For time in the independent history of India, a Home Minister has dared to mention the privileges enjoyed by the minority institutions. Home Minister Amit Shah while speaking on the Citizenship amendment bill has questioned why no one among the liberal politicians, who are condemning the CAB, has questioned the validity of the minority institutions on the same parameters of article 14, which they are using against the CAB.
Article 14 which mandates, Equality before law, says that “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
While speaking in the lower house, HM Amit Shah questioned the “learned men” present in the opposition as to why India has laws pertaining to minority institutions if the CAB by their argument, violates Article 14.
By virtue of Article 30, which lays down “The right of all the religious or linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their own choice,” several institutions such as Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University are functioning. However, these institutions have been embroiled in various controversies due to their radical stances over issues.
Article 30 provides an absolute right to the linguistic and religious minorities that they can establish and manage educational institutions and also receive grants in aid, while the same provision is not available to the majority. This had led to proliferation of Madrasas and Christian educational institutions, but the same right is not conferred upon the majority.
A conference on ‘Equal Rights for Hindus’ recently discussed discrimination against Hindus in a day long and revealing discussion. The organizers asked for amendment in Articles 12, 15, 19, 25 to 30 and insertion of new article 12A, to protect the rights of the majority and conserve its literary texts.
Recently, even the Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had told the Rajya Sabha that there is no provision for reservation for poor students of minority communities in minority educational institutions, however, there are schemes to educationally empower them. Reservation for Dalits and other backward classes in minority institutions has always been a demand to these communities.
Exposing the hypocrisy of the Congress as they have used this clause several times, Amit Shah argued that reasonable classifications in the Article 14 ensure that the bill is not against the constitution. “Number of minorities in Pakistan reduced from 23 per cent to 3 per cent. Number of minorities in Bangladesh has gone down too. These minorities need to be protected”, asserted Shah. Indeed, in 1947, the population of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was 30%. Today it is only about about 7%. Shah also added that from 1991 to 2011 the Hindu population in India has gone down from 84 per cent to 79 per cent and Muslim population rose from 9.8 per cent to 14.23 per cent. This as per Shah proves that India has not discriminated on the basis of religion. He later also added that India will never accept Rohingyas.
Notably, Pakistan’s religious minorities are widely viewed as embattled or under attack, both Muslim as well as non-Muslim. It is not only Pakistan where Muslim, as well as non-Muslim minorities, are under attack. Rather, this is a phenomenon which is prevalent in a number of Muslim-majority countries including Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In the context of a Muslim world comprising 1.4 billion people, with an extremely young population, not only is it important to recognize how Pakistan treats its minority populations but it is equally critical to note the role of stateless actors or extremist groups in these Muslim countries.
Similarly in Bangladesh too, persecution of the minority has been increasing day by day, even noted professor Barakat had announced that there would be no Hindus left in Bangladesh in 30 years due to religious persecution.
On the other hand in India, the number of minorities has risen rapidly in recent decades. According to a report by Yale University, India will acquire a new global status in terms of the religious composition of its population. With a population of 310 million Muslims, India will become the largest Muslim “country” in the world. The number of Muslims will increase from 14 per cent in 2011 to 18 per cent in the next few years.
While Amit Shah’s statement pointed towards the extra rights given to minorities in India, and their well-being, it also shows that the Home Minister has taken notice of this anomaly in the constitution, and the government may bring amendments in the future balancing the rights of Hindus with the minorities.