What does the term “minority” mean in a democracy based on equal citizenship for all? The term minority denotes “less-ness” compared to the “more-ness” of another entity. How could some citizens of a democratic state, which guarantees ‘equality of status and opportunity’, be considered ‘less’ than any other citizens?
For from being progressive, in a democracy like India, dividing the citizens based on castes is a reactionary position that belongs to pre-modern societies. Ancient Greeks understood the difference between ‘ethnos’ and ‘demos.’ The term ‘ethnos’ denoted community of customs and traditions of groups within society that, when coming together to create and operate a common space, would form a ‘demos.’ The talk in the agora (Agora, in ancient Greek cities, was an open space that served as a meeting ground for various activities of the citizens. The name, first found in the works of Homer, connotes both the assembly of the people as well as the physical setting) was not about ethnocracy (a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group (or groups) to further its interests, power and resources) but democracy. Caste denotes human communities before the emergence of The People with a capital P. Thus, India is about “We the People,” not “We the Minorities”.
Republic of India began as a ‘SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC’ in 1950, whose motto became ‘Government of the People, by the People, for the People.’ Democracy is a melting pot, not a salad bar. In the melting pot are veggies, spices, condiments, colours, fragrances, garnishes, oils and what not; every ingredient added in different measures and sequences as per the recipe.
Article 14 of the Constitution reads: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
In addition, Article 15 of the constitution reads as: (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to— (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.
(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
This is what WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, gave to ourselves in 1950.
Then came the very first and a very controversial amendment to the constitution in 1951, by the Jawahar Lal Nehru Government (Nehru was not the elected Prime Minister of India then but an appointed Prime Minister of India – appointed by Lord Mountbatten on 15 August 1947) which added [Added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, s. 2.]:
(4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 [Cultural and Educational Rights -Protection of interests of minorities ] shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
As if this were not sufficient, to break the very backbone of the “Right to Equality” another controversial amendment to the constitution in 2005, by the Man Mohan Singh Government (Man Mohan Singh was never elected to any public office by We, the people of India, but ‘appointed’ Prime Minister of India – appointed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi in May 2004, rendering 7 Race Course Road subordinated to 10 Janpath) , which added [Ins. by the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005, s. 2, (w.e.f. 20-1-2006)]: (5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 [Right to Freedom] shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30.
Nationalism created the Indian nation, not the other way round. Progressivism is a secular religion rather than an ideology that could have its place in the competitive field of politics. Dividing citizens based on castes can have no place in a democracy. In Indian democratic secularism, the state is tasked with protecting all castes, and by extension, other communities, but not of relying on them as component parts.
In the Indian democracy, terms such as minority and majority can only have a political meaning. A political party or a political manifesto that has collected more than 50 percent of votes in an election represents the majority. In such a system, majority and minority do not describe a permanent state of affairs. Today’s majority could be tomorrow’s minority as it was yesterday.
Starting with the parliament, which is the seat of all legislation, to pretend that this or that member was chosen because of his or her influence over people of some specific religious faith or other “minority” attribution is certainly not a compliment. If the choice is based not on the individual’s competence but on salad-bar considerations, it cannot be justified on democratic grounds. If, on the other hand, such considerations played no part in the choice, why make such a song-and-dance about ‘reserved seats’ and progressive representation?
Fortunately, many members of the parliament have impressive academic and practical resumes. It is in everyone’s interest to hope that they see themselves not as figures in a game of ethnic tokenism but the servants of the Indian people at a difficult time.
India is about “We, the People of India” and not “We, the Minorities of India” or “We, the SC/ST/OBCs of India” or “We, the farmers of India” or any other sub-sets of “the People of India.”
First published on 02 Feb 2021
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