- Intro – need for extending special rights to minorities.
- Discuss these special rights in the context of India (viz. constitutional protection to minorities).
In a democratic setup, there is always a tendency of majoritarian domination. In a polity based on rule of law, this means that every group of citizens must be given sufficient protections, especially with regard to preserving their identity and culture. Special rights granted to minorities ensure these. Also, idea of rights of minorities does not include any special political privileges. These rights are universally accepted and are laid down in United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
In India, the safeguards for minorities under the constitution of India are in the form of fundamental rights:
- Article 14 provides for equality before the law and equal protection of law. Thus minorities cannot be put to any legal disability vis- a-vis the majority.
- Articles 15 and 16 prohibit discrimination ONLY on certain grounds (religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth).
- Article 29 explicitly provides the right to every section of citizens having distinct language, script or culture to conserve the same.
- Article 30 accords the rights to religious/linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
Further, following articles deal exclusively with linguistic minorities:
- 347– Power of President to direct a language to be included as an official language of a state if a substantial proportion of the state population desires.
- 350– Representation of a grievance to a Union/State authority in any of the languages used in the Union/State as the case may be.
- 350A– Facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage.
- 350 B– Provision of special Officer for Linguistic Minorities.
Examples of protection of minority rights:
- Provision of National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions and National Minorities Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC).
- Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for Welfare of Minorities.
- Developmental schemes like Nai Manzil, USTAAD, Humari Darohar,Jiyo Parsi , Maulana Azad National Fellowship For Minority Students, etc.
These provisions do not give any privilege to minorities. They ensure that their progress is not stalled because of ideology of the government in power. These rights recognize their special conditions as well as possible challenges of a democracy. Their implementation is the constitutional/statutory responsibility of the State to ensure inclusive growth and development.