anomalies. Like any other princely State, it opted for the complete accession in Bharat, still it is projected and discussed as an incomplete process. The loudest cry of discrimination and alienation comes from this State, even after receiving ‘special’ attention and assistance from the successive Union Governments. The only Presidential Order that was inserted in the Article 35 (A) is existing even after 60 years without any assent of the Parliament and is being misused to raise the flag of ‘Special Status’. The gender discrimination is a sanctioned norm in this ‘Secular Crown’ of Bharat. Now the hearing on a PIL seeking
identification of religious minorities in the State has opened up another set of contradiction prevailing there.
The Minorities Act of 1992 has not been extended to J&K, like many other provisions. So, Muslims, who constitute an overwhelming majority of around 69 per cent, continue to be a minority as identified at the Central level. Various Central Government schemes, around 50 odd, have funding provisions for minority communities across Bharat, which benefits around 2.5 lakh Muslim children, mostly from the Valley, in the case of J & K. More importantly, it denies the same right to the real minorities of the State like Sikhs, Buddhist and Hindus. In this backdrop, Ankur Sharma, an Advocate from Kathua, has filed a case asking for stoppage of all Central schemes funds for J&K and demanding immediate set up of the Minority Commission in J & K.
If we go by the Constituent Assembly debates and the provisions in the Constitution, the term ‘minority’ does not have a mere religious connotation. In fact, stalwarts like Sardar Patel and Dr Ambedkar were against using this term, so there is no definition in the Constitution. The usage of ‘minority’ has religious, cultural, linguistic etc dimensions which change as per the context. This was expected to be the consideration while identifying the minorities and devising the policies of governance. Unfortunately, this ethos is killed by the blatant communal politics in the name of ‘secularism’.
The extension of this communal secularism is more peculiar in case of J & K, where the sub-regional demography varies drastically. The Muslim population of Kashmir Valley is 96 per cent. In some districts like Pulwama and Anantnag, Hindus are not even 1 per cent, thanks to persecution faced in the name of ‘Azadi’. According to estimates 99 per cent of the total population of Hindus, mainly Kashmiri Pandits (i.e. approximately 150,000 to 160,000) was either displaced or faced the wrath of Islamic militancy in the Kashmir Valley in 1990s. The condition of Sikhs and Buddhists is not very different in the Valley dominated politics of the State. So, in the State where religious minorities have faced worst ever discrimination and harassment in the independent Bharat, the majority community is legally a minority. As per the government records 17 out of 22 districts are Muslim majority and if still the community is being treated as the minority, then it is nothing but the murder of our Constitutional ethos.
The answer given by the incumbent Government on these anomalies is more worrying. The J&K government, in its response to the PIL, has contended that it was not the only State where the minority declared by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) was a majority, citing the cases of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Punjab and Lakshadweep where minority as declared by the NCM was in majority. This brings us to the federal perspective on the whole issue of majority-minority. As per the NCM data, 17 out of total 29 states have
constituted minority commissions and identified minorities as per their State demography. Most of the states that did not bother to do so are the ones where Hindus are in a
minority. This is the height of ‘Secular Irony’.
“The sooner these classifications (majority-minority) disappear the better” was the vision of Sardar Patel which he articulated while tabling his Report of Advisory Committee on Minorities etc to the Constituent Assembly. Ideally we should have attained the same by now. If not, then the logic of minoritism on religious lines should be extended to the federal units including J & K to clearly identify the minorities and give them the due rights and benefits. Otherwise we will keep defying not only the vision of our Constitution makers but also negating the legal provisions made in the name of ‘minority rights’.