India needs review Articles on Minority in Constitution

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Who  is a minority?  This question arises when the Muslim community  in this country in numbers exceeds most of the Muslims in other  countries.  The term ‘minority’ was introduced by the  British and its relevance in today’s India needs to be examined.   As pointed out by late Abul Kalam Azad, they form the second  majority! This paper makes a strong case for a review of various  articles relating to the “minorities” in the Constitution.

U.  S. President Barack Obama at a White House summit to beef up the  battle against “violent extremism” on February 18 urged the  Muslim leaders to denounce the ‘twisted ideology’ of ISIS and  Al-Qaeda. He also said that America “is not at war with Islam”  but with people who have perverted it”. (Daily Pioneer dated  February 20).

The  U. S. President however, didn’t make such an appeal to the Muslim  leaders during his recent visit to India despite the fact that this  country is today facing the biggest national challenge of Islamisc  terrorism.  

A  US National Counter-Terrorism Centre publication A Chronology of  International Terrorism states: ‘India suffered more terrorist acts  than any other country’.  (http://pamelageller.com/2011/07/dr-subramaniam-swamy-how-to-wipe-out-isl...).

US  Congressman Ed Royce, the leader of a Congressional delegation to  India which arrived Delhi on March 7 this year for meeting Narendra  Modi and others in an interview with Rediff.com in Washington DC  said, 'I believe one of the most critical issues is the common threat  we face from Islamist radicals and the continuing and unimpaired  financing of Al Qaeda, the 'D' Company, the Haqqani network, the LeT  and the Jaish-e-Muhammed.'

Instead  of showing the joint concern on the global menace of Islamist terror,  the U S President in his final speech in India talked of ‘religious  intolerance’ of this country and subsequently repeated it in his  National Prayer Breakfast in Washington saying that ‘religious  intolerance would have shocked Gandhiji. Knowing well, that India is  today facing the biggest national challenge of Islamist terrorism he  preferred to remain silent on this issue.

The  political leadership of India must recognise the gravity of the  growing menace of various terror groups including the ISIS in this  country and take effective measure to deal with the situation at its  own. The contemporary intellectual discourses against this known  danger to our national security will hardly bring any desired result.  Simply condemning terrorism will remain a futile exercise.

The  global threat of ideology-backed Islamist terrorism has proved this  most menacing expression of Islamic fundamentalism as a great  challenge to the rational world. Drawing ideological inspiration from  the protracted Islamic revival movements, various terror groups have  launched global jihad with an objective to restore the Caliphate to  rule the world. Unfortunately, the successive governments in post  Independence India never awoke and arose to fight against this  internal challenge effectively and as a result 1.25 billion  populations of this country is confronted with a serious danger from  Islamist terror groups.

Mawlana  Mawdoodi, the founding father of Jamaat-e-Islami in his book  Fundamental of Islam (Page: 250) went to the extent of propagating:  “Salaat (Namaz) is a training exercise for Jihad. Zakat (Islamic  charity) is a military fund for Jihad. Fasting is aimed to train  people like soldiers who have to stay without food at times for long  periods during the Jihad. Hajj is a huge conference in nature for  plotting larger scale military operations. Thus, Salaah, Fasting,  Zakat, and Hajj are actually meant for this very preparation and  training”.  (http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-politics/ghulam-rasool-dehlvi,-new-...).  It appears that the thesis of Mawdoodi was aimed at military  preparation for Jihad.

Our  Constitution makers incorporated the term minority (Read Muslims) in  the Constitution particularly to bring the demoralised Muslims in the  national mainstream. But instead of joining the national building  programmes, the followers of Shaikh Sarhindi, Shah Waliullah, Mawlana  Wahhab, Al Banna, Maududi and other Islamist and Jihadi ideologues  revisited the aggressive institutional and organisational Islamic  revival movements and propagated their ideology of political Islam  among the Muslim masses.

In  the absence of any provision in our Constitution to counter the  extremist twists of basic Islamic rituals and their propagation, the  post-Independence radical Islamist group took advantage of the  constitutional flaw particularly the right to run educational  institutions independently without any check on the curriculum and  turned a larger section of students into an aggressive minority which  resulted in the formation of the organisation like SIMI and its  offshoot Indian Mojahideen.

Despite opposition  from many members including both Hindus and Muslims, some dominant  groups in the Constituent Assembly manoeuvred to incorporate the  divisive articles on religious minorities in the Constitution. This  was an unfortunate Constitutional Flaw which needs to be reviewed in  the context of countering Islamist terrorism.

During  Constituent Assembly debate Tajamul Hussain, a Muslim member strongly  pleaded against the inclusion of the term minority in the  Constitution on the plea that the Muslims want to merge in the  nation. He said: “The term minority is a British creation. The  British created the minorities. The British have gone and the  minorities have gone with them. Remove the term minority from your  dictionary. There is no minority in India …. .”. “We want to  merge in the nation”. (CAD VOL. 8, Page 333).

Damodar  Swaroop Seth argued that if in the name of religious minorities, they  were allowed to run their educational institutions, it would "promote  communalism and anti-national outlook".Factually, even during  medieval era the country’s population was not governed on the basis  of minority versus majority. The British created this term as a  policy of divide and rule. He also said that of the four Muslim  members namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifizur Rahman, Begum  Aiaz Rasul and Jafar Imam present in the debate; only Jafar Imam had  opposed it. While Maulana Azad and Hifizur Rahman did not speak,  Begum Aiaz Rasul supported the motion. He maintained that out of  seven Muslim members in the Advisory Committee only Saadulla and  Jafar Imam were opposed to the motion.

Indian  Constitution didn’t define the term minority and therefore, giving  special privilege to about 200 million Muslim populations on the  basis of religious minority in a secular democratic country is an  affront to the intellect of that community.

It  may not be realistic to right the various historical wrongs which  this land has been destined to but that is not the case with the  constitutional flaw which can be reviewed and corrected with suitable  amendments to formulate a deterrent strategy to combat terrorism.  This may be a herculean task as vote baiting political parties who  pretend themselves as ‘secularists’ are the alliance partners of  the ideological fathers of the various Islamist terror groups.

Instead  of countering the Islamo-fascist obscurantist movements launched by  the followers of the ideological fathers of terrorism these so called  secularists have embraced the latter for the sake of Muslim votes.  These baiters of Muslim votes for power at the cost of national  interest are the main supporting group for the success of extremists  in the community.

If  we look into some of the under mentioned incentives to religious  minorities provided by the Muslim vote baiting ruling political  establishments both at centre and state, it appears that such  perverse and divisive incentives have caused more harm than good for  the community.

1. National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National  Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was set up by the Union  Government led by Congress.
2. Appointment of Sachar Committee in 2005 to study the economic  backwardness of Muslims in 2005.
3. The UPA Government established Ministry of Minority Affairs in 2006.
4. Communal Violence Bill in 2011.
5. U. P.A Government Home Minister’s letter to Minority Affairs  Minister for setting up special Muslim-only fast track for trial of  terror related cases.
7. Education schemes only for Muslim girls in Samajwadi Party Government  Uttar Pradesh since 2012.
8. In August 2013, the S. P. Government announced 20% reservation for  minorities in all 85 state-administered development schemes.
9. Trinmool Congress Government in West Bengal allowed a monthly  allowance for Muslim clerics and imams.
10.In 2012 the TMC Government sanctioned Rs.50 crores per year to a  Muslim-only Aliah University and created six Industrial Training  Institutes and six polytechnic colleges exclusively for Muslims. The  Chief Minister also gave 794 bicycles and over Rs.5 crore in loans  and scholarships to Muslim students.

Our  security agencies are aware of the causes of disruption of  national outlook and national unity on this issue but without the  constitutional support it is difficult for them to combat terrorism  effectively. For this the ruling establishment is to discover the  ideological root of this menace and take necessary steps to fight  this challenge by reviewing the divisive articles in Constitution by  initiating a wide range debate.

This  would require a strong political will and the cooperation of opinion  builders including media if they are serious to save secularism from  the ‘secularists’ and their Islamist allies. 

At  the same time Muslim leaders who claim themselves nationalists and  oppose terrorism must join this movement assertively and generate  collective concern against terrorism among their co-religionists. In  February 2008 Darul Uloom Deoband took some initiative and condemned  terrorism but it remained a failed exercise since it neither  criticised the operating terrorist outfits nor launched any proactive  movement against them. Their aggressive ideological confrontation  with political Islam will not only strengthen the action oriented  measure of the government but also counter the vote baiting design of  the political left parties.

Against  the backdrop of the discussion India needs a collective intellectual  mindset for launching action oriented national movement by creating a  wider space for debate against the divisive articles of Constitution  particularly the privileges to the minority. Fortunately, just only a  couple of days after taking oath in May 2014 Minority Affairs  Minister Najma Heptullah said, “Muslims are not minorities, Parsis  are”. She perhaps meant that the population strength of her  community members does not deserve the status of minority. Even her  grand uncle Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister in Nehru  cabinet regarded “Muslims as the country’s second majority” and  not minority.

Let  Heptullah’s statement be a starting point for a wide debate in the  country as a part of anti-terror national policy to counter the  Islamist threat effectively. The terror ideology which is nothing but  an instrument to establish the political command of the terrorists  can be combated only by the Muslim theologians with sharp ideological  weapon of Islamic scriptures and rational arguments.

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Also read
1. Who is a Minority
2. NAC idea of minorities is irrelevant and dangerous
3. Reservations for Minorities –    Constituent Assembly Debate Revisited