Minority Rights Day 2021: Cornerstones of democracy are inclusiveness, equality and minority rights

If India seriously aspires to find a proud place in the global community, it must insulate its minorities. We need to inculcate in our populace a sense of duty and care for our minorities.

constitution
Justice and equality, respect for privacy and dignity for our fellow beings, especially minorities, is a sine qua non for a secular society as we claim ourselves.

By Narender Hooda

Minority Rights Day 2021: A society is judged by how it treats its weakest sections. If India seriously aspires to find a proud place in the global community, it must insulate its minorities. We need to inculcate in our populace a sense of duty and care for our minorities. Justice and equality, respect for privacy and dignity for our fellow beings, especially minorities, is a sine qua non for a secular society as we claim ourselves. Unfortunately, rising hate speeches, mob lynching incidents, dissemination of misinformation through social media, and false historical narratives, which provoke anti-minority sentiments, have become order of the day. Political parties resort to religious polarization as the cheapest trick for electoral wins without realizing the colossal cost on us as a nation.

NRC-CAA, anti-conversion laws in the garb of checking the so-called love jihad, cow protection laws in various states, forcing meat shops to shut during Hindu festivities and now the latest protests in Gurugram against reading namaaz in open designated spaces reflects anti-minority psyche.

India is one of the most religiously diverse countries globally, consisting of majority Hindus and its minorities being Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians. Minority conflicts revolve around identity. People who feel attacked because of their religious or ethnic identity elicit an aggressive reaction because they think their place in society is under attack and feel alienated in their own country. To assert their rights, these communities end up being too defensive, which diminishes their chances of being included in mainstream society. The loss our society suffers as a consequence of this alienation is immeasurable.

Even after more than seven decades of Independence, majority-minority is the main topic of prime time debates on news channels. Democracy is a rule by the majority. However, rule by a majority community is antithetical to the basic tenets of democracy itself. Cornerstones of democracy are inclusiveness, equality and minority rights besides others. The Preamble of our Constitution defines India as sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic. Secularism is a basic structure of the Constitution which essentially means its secular character cannot be diluted even by the Parliament as held by the Supreme Court in SR Bommai Vs UOI.

To secure the rights of the minority communities, Dr Ambedkar propounded a non-Parliamentary executive with the Prime Minister to be elected by the whole house and representatives of different communities in the Cabinet to be elected by members of such minority communities in the legislature by a single transferable vote.

During constituent assembly debates, Dr Ambedkar emphasized that in elections to Parliament or legislative assemblies, candidates from the majority community must secure a minimum number of votes from the minority community in order to be declared elected. However, none of the above said proposals of Dr Ambedkar were finally accepted for lack of required support.

The prevailing communal atmosphere proves that the fear of our Constitution’s architect was not unfounded. Communal polarization in elections has been gaining momentum for the last few years at an alarming rate. Politicians don’t hesitate in resorting to insinuations with communal overtones to trigger communal polarization in elections. This devious tendency has to be curbed. Integration of the minorities into the mainstream is indispensable for national unity.

The writer is Sr. Advocate practicing at the Supreme Court. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.

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