i. According to the Article 29 of the Constitution, any group living within the jurisdiction of India is entitled to preserve and promote its own language, script or literature, and culture.
ii. Article 30 states that a minority group “whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institution of their choice. ”
Problems of Religious Minorities Racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities are subject to some or the other problems everywhere. The two main problems which they normally face are: (i) the problem of prejudice and discrimination, and (ii) the problem of preserving their distinct social and cultural life.
Problem of Prejudice and Discrimination:
In the Indian context, discrimination especially in providing opportunities to people of different religious communities is, not at all in practice. The Preamble of the Constitution itself declares that all people irrespective of their caste, class, colour, creed, sex, region or religion will be provided with equal rights and opportunities.
Articles 15(1) and 15(2) prohibit discrimination on grounds of religion. Article 25 promises the right to profess, propagate and practise religion. It is clear that there is no legal bar on any religious community in India to make use of the opportunities [educational, economic, etc.] extended to the people. It is true that some religious communities [for example, Muslims] have not been able to avail themselves of the opportunities on par with other communities.
This situation does not reflect any discrimination. It only reveals that such communities have been lagging behind in the competitive race, mainly because of the lack of educational qualification.
As far as prejudices are concerned, prejudices and stereotyped^ thinking are common features of a complex society. India is not an exception to this. Commonly used statements such as – “Hindus are cowards and Muslims are rowdies; Sikhs are dullards and Christians are converters “, etc. – reflect the prevalent religious prejudices.
Such prejudices further widen the social distance among the religious communities. This problem still persists in India. Except in some sensitive areas this problem of prejudice is not disturbing the routine life of different communities, including that of the minorities.
Problem of Preserving Distinct Social and Cultural Life:
India is one among the very few nations which have given equal freedom to all the religious communities to pursue and practise their religion. Article 25 of the Constitution provides for such a right. Added to this, Article 3D (1) states all minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
They are given the right to preserve their socio-cultural characteristics. It has set up a “Minorities Commission” to help the minorities in seeking justice. No minority community can have a grievance against any government particularly in this matter.
In spite of the provisions of the constitutional equality, religious minorities in India, often experience some problems among which the following may be noted.
1. Problem of Providing Protection:
Need for security and protection is very often felt by the minorities. Especially in times of communal violence, caste conflicts, observance of festivals and religious functions on a mass scale, minority groups often seek police protection. Government in power also finds it difficult to provide such a protection to all the members of the minorities. It is highly expensive also. State governments which fail to provide such protection are always criticised.
For example, (i) the Rajiv Gandhi Government was severely criticised for its failure to give protection to the Sikh community in the Union Territory of Delhi on the eve of the communal violence that broke out there soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. (ii) The Gujarat State Government was criticised for its inability to provide protection to the Muslim minorities in the recent [Feb. Mar. – 2002] communal violence that burst out. (iii) Similarly, the Government of Jammu-Kashmir’s inefficiency in providing adequate security to the Hindu and Sikh minorities in that State against the atrocities of Muslim extremists is also widely condemned.
2. Problem of Communal Tensions and Riots:
Communal tensions and riots have been incessantly increasing since independence. Whenever the communal tensions and riots take place for whatever reason, minority interests get threatened; fears and anxieties become widespread. It becomes a tough task for the government in power to restore the confidence in them.
3. Problem of Lack of Representation in Civil Service and Politics:
Though the Constitution provides for equality and equal opportunities to all its citizens including the religious minorities, the biggest minority community, that is, Muslims in particular, have not availed themselves of these facilities. There is a feeling among them that they are neglected.
However, such a feeling does not seem to exist among the other religious minority communities such as the Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, for they seem to be economically and educationally better than the majority community.
4. Problem of Separatism:
Some of the demands put forward by some religious communities in some areas are not acceptable to others. This has widened the gap between them and others, Examples: The separatist tendency present among some Muslim extremists in Kashmir and their demand for the establishment of Independent Kashmir is not acceptable to others.
Such a demand is regarded as anti-national. Similarly, some of the Christian extremists in Nagaland and Mizoramare demanding separate statehood for their provinces. Both these derrjands are supportive of “separatism” and hence cannot be accepted. Supporters of such demands have been causing lot of disturbances and creating law and order problems in the respective states.
5. Failure to Stick on Strictly to Secularism:
India has declared itself as a “secular” country. The very spirit of our Constitution is secular. Almost all political parties including the Muslim League claim themselves to be secular. But in actual practice, no party is honest in its commitment to secularism, Purely religious issues are often politicised by these parties.
Similarly, secular issues and purely law and order problems are given religious colours. These parties are always waiting for an opportunity to politicalise communal issues and take political advantage out of it. Hence, the credibility of these parties in their commitment to secularism is lost. This has created suspicion and feeling of insecurity in the minds of minorities.
6. Problem Relating to the Introduction of Common Civil Code:
Another major hurdle that we find in the relation between the majority and the minority is relating to the failure of Governments which have assumed power so far, in the introduction of a common civil code.
It is argued that social equality is possible only when a common civil code is enforced throughout the nation. Some communities, particularly the Muslims oppose it. They argue that the imposition of a common civil code, as it is opposed to the “Shariat” will take away their religious freedom. This issue has become controversial today. It has further widened the gap between the religious communities.
It is true that communal disturbances, religious conflicts, group clashes are taking place frequently in India. In spite of these disturbances the nation has maintained its secular character for the past 55 years. Further, the government has been making special efforts to safeguard the interests of the religious minorities. Some of the governmental efforts in promoting the welfare of the minorities are mentioned below.