Thursday 29 March 2018

The level playing field tilts.

The recent claims by few Lingayat leaders of Karnataka that they are not Hindus but a separate religion would have raised the palpitations of many in the Hindu society. That the ruling party is trying to polarize the society using this issue is very obvious. They support the Lingayats and are ready to grant them the status they are asking for, hoping to gain the Lingayat votes. They know very well that this will be struck down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, as it did in the Ramakrishna Mutt case 25 years ago.  In both cases it’s our law which has driven them to this futile attempt of claiming minority status. In the case of Ramakrishna Mutt, they filed a case in Calcutta High court seeking minority Status in order to save their Educational Institutions from Political interference. But the Supreme Court of India declared that neither Sri Ramakrishna nor Swami Vivekananda founded any independent, non-Hindu religion. Thus ended the RK Mission's desperate attempt to gain the privileges accorded only to minority religions in India, specifically, the right to manage their extensive educational institutions free from government control. The then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mutt, Swami Atmasthananda, told in an interview that, "Whatever legal brains have done is for lawyers to say." The RK Mission's explanation has been all along that it has taken this step to save its schools, and that the court statements are simply part of the necessary legal maneuvers. 

Now even after 25 years the Hindu society is in the same confounded situation where they have to seek the ignominious minority status in their own homeland, to have their administration free of unnecessary Government interference. Solution to this problem lies in abrogation of Article 30 of our Constitution which grants and upholds the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. While Article 30 was included along with its various clauses to protect the interests of the ethnic as well as religious minorities in India, it also has certain drawbacks. The very fact that minorities have the sole control of the educational institutions that they establish implies that the government cannot exercise any control over its formation as well as management. Hence, in case of malpractice, the government will not have the right to intervene and take control of the situation. Article 30 exempts the minority institutions from reserving 25% of its seats for the poor as per Rights to Education Act, which, is in stark contrast to fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. So instead of creating a level playing field this Article has only resulted in creating a favorable atmosphere for the minorities and resentment among the majority community. The term minorities have been defined without any reference to size. We can understand when Parsis are refered as minorities. but can the same tag be extended to Muslims? When there are 180 million of them around, making India the second-largest Muslim country in the world? This fact made Maulana Abul Kalam Azad say that Muslims were not minorities in India, instead he called them India’s second majority.

Ours is proclaimed as a secular country. But it is here where the temples of the majority community are under the control of the State, whereas, the minorities have the protection granted by law. This will probably be the only country in the entire world where the majority community helplessly saw its members reduced to the plight of refugees when the ethnic cleansing happened in Kashmir and Kashmiri Pundits were driven out of their homeland. This is a country where the beleaguered majority community which is facing attacks from all the fronts needs some protection. 

The spirit of the Article 30 is to ensure that the Minorities are not discriminated against. But in essence it has only resulted in Governments acting with impunity with regard to the majority community’s institutions and turning a blind eye to the happenings in the minority institutions.  It’s time to abrogate this Article which creates disparity among communities. Instead of asking the political parties to abolish this detestable provision the Hindu sects are seeking refuge in that very same provision. This approach is akin to putting the noose around our neck and walking further. Whatever be the grounds in which we seek this minority status, it will only result in that particular sect getting distanced from the mainstream Hindu samaj.  And it is this disintegration of Hindu society which the proselytizing Abrahamic faiths are eagerly looking for. These predatory faiths may also be at the back of these political dramas, hoping that if Lingayats are alienated from the Hindu society, then it will be easy for them to convert them.  It needs enormous political will and courage and an ability to look beyond vote bank politics and mere electoral gains to find a right solution to this issue which may otherwise become contagious.