Rights of Minorities in India- A Theoretical Reality?

Fundamental Rights have had an important place in the life of an Indian citizen throughout his/her life which gives the power or the privilege to live freely in a country as well as move around. Fundamental rights remain to be universal but these rights are cultivated with a classification that has distinguished and has become different over time with emphasis more on the idea of cultural appropriation based on religion.

The rights have developed over time in Indian system as the democratic form of Government that has been established in the nation has been over the years based on one of the biggest setbacks in the society i.e of the concept of majority and minority. The essence of a democracy is by the people, of the people and for the people. The rights of every person have to be catered and looked at with more efficiency than the idea of common rights.

Every person rose to the status of a human being had come to a long line of the ideas and faiths which had developed an overall vision that the Indian peninsula is not homogeneous but rather diverse. The best way possible as stated above was based on the idea of majority and minority. Minorities refer to those people belonging to the sect of people who belong quantitively lesser and are distinct in nature than that of the majority.

Louis Wirth opined that “A minority is a group of people who because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment and who, therefore, regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. Further, minority status carries with it an exclusion from full participation in the life of the society”[1]

The minorities living in the country because of this reason feel secluded and are more conscious about the hindrances in comparison to the majority that they tend to face on a day to day basis comparing to the majority. The question about their Fundamental existence also has been of importance as the state of democracy highlights the importance of the inclusive idea and the belief of equality. The question remains whether the rights provided to them are oblivious to the ones for whom it is made or is it being utilised correctly and not misused.  

Provisions related to minority rights

The Fundamental rights that have been inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which intended to provide basic Human rights to every person present on the planet with the basic right to live. India, further diversifying the interests and the grounds have included the Fundamental rights to minorities and people belonging to “distinct culture”, which has the provision to ensure that the minorities are provided special rights to help in the normal functioning of the society.

The Indian Constitution has provided for the Fundamental rights and procurement under Part – III of the Indian Constitution which states that under the mentioning:

1. Right of a minority to establish educational institutions –

(a) Article 30(1)- gives the linguistic or religious minorities the two following rights-

(a) The right to establish, and

(b) Right to administer educational institutions of their choice

2. Article – 30(2) bars the state, while granting aid to educational institutions, from discriminating against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a linguistic or a religious minority. It mandates that while granting aid to educational institutions, the state shall not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

Along those lines, the most importance was given for provision of equality in the preamble which speaks of the idea of equality, secularism as well as liberty and fraternity which ensures that the inclusive idea is present in the Indian Democratic System with which the emphasis can be made on the belief and the prophesy which is unity in diversity. The Constituent Assembly along those lines had created another factor. The importance was given on the neutrality and the idea to not give a specific power to one particular religion or category of people.

The constituent assembly likewise decided to bring about a change in the belief of the people of exclusiveness with this idea. However, the conclusive idea remained with only one distinction made that was for the Anglo-Indians. However, justified with the argument of them being from a completely different background.  

It, however, must be noted that the Assembly did think of re-organising the concept of arranging the country based on linguistic powers which brought about a drastic change in the idea as the country became more powerful and united.[2] The problems that arose was on the grounds as to whether the country was in a position to the recognition of the fact that the distinction in the religious practices might be divided, however, the position of power based on religious grounds were still an issue which would have sparked controversy and another issue which was to be taken into the riots of Dhaniakhali which gave paved the wat for the ultimate plan to provide rights to the minorities who felt insecurity in the land.

Pragmatic Position in India

The minorities present in the country have had a great impact on the nation’s economy and have been treated equally most of the times. However, the conservatism as well as the misuse of the principle of utilitarianism by the majority has resulted in the disputes and caused a huge change in the idea and perspective of giving equality status had resulted in the clear failure of respecting the other religion as the riots are a clear cut example of the failure to adhere the ideology.   The acceptance of the rights for every citizen who belongs to the country has somewhat been accepted and used properly.

However, the duty to ensure that these Fundamental rights have come into function is the responsibility of the state. The question, however, remains as to how far has the state been effective in ensuring the rights of the minority and how much rights have been compromised to appease the majority against the minority. The democratic system existing in the country, however, the appeasement continues to remain in the political dominion of the country.

The various rights violation taking place over the time which resulted in violence as well led to the Government deciding to set up a National Commission for Minorities in the year 1992 whose main purpose was to:

1.  Keeping a record on the progress made by the minorities in the Union as well as the States.

2.  Keeping a check on the working of the laws passed for minorities in the legislature and the constitution.

3. Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.

4. Cause studies to be undertaken into problems arising out of any discrimination against Minorities and recommend measures for their removal.

5. Conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to the socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.

6. Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.

7. Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter about Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.

8. Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government.

Taking cognisance and further actions against the violation of any rights made by the state or an individual, the commission fights for the victims belonging to the minority category, the commission can help in also advising the Government to make a provision for the people belonging to the minority which can help in the upliftment of the minorities as well as help in creating an amicable environment for the minors in the country.

Societal Unacceptability

The rights and reservations can help the minorities to set on a pedestal and live with equal rights and beliefs. However, the legal aspect cannot be a complete replacement to the societal evil and the perspective. There needs to be a solution wherein there is complete acceptability of the minorities in the nation. John Stuart Mill with his philosophy mentioned that the most important essence of the development and vision of one nation, the utilitarian principle shouldn’t deny the rights and justices for the minorities cannot be ignored and should be taken into consideration as much as possible which shall be considered as a beneficiary to the society as well as the State.[3] The social status present in the society has to give the space and respond with the same respect to the minority as they do it with people belonging to the majority. Equality should be brought in and the respect should be provided accordingly as per the need of the hour. The sole ground for discrimination due to difference in the practices and as said by Mahatma Gandhi “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”

Conclusion

The rights of minorities have been enshrined in the   Constitution of India with which there has been surety for them on a legal front. However, the rights need not be required to be admitted legally but rather they need to be understood more carefully with social understanding and acceptability from the majority as well. A democratic country can sustain when it hears both the sides as well as recognises and respects them. The rights that have been provided are a step to provide and bring about equality amongst the people belonging to the minority category. However, the acceptability has to be made by society and treat them equally with respect and love. We have come a long way, however, more needs to be done to ensure the benefit that can be provided to all present in the country.


[1] Louis Wirth, “The Problem of Minority Groups” in Ralph Linton (ed.), The Science of Man in the World Crisis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), P. 347.

[2]  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, 3rd  meeting of the drafting committee, 1946.

[3] The Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, 1861, Pg. 24

Dibya Prakash Lahiri from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi

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