MINORITIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Author : Ishita Arora
“The claim of a country to civilization depends on the treatment it extends to the minorities.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
WHO ARE MINORITIES?
In layman’s language, the term “minority’ means a group which comprises of less than half of the population and they differ from others in terms of race, religion, culture and traditions, language, etc.
The constitution of India does not define the term ‘minority’. But, article 29 of the Constitution has the word minority and indirectly it refers to “any sections of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture”. Article 30 classifies minorities in two categories namely– religious and linguistic. Also, under section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 six religious minority groups have been notified as minority groups on the basis of religion by the Government of India which is Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains. Linguistic minorities are decided only at state level.
Part III of the Constitution of India does provide fundamental rights to its citizens and non-citizens also. Some, fundamental rights are exclusively for the minorities in the country. In Re Kerala Education Bill (AIR 1958 SC 956) the Supreme Court has held that if a group of people is less than 50 per cent in a particular region then that group is considered as ‘minority’. So, according to this definition of minority, Christians, Muslims and Anglo Indians are considered as minorities in the state of Kerala. In Bal Patil v. Union of India (AIR 2005 SC3172) the Supreme court held that a group will be identified as a minority on State basis and not on whole India basis. It was also observed that the Preamble and Article 25 to 30 of the Constitution of India clarifies that minority refers to a group of people who need protection and require religious, cultural and educational rights to protect their traditions and to empower them.
VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF MINORITIES
Human rights are those rights which are inherent in our nature and without these rights we cannot live. It is difficult to define human rights but it is impossible to ignore them. Human rights refer to all those rights which are fundamental and available to every person from the fact that he is a human. Section – 2(d) of the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 1993, define “human rights” as “the rights relating to life liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the International Covenants and enforceable by courts in India.”
Human rights violation of religious minorities has been there in India for years. During the last few years, religious tolerance has deteriorated; religious freedom violations have increased and violence against minorities have increased. However, the situation of minorities is becoming worse year on year since 2014, the year in which Bhartiya Jananta Party won the Lok Sabha elections. Since then, Hindu extremists have created an atmosphere of intolerance towards the minority section of India, especially towards Muslims and Christians. The human rights violation of minorities in India cover a broad spectrum including mob lynching, communal riots, illegal detention, torture, social ostracism, assault against individuals as well as their sources of livelihood, the ban on sale and possession of beef in many states and the violence of “cow protection” groups, a number of Muslims have been attacked on suspicion they had killed, stolen, or sold cows for beef, violence for not saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki jai’, violence against love jihad, etc. Recently, in August 2020 three Hindus attacked a Muslim cab driver in Maharashtra and forced to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. In April 2016, two Hindus caught a couple outside Church and kept a sword at their neck and asked them to say that they worship Ram and when they refused, they killed the couple and set the church on fire.
There are various other incidents of violation of human rights of minority groups in India and they are not taking place in isolation. They are regularly happening and increasing day by day and thus affecting the lives of minorities badly. A toxic environment has been created in India where violence and discrimination against minorities is escalating year on year.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
On reading the above two sections, it very much clear that the need of the hour is that decision makers have to take certain measures immediately to avoid catastrophe to India’s minority groups. The seeds of hate and intolerance towards the minorities have been sown deeply into the India’s society. Therefore the Central government and the state governments shall take the following actions –
- Condemn and take legal actions against the public servants or other person who spread hate or uses such words or actions to incite hate towards any minority group.
- Spread awareness among people by conducting various campaigns to promote religious diversity and rich ethnic culture of India along with highlighting the values of minorities groups of India.
- Ban private vigilante groups for cow protection, groups against love jihad and such operations, and take legal actions against those who from such groups and spread hate and violence.
- Set up an inquiry commission for inquiring the activities of political leaders who try to incite violence against minorities of India.
- Repeal anti-democratic laws that ban cow slaughter and end any action against consumption of beef that discriminates against minorities.
- Encourage the reforms of all the laws that encourage discrimination against minorities.
- India should ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and legal punishment for the use of torture by government agencies.
- Take other necessary steps to curb violence against minority groups and protect their interests in the country.
“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by the government. They are every human being’s entitlement by the virtue of their humanity.”