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Minority in India

Updated on June 11, 2015

Minority, a word that defines a specific group in a society or a state system that is least in number and the ends of which are on least priority. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language. This definition points out at the numerical analysis of minority, but essentially minority is referred to as the persons less in number belonging to a particular segregated preconceived notion of the society. Minority is not a term, it is a concept, it is subjective on determination and it is intrinsically political in its nature. Since minority is subjective in nature it is dynamic in its approach, as the minority changes with the time and circumstances. What may be the minority today can become a majority tomorrow not in terms of numerical strength but in terms of political potency.

This term as it can be seen by way of the country India, has imperative political connotations to it. To understand the critical issue of reservation system and its delusional aftermath, it is required to understand what minority is and how it is to be treated in a so-called welfare structure such as India. The term minority got its reputation after the concept of majority came in, much to the Hegelian dialecticism. Jeremy Bentham introduced the concept of utilitarianism, which is an essential part of today’s neo-liberal worldview. Utilitarianism is a simple analysis for creating order in the society as it thrives on the basic premise of a human being, which is self-interest. It in a nutshell states that in every society the human being progresses through his self interest and it is the major driving force for any compliance on his part. Also, when a human being does not realize self-interest and when this self-interest is continuously denied to individuals in a society, the situation of conflict arises. So, in order to curb the situation of conflict, Bentham focused on the principle of self-interest, he came up with a solution and it was that, since every human being would do what gives him the most pleasure, he would always thrive to minimize his discomfort and pain. So in order to collectively reduce the pain, it is required to come to a consensus wherein if not all, but the maximum number of persons attain self-interest. Prima facie, it offers a plausible solution to the issue of conflict and it looks like that through this yardstick society can be brought to harmony. But the bottom line of this powerful hypothesis is the fact that there will always be a particular group of individuals whose self-interest will differ from that of the majority. These people are prone to suffer the most because of their clashing interest with the majority as in this equation they bear the maximum pain out of society’s maximum pleasure.

Every legal system in a country is based on the premise of justice. It is believed that law and order is required for maintaining the balance in a system. When India attained freedom from the colonial rule, it inherited the consciousness from the colonizers; it is evident from the fact that even after more than six decades of independence we still follow the laws drafted by Lord Macaulay. Due to this consciousness, the drafters of Constitution of India were working according to this framework in which they conceived on reality or rather it should be said that the preconceived notion of reality. India as the Indians themselves observes is nothing but an apparition of the Western understanding of it. The creation of reservation system symbolizes this understanding, as at present and since the inception a particular group is regarded as minority and for defending this idea of minority there are numerological reasons given.

This particular group, which symbolizes the minority, is also determined through the lens of colonial understanding as what is realized as a minority today was granted this status under the colonial rule for the purpose of making the barbaric theory look cogent. It does not in any manner means that the minority, which is granted reservation today did not get oppressed, or they do not deserve to reap the fruits of their struggle. It only signifies that the minority

At the time of the framing of the constitution, the original draft which was submitted to the Constituent assembly in 1947 did not contain any provision relating to article 30(1) and also there was no mention of the word minority. At time of framing, the problem was to reach to a consensus for a constitutional arrangement on minorities and majority. Majority should not be treated as minority and minorities should get a feeling that they are secured against discrimination. The purpose of including reservation for minority and other backward classes in India was to uplift them to the level at which equal status is enjoyed by them just as the majority does. This objective was a fair solution for erasing the history of oppression towards the minority, as it seemed like a privilege over the rights of majority. This approach in a way looked like a ray of hope, for the minority expected long due respect which they never got by acquiring a privileged status as against the sheer disregard given to them in the past. But, the pattern in which this privilege turned out and is established as on date points out stark similarities with the colonial model, only the white sahib has been replaced by the brown sahib. At that point minority attained its status for the purpose of considering the colonial rule legit and today minority is used for the purpose of driving votes. This becomes a problem, as when minority is uplifted for such cause, their political development is only a veil to garb the interests of majority. Further, the reservation system does not promote their development as a community in the social strata but only makes them a victim of disregard in the eyes of society. In fact, the reservation system instead of bridging the gap between the majority and minority actually creates a stronger disparity. There are two reasons for such contention; first, reservation is based on the premise of monetary discrimination between majority and minority. It only makes a person from a minority group eligible to reap monetary privileges such as getting a government position and reaping the benefits therein. It does not make a person socially acceptable by the majority and hence does not plausibly tackle the problem of oppression. Secondly, since the minority attains such privileges on the basis of their status as minority and not on merit, there is a disregard in the societal parlance, due to which the purpose of introducing such a provision is defeated.

Why it is important to address the minority issues?

Minorities can surely come with their solutions too and can aid in the best way to fill suffers. If they are not considered as marginalized groups different from the mainstream and taken as partners then there will be an increased minority participation yielding better desired results. There cannot be any specific approach to address all the issues, different issues fit in different sizes and therefore something has to be taken out from the Pandora’s Box. The economic, social and political status differ from them and also within the minority there is another minority class called ‘women’.

The Minority protections damaged national unity by jeopardizing the political veracity of nation, by dejecting the creation of a modern and secular democratic citizenship and hindering the creation of common national identity. Symptomatically of Nationalist dogmas, they were perceived to be a part of the organic whole, the nation, and were recommended not to be egotistic and shortsighted and put their narrow group concerns above the larger, mutual national importance. The feeling of belongings has to be bilateral. There is a direct relation of the benefits of minorities with the development and process and achieving the desired goals. Prima facie what can be seen is that they are poor and have less access to the governmental so called mechanisms and thus it becomes a deterrent. Also that the benefits to work with them should be seen rather than excluding keeping aside the political aspects.

Religious population share


© 2015 Akshay Singh


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