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Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
World Sikh News - Sikhs' status as minority in India in danger, PM clears amendment

Sikhs' status as minority in India in danger, PM clears amendment
Written by SP Singh Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chandigarh: One of the biggest attacks on the status of Sikhs in India is on way. You have been warned. The Government of India is now set to define the term 'minority' and give it a clear cut legal definition. The minorities will now be only and only at the state level and no national minority will exist in India. In such a scenario, Sikhs will not be a minority anymore.

The central government will soon move a constitutional amendment in Parliament to establish the procedure for defining minorities and laying down the criteria to be fulfilled for a group to find place in the list of minorities.
The amendment draft has been cleared by the Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India's first PM from a minority. "The proposed amendment will do away with the very concept of ‘minorities’ at the national level. There will only be state-specific minorities. This move is in keeping with the spirit of a number of Supreme Court judgments," top sources have told the WSN.

In 1980 the Minorities Commission told the government it was treating Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians as religious minorities at the national level. The communities were notified when the National Commission for Minorities Act came into force in 1993.

The new move defines a ‘minority’ as a section of citizens of a state which has been specified as a minority in that state, by a presidential notification issued after consultations with the state government.

Another provision gives Parliament the final say in the matter of defining ‘minorities’. Parliament will be empowered to enact laws to include or exclude any section of citizens from the list of minorities.

This means that the Indian Parliament can still term Sikhs in India a minority even if they do not make it to the list of minorities going by the fact that they outnumber the Hindus in Punjab. But for this, the Sikhs will have to beseech the Centre first. Thus, Muslims in UP may be a minority, but those in Kashmir may not be.

Thus, the SGPC may lose its right to run medical or dental colleges as minority institutions, while the Christians will be able to run the CMC, Ludhiana because they will be a minority. Muslims' institutions in Kashmir will not be treated as minority institutions.

“The amendment is a major step,” a senior government functionary who did not wish to be named, said. “This is the first time that minorities are going to be defined.” The official line is that once in place, the amendment will obviate any confusion on the question of minorities, like the one that led to last month’s Allahabad High Court judgment. The court held that Muslims — 18.5 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population in 2001 — were not a religious minority in the state. It said the state government should treat members of the Muslim community as equal to those belonging to the non-minority communities without discrimination in accordance with the law. A division bench, however, stayed the ruling the next day .

The Cabinet cleared the official amendment to the Constitution — the 103rd Amendment Bill 2004 — at a meeting chaired by the prime minister last week. The bill could come up for discussion during the ongoing budget session.





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