|VOLUME 2| ISSUE 2| OCTOBER 2018|ISSN (O): 2581-3595)|

MAJORITARIANISM VS MINORITARIANISM: STRIVING FOR THE NEED OF MINORITY RIGHTS IN NATION AND NATIONALISM

AUTHORED BY: MR. PRANAV KUMAR KAUSHAL (B.A.LL.B) & CO-AUTHORED BY: MR. LAKSHAY BANSAL (B.A.LL.B), STUDENTS AT BAHRA UNIVERSITY SHIMLA HILLS (HIMACHAL PRADESH).

ABSTRACT:

All human beings must have to do more in order to prevent conflicts happening all around the world. Many conflicts and chaos happen in those countries, which are improperly governed or where power and wealth are unfairly distributed and resides between and among ethnic and religious groups. So the best way in order to avoid these conflicts is to promote political and social arrangements as well as harmony in which all groups are fairly and equally represented, covered and protected with the atmosphere of human rights based on economic development.[1]  – Kofi Annan

India is among those nations in the world which has a population which is heterogeneous in nature. There is no kind of homogeneity in Indian Population. India has placed the principle of “Secularism” as a cornerstone of its democracy. But this still has been the major area of debates regarding the meaning and relevance of the word “Secularism”. The word “Secularism” has merely become a tool of modern political parlance. There exists a tussle for the quest of true and real secularism by various sects of the community who have their roots in India from the era of coinage. The principle of secularism still remains as an undiscovered treasure which India has been searching after its independence. The word “Secularism” has been narrowed down as Hindu-Muslim Debate whereas the other religious minority community such as Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists has been regarded as a pantheon of Hinduism. This paper aims to highlight the rights of Minority within the ambit of “Nation and Nationalism”.

INTRODUCTION:

The safeguard for preservation, promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are necessary so as to contribute to the political, economic and social stability for the sake of peace and harmony in the state in which they live.[2]

Almost all countries in the world have one or more minorities group within their national territories which are characterized by their own language, linguistic, ethnic, cultural or religious identity which differs from the majority population. The harmonious principle of the relationship of one minority with the other and between the minorities and majorities is of greatest asset to the diverse and multicultural groups of global society. It is one of the foremost and primary functions of the “State” to safeguard the interest of different communities in a particular state. Meeting the aspirations, needs of national, religious, ethnic and linguistic groups and ensuring the fundamental equality of the person belonging acknowledges the rights and dignities of the entire individual of the minority community. India is a democratic country where maximum decisions have been made by taking into the consideration of majority opinion; therefore the need of the hour is to provide safeguards to minority sections of the community. Most of the States have rightly identified the rights of the minority communities and have analysed the problems. H.M Seervai, jurist and Constitutional law expert have expressed that fundamental rights must also be provided to the minority community because in the democratic form of the country with universal adult suffrage, majorities by being virtue of being “major”, can protect themselves.[3]  

CONCEPT OF MINORITY:

The word “Minority” has been taken from the Latin word “Minor” with suffix ‘ity’ which simply means small in number. In simple terms, the word “Minority” means “a group which is held together by common culture, language, religious faith. Louis Wirth, who conducted studies on the problem faced by the minority have made a definition from his studies and classified the word “Minority” as “A group or sect of people who because of their physical existence, language, religion and cultural attribute are singled out in the society in which they live for having differential, unequal treatment on the basis of collective discrimination. Moreover, the word “minority” carries with an exclusion from full participation in the life of the society.[4] The question that still is asked in today’s nationalism is “Who is a minority”? Which community fits right into the definition of a minority? Who are the beneficiaries of minority rights? These are the questions which have still remained as an undiscovered treasure still in the modern century and neither government has been able to answer these questions.  

MINORITIES AS PER INDIAN CONSTITUTION:

The chief architects of the Constitution of India have guaranteed to minorities communities with basic and all necessary rights and freedoms but nowhere the word “minority” has been   defined. No parliamentary legislation even defines a ‘minority.’ The Motilal Nehru Report which was published in 1928 presented a prominent desire to afford protection to minorities, but did not define the expression, even the Sapru Report of 1945 proposed the same, inter alia; a Minorities Commission but this also did not define Minority.

The expression ‘minority’ is mentioned in Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution but it has nowhere been defined. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution proclaims to guarantee every citizen ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’. Articles 25-30 guarantee the protection of religious, cultural and educational rights to both majority and minority communities. It appears that keeping in view the constitutional guarantee for the protection of cultural, educational and religious rights of all citizens,[5] it was not felt necessary to define ‘minority’. Minority, as interpreted from the constitutional regime, signifies an identifiable group of people or community who are looked upon as deserving protection[6] from likely deprivation of their rights by other communities who happen to be in majority and likely to gain political power in a democratic form of Government based on the election.

In the background of the constitutional regime, the provisions of the Act therefore instead of giving a definition of ‘minority’ only provide for notifying certain communities as ‘minorities’ who might require special treatment and protection of their religious, cultural and educational rights.[7]

The definition of ‘minority’ as stated under the National Commission of Minority Act, 1992 is intact to be not only a definition as such but only a provision enabling the Central Government to identify a group of individuals as a ‘minority’ which in the considered opinion of the Central Government deserves to be notified for the purpose of protecting and monitoring its progress and development through the Commission.

INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS:

In the International sphere, the demand and desire for the special safeguards to protect the cultural as well as the linguistic scenario of minorities groups have many time emerged from the principle that owing to war like circumstances beyond their control so as to preserve the ethnic things from getting extinct. The Human Rights for Minorities have extracted and set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants, the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of Child, The Declaration on Rights of Person belonging to National or ethnic, religious or linguistics Minorities and others have widely adhered to International Human Rights Treaties and Declarations. In order to attain the object, two things are regarded as particularly necessary:

  • Firstly is to ensure that Nationals belonging to racial, cultural, religious and linguistic minorities shall be operated in every respect on a footing of perfect equality with other nationals of the state.
  • Secondly to ensure for the minority groups and communities all suitable means for the preservation of their racial identity, their culture and their national character.

These two requirements have a closed interrelationship in order to curb all problems regarding the minority. There would be no equality between a majority and a minority if the latter were deprived of their basic rights and are consequently compelled to renounce that constitutes the very essence of its being minority.

MINORITY, MULTICULTURALISM AND NATIONALISM:

In retort to the continuous claims by the minority people even in the forward and developed first world countries and an in-depth link between the minorities difficulties and mass human rights violations all over the world sparked a new thinking and deliberations in the academic circles which predominantly focused on the politics and culture of minority and majority. This opened the door for the systematic and scientific examination of a concept called ‘multiculturalism’ in democratic theories. The political scientists started thinking scholarly insights and understandings about the existence of minorities in majority society and the importance of special rights, privileges and concessions to enable the minority to safeguard their distinct and unique identities of religion, caste, language, culture etc.[8]

Democracy and minorities are supplementary as well as complementary in nature as “we cannot have a democratic system without minorities[9] and “where there is no democracy the question of minorities as such cannot arise.”[10] The complimentary, as well as the supplementary character of democracy and minorities, act as a testifier of the success of a democracy. A diverse country like India can claim the real success of democracy if the minorities sheltering in India enjoy maximum security, protection and confidence.

Franklin Roosevelt highlights this datum and presages that “none democratic system can be as long survived, which does not accept it as fundamental to its very existence the recognition of the rights of minorities.”[11] India is social, economically and ethnically a mosaic of diversity. “Under the traditional caste system, which still plays a key role in the society and in politics, there are at least, 3000 castes and 25000 sub-castes in India.

The country has 22 officially recognised languages that together constitute a mere fraction of more than 1500 mother tongues known to exist, 33 of which are spoken by more than100,000 people.”[12] There are 4635 identifiable communities diverse in biological traits, dress, and language, forms of worship, occupation, food habits and kinship patterns in India. These communities derive roots from a mixed ancestry that includes the Proto-Australoid, Paleo-Mediterranean, Caucasian, Negroid and Mangoloid.”[13] It is a matter of flaunting to claim diversities in a society but it is not an easy job balance and maintains unity among these diversities. The political system of such a country will have the daunting task of addressing conflicts and disagreements emerge out of the competing and diagonally opposing interests and aspirations.[14] In India, the status and privileges of minorities have a unique and distinct connotation as it is “a confederation of minorities.”[15] The social, cultural, linguistic and cultural pluralism in India created a vicious circle for the peaceful coexistence of various identities.

This also made the minorities vulnerable to the dominating whims and desires of the majority. The demands and clamouring by the minorities in India for protection of their rights and identities are a serious headache for the Indian democracy. The “loggerhead between the minorities and majorities in India has a long-dated history, long ago back several centuries.”[16] The chronicles of India’s freedom fight against the British imperialism and colonialism has many instances of communal riots whose culmination can be seen in the partition of the country, which has far-reaching consequences on the minority rights.[17]

JUDICIAL PRECEDENTS AND NATIONALISM:

All democratic states ensure the ambit contained in the constitutional protection for minority rights. They can, however, be enforced only by independent and impartial Judiciary, comprising judges with a broad, bold, outlook when politicians, the legislature and the executive impedes the rights of the minority. The concept of nationalism provides freedom to each and every community of the nation irrespective of being of fact whether they are major or minor in number.

The question arises the need and implications as to what is the test in order to determine the status of the minority of person residing in a particular state. The Article 30 for the first time came up after the interpretation by the Constitution bench constituted in order to consider the reference which has been made by the President under Article 143 in re Kerala Education Bill, 1957[18], it was held that the existence of a minority community should in all and every situation and for the purposes of law be determined according to the state basis.

In D.A.V. College, Jalandhar’s Case[19], The Honourable Supreme Court observed: ‘Though there was a faint and false attempt to canvas the position of minorities and they should be minorities in relation to the entire population of the country. In T.M.A Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka[20] The Supreme Court delivered the judgment in the above-mentioned case held by a majority that

  • The form minority in Article 30(1) covers linguistic and religious minorities.
  • In order to determine the ‘minority’ the unit which is going to decide will be the State.

The Indian Cabinet in the year 2007 has reportedly approved a proposal in order to define minorities as per State-wise in line with several Supreme Court judgments, most notably the case of T.M.A. Pai Case.

CONCLUSION:

In all sorts, one may well compare our country just like a big Jumbo jet flying through turbulent weather to a golden destination. For this flight people belonging to every community must be galvanized together in a common tie firmly just as the various parts of the frame. The frame would be equal only to the weakest section of the frame. One little crack, or any rupture in the frame i.e. a disgruntled minority, would force the jet to the ground until the crack is repaired.” This realization is one of the most important rationales for the special protections according to the minorities group in almost all the modern democracy including ours.[21] – Justice S. M. Sikri, 

The protection and preservation of the rights of the minority is a sine qua non in a real democracy.  The very basis of the minority protection is that the political non-dominant i.e. a group small in number, need to be protected against interference of majority in their cultural and linguistic development. This differential treatment is necessary to preserve the basic characteristics which they possess and which distinguish them from majority of the population. The interest of minorities, their culture and individuality of minority need to be protected without jeopardizing the interest of majority at large.  The innate idea of giving some special rights to the minorities is not to provide with any kind of a privilege or pampered any section of the population but to give to the minorities a sense of security and a feeling of confidence that they are also the part of the same world. The great and the most prominent leaders of India since time immemorial had preached the doctrine of tolerance and catholicity of outlook. Those noble and innate ideas are enshrined in the Constitution. Special rights in favour for minorities were designed not to create inequality but the main aim was to provide protection. Their real effect was to bring about equality by ensuring the preservation and protection of the minority institutions and by guaranteeing to the minorities autonomy in the matter of the administration of their own institutions. The differential and preference treatment for the minorities by giving them special rights is intended to bring about an equilibrium, and a sense of equality so that the ideal of equality may not be reduced to a mere abstract idea but should become a living reality and result in true, genuine equality, an equality not merely in theory but also in fact. Therefore, people who belong from majority groups in a system of adult franchise hardly need any protection.

[1] Statement on presenting his Millennium Report, 3 April 2000.

[2] Preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

[3] 3 HM SEERVAI, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA 1734 (EBC 1979).

[4] 3 JA LAPONCE, THE PROTECTION OF MINORITIES 5 (University of California Publication in Political Science 1960).

[5] RAKESH DWIVEDI, G.S IN 60 DAYS 3-8 (Tata McGraw-Hill Education 2010).

[6] NEERA CHANDHOKE, BEYOND SECULARISM: THE RIGHTS OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES 42 (Oxford University Press 1999).

[7] Ibid.

[8] MICHAEL FREEMAN, HUMAN RIGHTS: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH 116 (Polity Press 2003).

[9] HUMAYUN KABIR, MINORITIES IN A DEMOCRACY 6-8 (Firma K.L. Mukhopadhya 1968).

[10] Ibid.

[11] SOLI J. SORABJEE, MINORITIES: NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION 166 (Institute of Objective Study 2014).

[12]CAROLYN BYERLY, THE PALGRAVE: INTERNATIONAL HANDBOOK OF WOMEN AND JOURNALISM 385 (Palgrave 2016).

[13] JOHN DAYAL, A MATTER OF EQUITY: FREEDOM OF FAITH IN SECULAR INDIA 13 (Anamika Publishers 2007).

[14] ABDUL RAHIM P. VIJAPUR, PLURALISM, MINORITIES: NATIONAL INTEGRATION, PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS 5 (New Delhi, South Asian Publishers 1997).

[15] MOIN SHAKIR, POLITICS OF MINORITIES: SOME PERSPECTIVES 33 (Ajanta Publications 1980).

[16] YAKOV GILINSKIY, THE ETHICS OF TERRORISM: INNOVATIVE APPROACHES FROM AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE 21 (Charles C Thomas Publisher 2009).

[17] B. SHIVA RAO, THE FRAMING OF INDIA’S CONSTITUTION: A STUDY 77 (Universal Law Publishing 1967).

[18] Re: Kerala Education Bill v. Unknown, A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 956 (India).

[19] DAV College v. State of Punjab, A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 1737 (India).

[20] TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 8 S.C.C. 481 (India).

[21] DR. M. P. RAJU, MINORITY RIGHTS: MYTH OR REALITY 11 (Media House Delhi 2002).