By Sheema Mohsin
On January 22 the Urdu daily Salar published from Bangalore carried a statement by Mr. Rahman Khan, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha as saying “The Indian Muslims should discard the title ’Minority’ attached to them.” It came as a shock especially because of the timing. It came when a few states are going to polls and Muslims as minorities have to assert themselves and also because debates are going on all over India on reservation to Muslims in employment and education as minorities.
Muslims are minorities and this is not an insult but just a terminology to explain that they are not equal to the majority community in numbers of population. Therefore they enjoy certain special rights guaranteed by the constitution to empower them to some extent.
Who are the Minorities?
In 1966 the need was felt to guarantee the rights of minorities even though Universal Declaration of Human rights confirm that all human beings are born equal. At the International covenant on civil and political rights, with an aim to facilitate the group (minority) to exercise and enjoy their rights and to assert themselves and maintain their identity and uniqueness amidst stiff competition from the majority, the Article 27 came into existence.
The Article 27 states that, “In those countries 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, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion or to use their language’ The Indian constitution also adopted it and besides it the constitution protects life and liberty of the minorities and which can be enforced through court if necessary.
Thus Muslims through the constitution enjoy the rights as a citizen as well as a minority citizen. In spite of these dual rights the Muslims in India are marginalized and deprived and to such an extent that they form the most backward socio-political community.
The Anti minority environment created through hate speeches, frequent riots, communalization of education have instilled a sense of inferiority and insecurity in the minds of the Muslims. The attempt to polarize the country’s populace by the communal forces is very harmful .It will ruin the secular fabric and stagnate the growth and development of the country. Therefore consolidated efforts by secular forces are needed to defeat them and pave way for minorities to thrive and not stifle them further by stripping them of their minority identity.
AlthoughArticle14 of the constitution guarantees equal treatment, the overt and covert discrimination towards Muslims is seen in public and private sector. This is seen in the recruitment as well as in the promotion especially in the Administration, Police and Defense services. The various government schemes to uplift the Muslims are only in the papers. The Congress has simply not performed in respect to the Muslims. The harsh realities brought to light in the Sachar Committee Report has also not awakened their conscious .It seems they have no political will to implement the recommendations of the Mishra Commission Report on one hand and on the other hand even before the government does anything substantial for the Muslims there is the outcry of appeasement.
What the constitution grants to Muslims is their right and not charity. No political party should perceive them as parasites or vote bank but as citizens who are in grave need of opportunity and encouragement. If it is made available to them they will certainly go a long way in speeding the pace of development of our beloved country.
(The writer is convener, women’s wing, Welfare Party of India. )