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India Needs to Review Articles on Minorities in the Constitution

Paper No. 5893                                Dated 13-Mar-2015

By R. Upadhyay

Who is a minority?  This question arises when the Muslim community in this country in numbers exceeds most of the Muslims in other countries.  The term ‘minority’ was introduced by the British and its relevance in today’s India needs to be examined.  As pointed out by late Abul Kalam Azad, they form the second majority!This paper makes a strong case for a review of various articles relating to the “minorities” in the  Constitution.

U. S. President Barack Obama at a White House summit to beef up the battle against “violent extremism” on February 18 urged the Muslim leaders to denounce the ‘twisted ideology’ of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. He also said that America “is not at war with Islam” but with people who have perverted it”. (Daily Pioneer dated February 20).

The U. S. President however, didn’t make such an appeal to the Muslim leaders during his recent visit to India despite the fact that this country is today facing the biggest national challenge of Islamisc terrorism.  

A US National Counter-Terrorism Centre publication A Chronology of International Terrorism states: ‘India suffered more terrorist acts than any other country’. ( US Congressman Ed Royce, the leader of a Congressional delegation to India which arrived Delhi on March 7 this year for meeting Narendra Modi and others in an interview with in Washington DC said, 'I believe one of the most critical issues is the common threat we face from Islamist radicals and the continuing and unimpaired financing of Al Qaeda, the 'D' Company, the Haqqani network, the LeT and the Jaish-e-Muhammed.'

Instead of showing the joint concern on the global menace of Islamist terror, the U S President in his final speech in India talked of ‘religious intolerance’ of this country and subsequently repeated it in his National Prayer Breakfast in Washington saying that ‘religious intolerance would have shocked Gandhiji. Knowing well, that India is today facing the biggest national challenge of Islamist terrorism he preferred to remain silent on this issue.

 The political leadership of India must recognise the gravity of the growing menace of various terror groups including the ISIS in this country and take effective measure to deal with the situation at its own. The contemporary intellectual discourses against this known danger to our national security will hardly bring any desired result. Simply condemning terrorism will remain a futile exercise.

The global threat of ideology-backed Islamist terrorism has proved this most menacing expression of Islamic fundamentalism as a great challenge to the rational world. Drawing ideological inspiration from the protracted Islamic revival movements, various terror groups have launched global jihad with an objective to restore the Caliphate to rule the world. Unfortunately, the successive governments in post Independence India never awoke and arose to fight against this internal challenge effectively and as a result 1.25 billion populations of this country is confronted with a serious danger from Islamist terror groups.

Mawlana Mawdoodi, the founding father of Jamaat-e-Islami in his book Fundamental of Islam (Page:250) went to the extent of propagating: “Salaat (Namaz) is a training exercise for Jihad. Zakat (Islamic charity) is a military fund for Jihad. Fasting is aimed to train people like soldiers who have to stay without food at times for long periods during the Jihad. Hajj is a huge conference in nature for plotting larger scale military operations. Thus, Salaah, Fasting, Zakat, and Hajj are actually meant for this very preparation and training”. (,-new-...). It appears that the thesis of Mawdoodi was aimed at military preparation for Jihad.

Our Constitution makers incorporated the term minority (Read Muslims) in the Constitution particularly to bring the demoralised Muslims in the national mainstream. But instead of joining the national building programmes, the followers of Shaikh Sarhindi, Shah Waliullah, Mawlana Wahhab, Al Banna, Maududi and other Islamist and Jihadi ideologues revisited the aggressive institutional and organisational Islamic revival movements and propagated their ideology of political Islam among the Muslim masses.

In the absence of any provision in our Constitution to counter the extremist twists of basic Islamic rituals and their propagation, the post-Independence radical Islamist group took advantage of the constitutional flaw particularly the right to run educational institutions independently without any check on the curriculum and turned a larger section of students into an aggressive minority which resulted in the formation of the organisation like SIMI and its offshoot Indian Mojahideen.

Despite  opposition from many members including both Hindus and Muslims, some dominant groups in the Constituent Assembly manoeuvred to incorporate  the divisive articles on religious minorities in the Constitution. This was an unfortunate Constitutional Flaw which needs to be reviewed in the context of countering Islamist terrorism.

During Constituent Assembly debate Tajamul Hussain, a Muslim member strongly pleaded against the inclusion of the term minority in the Constitution on the plea that the Muslims want to merge in the nation. He said: “The term minority is a British creation. The British created the minorities. The British have gone and the minorities have gone with them. Remove the term minority from your dictionary. There is no minority in India …. .”. “We want to merge in the nation”. (CAD VOL. 8, Page 333).

Damodar Swaroop Seth argued that if in the name of religious minorities, they were allowed to run their educational institutions, it would "promote communalism and anti-national outlook".Factually, even during medieval era the country’s population was not governed on the basis of minority versus majority. The British created this term as a policy of divide and rule. He also said that of the four Muslim members namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifizur Rahman, Begum Aiaz Rasul and Jafar Imam present in the debate; only Jafar Imam had opposed it. While Maulana Azad and Hifizur Rahman did not speak, Begum Aiaz Rasul supported the motion. He maintained that out of seven Muslim members in the Advisory Committee only Saadulla and Jafar Imam were opposed to the motion.

Indian Constitution didn’t define the term minority and therefore, giving special privilege to about 200 million Muslim populations on the basis of religious minority in a secular democratic country is an affront to the intellect of that community.

 It may not be realistic to right the various historical wrongs which this land has been destined to but that is not the case with the constitutional flaw which can be reviewed and corrected with suitable amendments to formulate a deterrent strategy to combat terrorism. This may be a herculean task as vote baiting political parties who pretend themselves as ‘secularists’ are the alliance partners of the ideological fathers of the various Islamist terror groups.

Instead of countering the Islamo-fascist obscurantist movements launched by the followers of the ideological fathers of terrorism these so called secularists have embraced the latter for the sake of Muslim votes. These baiters of Muslim votes for power at the cost of national interest are the main supporting group for the success of extremists in the community.

If we look into some of the under mentioned incentives to religious minorities provided by the Muslim vote baiting ruling political establishments both at centre and state, it appears that such perverse and divisive incentives have caused more harm than good for the community.

1.       National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was set set up by the Union Government led by Congress.

2.       Appointment of Sachar Committee in 2005 to study the economic backwardness of Muslims in 2005.

3.       The UPA Government established Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006.

4.       Communal Violence Bill in 2011.

5.       U. P.A Government Home Minister’s letter to Minority Affairs Minister for setting up special Muslim-only fast track for trial of terror related cases.

7.       Education schemes only for Muslim girls in Samajwadi Party Government Uttar Pradesh since 2012.

8.       In August 2013, the S. P. Government announced 20% reservation for minorities in all 85 state-administered development schemes.

9.       Trinmool Congress Government in West Bengal allowed a monthly allowance for Muslim clerics and imams.

10.     In 2012 the TMC Government sanctioned Rs.50 crores per year to a Muslim-only Aliah University and created six Industrial Training Institutes and six polytechnic colleges exclusively for Muslims. The Chief Minister also gave 794 bicycles and over Rs.5 crore in loans and scholarships to Muslim students.

Our security agencies are aware of the causes  of disruption of national outlook and national unity on this issue but without the constitutional support it is difficult for them to combat terrorism effectively. For this the ruling establishment is to discover the ideological root of this menace and take necessary steps to fight this challenge by reviewing the divisive articles in Constitution by initiating a wide range debate.

 This would require a strong political will and the cooperation of opinion builders including media if they are serious to save secularism from the ‘secularists’ and their Islamist allies. 

At the same time Muslim leaders who claim themselves nationalists and oppose terrorism must join this movement assertively and generate collective concern against terrorism among their co-religionists. In February 2008 Darul Uloom Deoband took some initiative and condemned terrorism but it remained a failed exercise since it neither criticised the operating terrorist outfits nor launched any proactive movement against them. Their aggressive ideological confrontation with political Islam will not only strengthen the action oriented measure of the government but also counter the vote baiting design of the political left parties.

Against the backdrop of the discussion India needs a collective intellectual mindset for launching action oriented national movement by creating a wider space for debate against the divisive articles of Constitution particularly the privileges to the minority. Fortunately, just only a couple of days after taking oath in May 2014 Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah said, “Muslims are not minorities, Parsis are”. She perhaps meant that the population strength of her community members does not deserve the status of minority. Even her grand uncle Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister in Nehru cabinet regarded “Muslims as the country’s second majority” and not minority.

 Let Heptullah’s statement be a starting point for a wide debate in the country as a part of anti-terror national policy to counter the Islamist threat effectively. The terror ideology which is nothing but an instrument to establish the political command of the terrorists can be combated only by the Muslim theologians with sharp ideological weapon of Islamic scriptures and rational arguments.