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The minority measure mystery

 

Onkareshwar Pandey finds the Rangnath Commission’s rejection of linguistic minorities illogical and absurd
Issue Dated: April 18, 2010
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The minority measure mystery The issue of reservation for minorities, especially Muslims, has created an uproar after the recent observation of the Supreme Court on Muslim reservation in Andhra Pradesh. Things have been turbulent ever since the Rangnath Mishra Commission submitted its report in May, 2007. In this melee, while the issue of religious minorities has come to gather spotlight, the issue of the linguistic minorities has been completely sidelined. The fact is even the Justice Rangnath Mishra panel had grossly ignored the issue of linguistic minorities in its report by saying, “In our opinion the concept of ‘backwardness’ is to be confined in its application to religious minorities as it has no relevance for the linguistic minorities.”

The commission is of the view that “The latter may be facing some other problems like discrimination and denial of constitutional rights in practice but no linguistic group may be regarded as backward by itself.” Asha Das, member secretary of the Commission, defends this view while talking to TSI. She said, “The term linguistic minority can determine the backwardness of a language and not backwardness of its people.” Therefore it further says, “We are not recommending any criterion for identifying ‘socially and economically backward classes’ among the linguistic minorities.”

“This is ridiculous,” says Uday Sinha, a senior journalist, who was in a panel of speakers in a seminar recently held in Delhi to discuss the commission’s report. “The development of any community is directly linked to the language. The reason of backwardness is linguistic and not religious. Religion does not define the economic status of the community,” he said. If a person is familiar with a developed language, he is exposed to the best education which is available in our country. An English-speaking person will have more opportunities than a person who is speaking Bhojpuri or Braj Bhasha, Mundari or Oraon. The literature and the technological education are imported only in English and not in other languages. Why to speak of Mundari or Bhojpuri, the same can be seen even with a person who knows only Hindi and does not know English.

“The Rangnath Mishra Commission forgot its limitations in its move to give blind support to provide reservations to religious minorities. This is unfortunate,” commented Prakash Javdekar, spokesperson, BJP, while talking to TSI on the issue. .

“This is absolutely wrong and far away from the ground realities,” says Neeraj Shekhar, MP from Baliya,UP. “The commission should have taken a view that the linguistic minorities are much more important to ascertain backwardness than the religious minorities as they comprise all religions, castes and creeds. For example, the Bhojpuri-speaking community of UP and Bihar are the most backward. This is why they are compelled to migrate to the various metro cities in search of jobs and livelihoods,” Neeraj added. “The Rangnath Commission’s report is not the Bible, Quran or Geeta which can be accepted as it is. The report is incomplete and needs to be reconsidered and discussed,” said Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP from Mumbai. “The Rangnath Commission report is not different from the Sachhar Committee report. It is also on the lines of Pirpur Report, Sharif Report, Fazal Haq Report and Kamlayar Jung Report prepared by Muslim League before partition. It will lead to communal polarisation of the country,” said Rakesh Sinha, director at India Policy Foundation, New Delhi. “It has completely sidelined the linguistic minorities and only focused on religious minorities. It has tried to rewind the clock to the period before 1947,” Sinha added.

It is important to mention that the National Commission for Religious and linguistic Minorities was constituted on October 29 by the Centre with the clear cut terms of reference not only to suggest criteria for identification of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities but also to recommend measures of welfare for them including reservation in education and government employment and to suggest the necessary constitutional, legal and administrative modalities required for implementation of its recommendations.

Justice Rangnath Mishra, the former chief justice of India, was appointed its chairman with Tahir Mahmod, Anil Wilson and Mohinder Singh as its members. The commission was asked to present its report within six months but it finally submitted it on May 10, 2007. It is pertinent to note that Asha Das, a former secretary to the government of India who was appointed as the member secretary of the commission, had a difference of opinion to the extent that she put in a note of dissent on conferment of scheduled caste status to SC converts to Christianity and Islam. While dissenting to the recommendations of commission in her 12-page note, Das has not uttered a single word about linguistic minorities but has criticised the concept of identifying a caste or community as backward caste or scheduled caste by saying that “It has now become archaic and has created a vested interest in backwardness.” She further adds, “After nearly 60 years of planning and affirmative action in favour of backwardness and scheduled castes, there does not possibly exist a single caste or class in which every constituent is backward.”

Das has also pointed out that, “There is enough evidence to establish that ‘untouchability’ is on the decline…According to a government report, on the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, during 2003, only 651 cases were registered in the country in 12 states as against 4,000 cases registered annually under the Act during the first half of the 1980s.” However the commission ignored this fact and went on to recommend reservation on the basis of caste and religion. The entire focus of Rangnath commission has gone so deeply into religious minorities, especially Muslims, that it has tried to reject even the term ‘Linguistic Minorities,’ by saying, “The term ‘Linguistic Minorities’ as such has not been defined in the Constitution or any other law. The term minority has been defined in section 2 of the National Commission for Minorities Act with reference to the religious minorities only.” This observation is a complete contradiction of its own report in which the commission has written in chapter 2 that “Article 29 has the word ‘minorities’ in its marginal heading but speaks of “Any sections of citizens… having a distinct language, script or culture.” It further notes that “Article 30 speaks specifically of two categories of minorities – ‘Religious and Linguistic’. The remaining two articles -350 A and 350 B relate to linguistic minority only.”

Clearly, the panel was not at all in a mood to even recognise linguistic minorities as a basis to determine backwardness. “The Bhojpuri community has been the most backward and neglected since India’s independence,” comments Shaheed Rahim, senior media researcher at Observer Research Foundation and the founder of Kashika Institute in Delhi. He said, “Kashika, Angika, Vajjika and Purabiya people are long neglected.”
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017