By Daya SagarPrime Minister’s 15 point Programme for minorities was approved by the Union Government in June 2006 for welfare of religious minorities focusing on earmarking certain outlays of various developmental schemes and programmes of the Government of India amongst the eligible beneficiaries, based on their minority status. But fair implementation of the said programme could be better possible in case the Minority Commissions are also appointed in States & UTs and the state-level minorities are also identified locally for also extending State sponsored benefits/ supports to local minorities / national level minorities in addition to support / benefits extended by Center. So far reference is mostly made to religious minorities and not linguistic minorities where ever the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 (NMC 1992) is referred. In States like Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, UP and Uttarakhand Jains were recognised as a minority before GOI included (2014) them in national-level minority . The Jain community approached the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Central Government for a similar recognition at the national-level and their demand was supported by the National Commission for Minorities. But the Supreme Court did not issue the desired direction, leaving it to the Central Government to decide the issue (Bal Patil’s case, 2005). In a later ruling, however, another Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the UP Law recognising Jains as a minority (Bal Vidya’s case, 2006). Any how later in the year 2014 vide S.O. 267(E) in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (c) of Section 2 of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 the Central Government notified the Jain community as a minority community in addition to Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi (Zoroastrian). Ofcourse some states do have appointed State minority commissions. The State Minorities Commission Acts have been found usually empowering the local governments to notify the minorities e.g. Bihar Minorities Commission Act, 1991, Section 2(c); Karnataka Minorities Commission Act 1994, Section 2(d); UP Minorities Commission Act 1994, Section 2(d); West Bengal Minorities Commission Act 1996, Section 2(c); A.P. Minorities Commission Act 1998, Section 2(d). MC Acts of M.P. 1996 (Section 2-c) and Delhi Act 1999 Section(2g) however say that Center Government’s Notification issued under the NCM Act, 1992 will apply in this regard. Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities at Point 2-i-2 ( objectives of the programme ) lays down “that in States, where one of the minority communities notified under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 is, in fact, in majority, the earmarking of physical/financial targets under different schemes will be only for the other notified minorities. These states are Jammu & Kashmir (after 30-10-2019 now it would be UTs of J&K and Ladakh), Punjab, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland and UT of Lakshadweep (of course after 30-10-2019 UT of J&K & UT of Ladakh also). Similarly in the guidelines for implementation of PM’s New 15 point Ptogramme for Minorities at 7(b) too is laid that in States, where one of the minority communities notified under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 is, in fact, in majority, the earmarking of physical/financial targets under different schemes will be only for the other notified minoritiesand 9(b) – Physical Targets and Financial Outlays laid down that for States/UT referred to in para 7 (b), the earmarking will only be for the BPL minorities, other than that in majority.That way the benefits extended /given by GOI to six religious minorities identified at national-level would not be available even to some from the identified minorities but that has not been so far put in practice in states like Punjab (Sikh 57.69%) or Christians getting benefits in a state like Nagaland (87.93%), Mizoram(87.16%), Meghalaya (74.59%), Manipur (41%) or Muslims getting benefits in J&K (68%), UT of Lakshdeep ( 96.58%). The Lt Governor Administration of UT of J&K must not extend the benefits extended by the Union government to national minorities as regards Muslims ( Muslims in Ladakh 46.39 % and Buddhist in Ladakh 39.64% ) in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh taking leads from the PM’s New 15 Point Programme for National level minorities. Some from J&K had approached the Apex court in the past for directing the state government to appointment State minority commission and also declare Hindu as one of the minorities at state level. The petitions have been reportedly disposed off in advising that the NCM Act 1992 does not make it obligatory on the part of States to must appoint a minority commission and J&K State government had in a way submitted in 2017 for considering the cause of Hindu as a local minority in broader sense. But for doing so the definition drawn by special Sub-Committee on the Protection of Minority Rights appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1946 must be kept in sight which says pin those “non-dominant groups in a population as minority which possess and wish to preserve stable ethnic, religious and linguistic traditions or characteristics markedly different from those of the rest of population. In addition, it is worthwhile noting here that among the functions of the Minority Commission under Section-9 Sub Section (1) of the Act it is also laid down that (a) to evaluate the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States; (c) to make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments. So, it would be worth while to add further that where a religious community as a whole or a group from amongst a majority religious community also demands a minority status a national / state/UT level due care should be taken in observing the socio/ economic and administrative status / share that sub-community / group from with in the marked religious majority community otherwise holds keeping in view the number count. Of one school of thought does not believe in minority / majority classification simply on 49% vs 51% but as long as such policy is held in practice UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh also like other states need to appoint a UT Commission for Minorities and also identify atleast religious minorities if not also linguistic minorities at UT level for extending benefits approved at UT level. (Daya Sagar is a Sr Journalist & analyst of J&K Affairs can be reached at [email protected])
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