Friday, April 12, 2013

Minority status: Govt to give a fresh look into demand of Jain community

New Delhi, April 10
Ahead of poll season, the government has decided to give a fresh look into the demand of the Jain community for grant of central minority status. Currently there are five centrally notified minorities-Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. 

The assurance to this effect came from Minister of Minority Affairs K Rahman Khan after he met 10 delegates of Jain organisations earlier this week. The minister has asked the delegation to submit a fresh representation for the same to be taken up with the PM.

Present in the meeting was Sneh Lata Jain, wife of MoS Rural Development Pradeep Jain, who is said to be facilitating the process. The government met the delegates after their leader Sanjay Jain today broke his fast unto death following the Centre's assurances in this regard.

Speaking to The Tribune, Amit Jain, a delegate, said: "Our demand is old. In 1991 when the Census was published, Jains made up 0.1 per cent of the population. The National Minorities Commission Act under which the minorities were notified was passed in 1992 and the notification regarding five central minorities came in 1993. Jains were ignored." Jains are demanding the minority status on grounds that they are a religions minority and their religion is separate from Hinduism.

The Centre, however, keeps citing a review petition currently pending in the Supreme Court on this issue. The review was filed by Bal Patil, Convenor of Dakshin Bharat Jain Subha, after a three-judge bench of the apex court ruled that the Centre should take a decision on the matter while also adding that no further addition be done to the list of notified minorities.

The government says the matter is sub judice and no decision can be taken on it despite Jains constituting only 0.4 per cent of India's population as against 13.4 pc Muslims, 2.3 pc Christians, 1.9 pc Sikhs, 0.8 pc Buddhists and 0.4 pc Parsis, the notified minorities under Section 2 C of the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992.

National Commission for Minorities chairperson Wajahat Habibullah told TNS that the Centre can go ahead on the issue. "The Commission has interpreted the Bal Patil judgment to be in favour of Jains because the judgment said if any minority feels challenged, it can approach the NCM and through it the Centre. In the past, the Centre said it was for the states to decide on grant of minority status to communities but we told the Centre that it was empowered under the NCM Act to decide on its own," Habibullah said.

Jains argue that they have a separate set of rituals of birth and death and deserve their due as a minority. UP, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra - have notified Jains as a minority.

But Jains seek the protection under NCM Act to protect their places of pilgrimage which are allegedly under attack. "Recently Udaygiri and Khandgiri caves in Odisha were occupied forcibly by some sections though these caves have a Jain stamp. Our saints are also being attacked," Sanjay Jain said. Central minorities are entitled to benefits under the PM's 15 point programme and including central scholarships.

Jain demand for minority status is almost a century old. When in British India the Viceroy and Governor General of India Lord Minto took a decision in principle of giving representation to important minorities in the Central Legislature, Seth Manek Chand Hirachand from Mumbai, an eminent Jain leader and Acting President of Bharatvarshiya Digamber Jain Subha made an appeal in 1909 to the Governor General for the inclusion of Jains in the Council.

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