Call for Review: Examining the Definition of ‘Minority’ in Contemporary Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully concluded his three-day visit to the United States of America, garnering praise for the historic nature of the trip. However, former President Barack Obama’s comments during an interview with CNN International have sparked controversy and debate.

Obama stated, “I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority-Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning. If you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, there is a strong possibility at some point that India starts pulling apart.”

While Obama’s remarks were largely ignored, some sections of the media seized upon them to portray a negative image. Several news portals have since highlighted Obama’s alleged double-speak, hypocrisy, and his track record regarding human suffering around the world.

However, it is crucial to set the narrative straight regarding the definition of a minority in a vast country like India and the historical context.

During the Constituent Assembly discussions, Sardar Patel expressed his view on the subject, stating, “A minority that could force the partition of the country is not a minority at all… It was all right when there was a third party: But that is all over. That dream is a mad dream and it should be forgotten altogether.”

Despite Patel’s views being disregarded by subsequent leaders, the present reality is that Hindus are a minority in nine states and union territories, including Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur. Yet, Hindus face restrictions in establishing and administering educational institutions of their choice in these regions. Even in cases where Hindus constitute less than 10% of the population, they are still officially treated as the majority.

According to a report by Dainik Bhaskar, Hindus are a minority in 102 districts out of the 775 districts in the country. Other organizations have cited even higher figures, reaching around 200 districts. This situation raises concerns, especially considering that most Hindu faiths lack organizational structures like those found in Abrahamic faiths. Consequently, when Hindus are a minority, they face significant challenges at the grassroots level, particularly during periods of aggression. Paradoxically, even in such situations, Hindus are labeled as the majority and accused of practicing “majoritarianism.”

The Supreme Court has acknowledged that minority status for religious and linguistic communities is state-dependent. The court has indicated that a religious or linguistic community considered a minority in a particular state can inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run its own educational institutions under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing Sri Devkinandan Thakur, argued that Hindus in certain states are unable to exercise their rights under Articles 29 and 30 due to the absence of specific notifications declaring them as minorities. This issue requires attention, and stakeholders in states and union territories should take appropriate steps, including fostering social and political awareness on the subject.

Furthermore, there is a need to map data related to aggression, riots, and intolerance to demographics, down to the district, taluka, or mandal level. It is imperative to dispel the narrative that puts Hindus on the defensive, and address misconceptions once and for all.

(This was first published in arisebharat)

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