Jain Minority Right In India Receiving A Fair Deal?
By Bal Patil
27 November, 2006
I refer to the Prime Minister,
Dr.Manmohan Singh’s address at the annual conference of State
Minorities Commissions recently in New Delhi attended by the Union Minority
Affairs Minister, Mr.A.R. Antulay, the Union Human Resource Development
Minister, Mr.Arjun Singh and the National Commission Minorities Chairman,
Stressing pluralism of the
Indian culture Dr. Singh said that the nation 'does not belong to any
single race and that it belongs “to a mosaic of religiously, linguistically
and culturally varied communities... India must remain a nation where
pluralism and socio-religious variety are respected. In a pluralistic
society like ours, national identity cannot be adjudged by any litmus
test ... This nation does not belong to any single race, least of all
to any group of religious extremists.''
He also stressed that the
minorities should get a fair share in central and state government and
private sector jobs. Conceding that the benefits of developmental schemes
had not "flowed equitably to the eligible sections among the minorities
he noted " state chief ministers have been asked to put in place
a monitoring mechanism over implementation of minority welfare schemes.
Union Minister for Minority
Affairs A.R. Antulay said Dr. Singh's presence at the meeting indicated
the importance the Government attached to the minorities.
Commission Chairman Hamid
Ansari said: "It signifies a purpose, suggests an approach, indicates
a willingness to hear — in this case a cry in which anguish and
expectations alternate — and to redress."
The NCM Chairman had earlier
slammed the controversial Gujarat Bill stating that such clubbing was
“unacceptable”. The Commission said as per the National
Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 and the subsequent notification
in 1993, Buddhists are a religious minority in the country along with
Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis. “The Gujarat Bill violates
the existing law in the country. You can’t have such legislation
in some region that runs against a national Act and notification of
One must note the cryptic
omission of the Jains who are also classified as Hindus along with Buddhists
in Mr.Ansari’s criticism of the impugned amendment. I wonder if
the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities was afraid of
unwittingly giving the minority status to the Jain community. Perhaps
he is not aware that the National Commission for Minorities has twice
recommended minority status on par with other national minorities which
has not been implemented.
The Congress, meanwhile,
said the amendment was a “double assault” on the Constitution.
Party spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi said the action of the Gujarat
government is in line with the RSS line of “intimidating minorities”.
The three-day Congress plenary
session in Hyderabad in January 2006 had called upon the United Progressive
Alliance Government to make the minorities partners in progress by enhancing
their opportunities for education and employment stressing that the
State Minority Commissions have to play a crucial role in ensuring communal
harmony by implementing the Prime Minister’s 15-Point minority
welfare programme initiated by Indiraji in 1983. The Union cabinet on
July 12 approved a new 15-point programme to prevent and control communal
incidents and take care of minorities welfare.
The 15-point programme has
been recast to focus action sharply on issues intimately linked with
the social, educational and economic uplift of minorities and provide
for earmarking of outlays in certain schemes so that the progress was
But this national minority
welfare policy envisaged by the Congress and the UPA Government suffers
from a glaring lacuna because it is applicable only to national minorities
and thus discriminates against a minority declared by the States such
as the Jain community who are declared minority in seven States but
are not a national minority. Thus the Jains are out of the purview of
the welfare benefits avaialable to the national minorities.
I am therefore concerned
to protest as the Secretary-General of the All-India Jain Minority Forum
that the national minority welfare policy envisaged by the Congress
and the UPA Government and the seemingly “equitable” minority
welfare plan announced by the Prime Minister suffer from a glaring lacuna
of discrimination against the Jain minority religious community who
have been declared as a minority in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh,
Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttaranchala and Rajasthan together
constituting 80% of the Jain population in India according to the recent
census 2001 will be deprived of such benefits because they have not
been given the status of national minority on par with other national
minorities such as Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians
Therefore, the 15-Point minority
welfare package formulated by the Congress cannot be meaningful unless
the notional, even meaningless distinction between the National and
State minorities is removed. The Jains have to be assimilated into the
national mainstream of minorities by notifying them as a minority on
par with the other national minorities such as Muslim, Christian, Sikh,
Buddhist and Zoroastrian (Parsi).
The Central Government took
a cryptic stand by clarifying in response to the Supreme Court Order
in 2004 in Bal Patil Vs.Union of India & ors. in the Civil Appeal
No. 4730 of 1999 praying for the implementation of the National Minority
Commission’s recommendation that the Jains should be accorded
minority status, that the issue of minority for Jains is a subject matter
of States and central government has no role to play. The decision on
the minority issue for Jains was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political
Affairs in the light of the Supreme Court's directive to the Union Government
that it should give its view about the minority status of the Jain community.
The meeting was significantly
chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also was attended by Pranab
Mukherjee, Defence Minister, Sharad Pawar Agriculture Minister, K Natwar
Singh External Affairs Minister, Communication and IT Minister Dayanidhi
Maran and Law Minister H R Bhardwaj. Jains’ Minority Status to
be Decided by States : Govt.
As regards the untenable
stand of the Political Affairs Committee of the Government of India,
it needs to be reminded that although the States were reorganised on
linguistic basis they were not reorganised on religious basis. In fact
the Supreme Court Order in Bal Patil vs,.Union of India 4730 of 1999
in July 2004 had specifically said that the criteria of the TMA Pai
Foundation judgement did not apply to the case.
As noted by Mr. Syed Shahabuddin
in his article Supreme Court Judgement on Minority Status of Jains Obiter
Dicta Places Hindu Religion Above all Other Religions published in the
Milli Gazette, 3 November, 2005 “This equation between the two
categories of minorities (linguistic and religious)does not logically
follow, as the States have not reorganized on religious basis and all
religious communities are scattered throughout the country. The Central
Government, a respondent, found it convenient to take shelter under
this totally illogical presumption of the Supreme Court and refused
to exercise its statutory power under the Act, thus making it redundant.”
At present the Jains are
declared a minority in seven States of India. This means that the Jains
are Hindus in the rest of the States in India. Is this not implicitly
classifying Jains as Hindus? Why blame then the Modi Government in Gujarat
State for classifying Jains as Hindus? Why does the UPA Government professedly
secular continue with such unwarranted assault on the constitutionally
recognised identity of the Jain religion?
Besides are the national
minorities so-called like Muslim, Christian,Sikhs are minorities in
the real sense of the term? The Muslims are majority in Jammu &
Kashmir, the Sikhs are majority in Punjab and Christians are majority
in the eastern Indian States Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
And the national majority of the Hindus are minorities in these States.
As a matter of fact only the Jains are the only religious community
comprised of 4,223, 053 population according to the official Government
of India Census 2001 are a true minority in every State of India.
In this confusion worse confounded
of the National vs. State Minority status the Government must spell
out clearly the distinction between the two and how precisely the national
minorities so-called qualify to be so. The double-think on this vital
issue is extremely damaging as in the case of the Jain religious minority.
If the Jains can be a minority in more than seven States and are a distinct
religion clubbed together with the Sikhs and Buddhists in Explanation
II of Article 25 of the Constitution and also have been counted as a
major religious community since the first Census in 1873 why should
the Government persist in quibbling about State and National minority
It is pertinent to note in
the aforesaid context that the prestigious Institute of Indology in
the UK was instrumental in getting the Jain faith recognised as one
of the nine faiths practised in the UK by HRH Duke of Edinburgh at the
Buckingham Palace on 23rd October, 1990. It is recognised as a faith
in its own right by the InterFaith Network in the UK and is represented
at all civic, government and inter-religious events as such.
Why is the government of
India then still playing hide and seek with the Jain minority status
for the Jain religious community despite all the evidence to the contrary?
Is it because the Jain community is a peace-loving community? Is that
why the saffronite Modi government in Gujarat has dared to classify
Jains and Buddhists as Hindus? And still the Centre is watching helplessly.
One of the main points raised
by the Central Government authorities including the Minority Affairs
Minister with regard to the issuance of Jain minority notification is
that a section of the Jain community is opposed to the minority status.
Does it mean that the minority constitutional right is to be decided
by democratic vote? Was that how the national minority status given
to the national minorities, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhists, and
If the Government really
means what it says let it scrap all the national minority list and begin
anew by taking a national vote on all the minorities. It will discover
then that national minorities too are majorities in some States-like
Sikhs in Punjab, and Christians in eastern States, and Muslims in Jammu
& Kashmir. Not only that but the national majority of Hindus are
a minority in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and the Christian majority
In sum, the Government of
India makes a mockery of of the minority welfare programmes by its flagrantly
discriminatory treatment of the Jain minority community so generously
announced by the Prime Minister. Why is the Government of India digging
its heels on the issue of Jain religious minority status despite all
the evidence to the contrary?
If the Central Government
cares to look into the Census figures it will find that Jainism is counted
as a major religion right from the first Census in 1873 and that the
Jains are truly a minority not only in every State of India but also
in every District and Taluka.
In the aforesaid context
following constitutional, and judicial evidence needs to be noted:
1. On 25th January, 1950,
a Jain delegation was led to the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and
other central leaders to draw their attention to the anomalous position
of the Jains under sub-clause (b) of Clause 2 of Article 25 and a petition
was submitted. Jawaharlal Nehru clearly assured the delegation that
the Jains are not Hindus and on 31-1-1950, his Principal Private Secretary,
Mr.A.V. Pai wrote the following letter (a copy of the letter is enclosed)
in reply to the petition:
"This Article merely
makes a definition. This definition by enforcing a specific consitutional
arrangement circumscribes that rule. Likewise you will note that this
mentions not only Jains but also Buddhists and Sikhs. It is clear that
Buddhists are not Hindus and therefore there need be no apprehension
that the Jains are designated as Hindus. There is no doubt that the
Jains are a different religious community and this accepted position
is in no way affected by the Constitution."
In his Allahabad speech on
3rd September,1949, Jawaharlal Nehru said:
“No doubt India had
a vast majority of Hindus, but they could not forget the fact that there
are also minorities Moslems, Christians, Parsis and Jains. If India
was understood as a “Hindu Rashtra “ it meant that the minorities
were not cent per cent citizens of te country.” (The Statesman,
It may be recalled that the
Deputy Prime Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in his letter
of 25th August,1946 addressed to Sir Bhagchand Soni, President, All
India Digamber Jain Mahashbha assured the Jain Community not to be worried
about their religious rights and promised that “in free India
there would be no restrictions upon the religious liberty of any Community
and there need be no apprehensions in this regards.”
2. The National Minorities
Commission arrived at their recommendation that the Jain community be
declared as a minority religious community. It was in consideration
of the following: 1)the relevant constitutional provisions, 20 various
judicial pronouncements, 3) the fundamental differences in philosophy
and beliefs (theism vs.atheism principally) vis-a-vis Hinduism, and
4) the substantial number of Jain population in the country, resolved
to recommend to the Government of India that the Jains deserve to be
recognised as a distinct religious minority, and that, therefore the
Government of India may consider including them in the listing of "Minorities"
in their Notification dated 23-10-1993. This recommendation was issued
3. In the latest Supreme
Court Appeal (Civil) 9595 of 2003: Petitioner: Committee of Management
Kanya Junior High School Bal Vidya Mandir, Etah, U.P. Respondent: Sachiv,
U.P. Basic Shiksha Parishad Allahabad, U.P. & Others, Date of Judgment:
The Division Bench of S.
B. SINHA & DALVEER BHANDARI and the Judgment delivered by Justice
Dalveer Bhandai states:
"The Founding Fathers
of the Constitution had unequivocally recognized the Jains as a minority
community as is evident from the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly.
While keeping in view that the Jains are a minority community, a representative
of the Jain community was taken in the Minority Advisory Committee of
the Constituent Assembly."
“Jain religion indisputably
is not a part of Hindu religion.
4. The Prime Minister, Dr.
Manmohan Singh launched the Jain Manuscripts Catalogue of the collection
in British Library, London, in New Delhi today., 27th May, 2006 .
Dr.Manmohan Singh said: “This
ancient land of India has been home to some of the greatest religious
movements and religions known to mankind, among which Jainism occupies
an important place of pride. It is an important constituent of our composite
culture and civilizational heritage.”
“Further he said: “The
rational basis of Jainism has contributed to the growth of scientific
temper and the fight against superstition and blind belief. Rejecting
the rigidities of doctrine, Jainism presented a new openness and in
a new freshness in our approach to matters considered spiritual . This
approach has helped in grappling with social, religious and even economic
problems facing mankind. Jainism is part and parcel of the rich tradition
of rational intellectual discourse that has flourished in this ancient
land of India.
“Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi
wrote that “Jainism represents the highest flight of logic. It
has taken nothing for granted and has endeavoured to prove metaphysical
truth by challenging the intellect”. The tradition not to take
anything for granted and examine all postulates on the basis of reason
and intellect needs to be followed in our own time”
5. Mr.Pranav Mukherjee, India’s
Foreign Minister said: at a reception hosted in his honour by Ambassador
Ronen Sen in New York on Sunday, September 24, 2006:
“It is indeed a matter
of great pride for us that we represent a great and composite civilisation
that defines our 'Indianness' and our worldview. Our thinking is shaped
by a history in which practically all the communities of the world have
thrived. India has always been a mosaic of cultures and an open society.
Great religions have been born in our nation, and many from outside
have been absorbed and internalised.
“Not many people are
aware that while the great religions of the East -- Hinduism, Buddhism,
Sikhism, Jainism and many others -- grew from the soil of India, the
faiths from West Asia were also embraced with equal respect and reverence.”
In the aforesaid context
I am constrained to ask the Government of India backed by the UP alliance
and the secular Constitutional ideology in all secular and constitutional
conscience why is it turning a Nelson’s eye to the Jain minority
status? Is it the Government policy to treat certain communities only
as minorities? How is it going to administer the fresh package of fair
and equitable treatment to the minorities announced by the Prime Minister
when the Jain who are declared in several States would be deprived of
the benefits available only to national minorities? And what happens
to the Jains in States where they have not been declared a minority?
In view of the unimpeacheable
constitutional, judicial evidence and the views of the most illustrious
leaders and the sitting members of the Government of India I submit
that the Government of India should take an expeditious decision on
issuing a Notification declaring Jains as a national minority on par
with Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.
Bal Patil is the Secretary-General, All-India Jain
Co-author: JAINISM with Colette Caillat, A.N. Upadhye, Macmillan, 1974,
Author:Supreme Court's volte face on Constitutional Amendment, Published
by Govt. of Maharashtra, 1980
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