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Hindu Rights In Peril

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
source: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&file_name=surya%2Fsurya48%2Etxt&writer=surya
Hindu rights in peril
A. Surya Prakash - The Daily Pioneer
January 15, 2008

The Punjab Government's decision to challenge the verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that Sikhs are not a minority in the State has grave implications for the constitutional rights of Hindus in the country even as it raises the question whether the Indian state will be even-handed in the treatment of minorities in different regions of the country.

The reaction of the State Government and the brouhaha in Sikh religious institutions over the High Court judgement is inexplicable because the criterion for determining the majority or minority status of a community was laid down unambiguously by the Supreme Court in the TMA Pai Foundation Case in October 2002. In that momentous judgement, 10 of the 11 judges on the Bench that heard this case declared that the geographical unit to determine whether a group of citizens belonged to a linguistic or religious minority under Article 30 of the Constitution would be a State and not the whole of India. Yet, despite this overwhelming consensus among 10 judges of the apex court, the Government of Punjab claims that Sikhs, who constitute 59.9 per cent of the population in that State, are a "minority"!

The Punjab Government's response to the High Court's verdict is yet another example of how vote-bank politics can corrode secular principles, disturb the constitutional equilibrium and even challenge the law as laid down by the Supreme Court. Those who track demographic trends in the country will vouch for the fact that if the State of Punjab is allowed to get away with this obvious deception, it will encourage some other States to resort to similar subterfuge and eventually rob Hindus of their basic rights.

Notwithstanding the foolhardy attempt made by the Census authorities (at the behest of some pseudo-secular politicians in the ruling coalition at the Centre) to provide a fraudulent interpretation to the 2001 Census data, the numbers tell their own story. Here are some religious demographic truths. There is a visible decline in the percentage of Hindus in India over the past 30 years and Hindus are now in a minority in five States and one Union Territory. They are in a minority in Jammu & Kashmir (29.6 per cent of the population), Punjab (36.9 per cent), Nagaland (7.7 per cent), Mizoram (3.6 per cent) and Meghalaya (13.3 per cent). They are also a hopeless minority in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep (3.7 per cent).

Apart from these States, two other States -- Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur -- are witnessing a steep drop in the population of Hindus. For example, the percentage of Hindus in Manipur has crashed from 60.04 per cent to 46 per cent is just 20 years. The population of Hindus in Arunachal Pradesh is a mere 34.6 per cent. In some of these States, religious conversions have brought about unprecedented demographic changes. For example between 1981 and 2001, the Hindu population in Nagaland dropped from 14.36 to 7.7 per cent, while the Christian population jumped from 80.21 to 90 per cent.

The absurd argument of the Punjab Government notwithstanding, the Supreme Court's judgement in the TMA Pai Foundation case is critical for the protection of the minority rights of Hindus in these States. The majority view, expressed by Chief Justice BN Kirpal and five other judges -- Justice GB Pattanaik, Justice Rajendra Babu, Justice Balakrishnan, Justice Venkatarama Reddi and Justice Pasayat -- is as follows: The opening words of Article 30(1) make it clear that religious and linguistic minorities have been put on par in so far as this Article is concerned. India is divided into linguistic States and these States have been carved out on the basis of the language of the majority of people in that region. Therefore, since the State is regarded as the unit to determine a "linguistic minority" vis-à-vis Article 30 and since "religious minority" is on the same footing, the State has to be the unit in relation to which the majority or minority has to be determined. Further, although Parliament can legislate in regard to education after the 42nd Amendment, "the determination of who is a minority for the purpose of Article 30 cannot have different meanings depending upon who is legislating".

Finally, the court declared that for the purpose of determining a minority, the unit will be the State and not the whole of India and linguistic and religious minorities "have to be considered State-wise". Four other judges on the Bench concurred with the majority view expressed by these six judges. Only one judge dissented. Concurring with the majority, Justice Khare said, "There can only be one test for determining minority status of either linguistic or religious minority." Justice Quadri, Justice Variava and Justice Bhan said they agreed with the reasoning and conclusion of the majority.

Prior to the TMA Pai Foundation case, the larger issue of determining the unit for identifying a minority had already been considered by the court in two cases pertaining to DAV College. These cases also dealt with the question whether Hindus were a religious minority in Punjab. In both these cases, the Supreme Court took the State as the unit to settle the issue. It rejected the contention that since Hindus were a majority in India, they could not be a religious minority in Punjab.

Thus, 10 judges on an 11-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court have categorically declared in 2002 that the State is the unit to settle the question as to who constitutes a linguistic or religious minority. Further, in this judgement which was delivered over five years ago, the court had reminded all those who cared to listen that the specific question as to whether Hindus were a religious minority in Punjab had been settled by the court in two cases prior to the TMA Pai case. Yet, the Punjab Government goes about its business as if the TMA Pai case is not part of our case law!

Since we have the 2001 Census data before us, we need to ask all States and Union Territories where Hindus are in a minority whether they will follow the absurd, unconstitutional logic of Punjab or will adhere to the law as laid down by the Supreme Court. The attitude of Punjab vis-à-vis protection of a religious minority (Hindus) makes one wonder whether Hindus are in for a double whammy -- decline in demographic terms and deprivation of constitutional rights. It also raises the question whether Hindus are constitutional pariahs who have no right to claim the basic rights available to citizens belonging to other religious persuasions.


Jan 15, 2008
I don't understand what the great hullaballoo is all about?? That Hindus or Sikhs are a minority, who cares. Unless it can be said that one is being treated worse than the other there is no reason even to bother with this tosh.
If this article claims that Hindus are getting a raw deal as opposed to Sikhs in Punjab then surely this matters very little, as one must be reminded that constitutionally Sikhs are no different to Hindus (in fact, Sikhs, are Hindus, according to the Constitution)??
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