Rights, issues & challenges of Minority Communities in India


Almost all States have one or more minority groups within their national territories, characterized by their own ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity which differs from that of the majority population. It is very important  that each citizen has respect for an individual group’s identity. The expression “minority” has been derived from the Latin word “minor” and the suffix ‘ity’, which means “small in number”. It is the number count, or the statistical divide between two or more bodies under consideration, resulting in majority/minority division.

Types Of Minority Community In India:

  1. Racial or Ethnic Minorities: An ethnic minority is a group of people who differ in race or color or in national, religious, or cultural origin from the dominant group. The different identity of an ethnic minority can be displayed in any number of ways, starting from distinctive customs, lifestyles, language or accent, dress, and food preferences to particular attitudes, moral values, and economic or political beliefs adopted by members of the group.
  2. Religious Minorities: People belonging to religious minorities have a faith which is different to that followed by the majority. Most countries of the world have religious minorities. It is now widely accepted that people should have the freedom to choose their own religion, including not having any religion, and including the right to convert from one religion to another. Religious minority groups in India are mainly the Muslims, the Christians, the Sikhs, the Jains and the Buddhists, who have been able to protect  their group identities and have also stayed in the mainstream of national politics. Muslims are the largest minority community in India.
  3. Gender and Sexual Minorities: The most common use of the term sexual minority is to refer to people whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual. This include people who are homosexual, including gay men  who are sexually attracted to and/or have sex with men and not women, and lesbians (women) who are sexually attracted to and/or have sex with women and not men; and bisexuals-men and women who are sexually attracted to and/or have sex with both men and women, and heteroflexible people.
  4. Linguistic Minorities: A linguistic minority uses a language different from the one spoken by the national majority.

Rights Of Minority Community In India:

Indian Constitution which deals with Fundamental Rights in Part 3 is divided into two parts: a) rights which come under the common domain and b) rights which fall under the ‘separate domain’. In the ‘common domain’, the following fundamental rights and freedoms are provided for the minorities in India:

  1. People’s right to ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the  laws’ (Article 14);
  2.  Prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion,   race, caste, sex or place of birth [Article 15 (1) & (2)];
  3.  Authority of State to make ‘any special provision for the advancement  of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens’   (besides the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) [Article 15(4)];
  4.  Citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State –and prohibition in this regard of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth [Article 16(1) & (2)];
  5. Authority of State to form ‘any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favor of any backward class of citizen which, within the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State [Article 16(4)];
  6. People’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion-subject to public order, morality and other Fundamental Rights [Article 25(1)];

The Constitution guarantees the subsequent minority rights which fall under the ‘separate domain’:

  1.  Right of ‘any section of the citizens’ to ‘conserve’ its ‘distinct language, script or culture’ [Article 29(1)];
  2.  Restriction on denial of admission to any citizen, to any educational institution maintained or aided by the State, ‘on grounds only of faith, race, caste, language or any of them’ [Article 29(2)];
  3.  Right of all religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice [Article 30(1)];
  4.  Freedom of minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the State [Article30(2)];
  5.  Special provision concerning to the language spoken by a section of the population of any State [Article 347];
  6. Provision for facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage [Article 350 A];

Issues And Challenges Facing By The Minority Community In India

In spite of the provisions of the constitutional equality, religious minorities in India, often experience  problems:

  1. Problems Of Prejudice And Discrimination: In the Indian context, discrimination is mainly about providing opportunities for different people religious communities do not work. The introduction to the Constitution itself is telling that all people, regardless of their affiliation, class, color, creed, gender, region or religion provide for equal rights and opportunities. Articles 15 (1) and 15 (2) prohibit discrimination on religious grounds. Article 25 promises the right to acknowledge, propagate and practice religion. It is clear that there is no legal barrier to any religious community in India to take advantage of [educational, economic, etc.] opportunities. extended to humans. It is true that some religious communities [for example, Muslims] have not taken advantage of opportunities in relation to other communities. This situation does not indicate any prejudice. It only reveals that such communities exist; it is left in the competition, largely due to a lack of educational qualifications. With regard to prejudice, prejudice and misconceptions  thinking are common false ideas of a complex society. India is no different in this regard. Frequently used statements such as – “Hindus are cowards, and Muslims are mixed; Sikhs are foolish and Christians are reformers”, Etc. – show the most common religious prejudices. Such discrimination increases the distance between religious organizations. This problem is still in India. Apart from other critical areas this problem of apartheid is not disturbing general life of different communities, including minorities.
  2. Problem of Preserving Distinct Social and Cultural Life: India is one of the few countries that offers equal freedom to all religion communities to pursue and practice their religion. Article 25 of the Constitution provides for that right. Added to this, Article 3D (1) states very little of it based on religion or language. You will have the right to establish and manage the educational institutions of their choice. They were given the right to maintain their social-cultural characteristics. 
  3.  Problem of Providing Protection: The need for safety and security is often felt by a minority. Especially in times of community violence, consumer disputes, mass celebrations and religious activities scale, small groups are constantly seeking police protection. The central government is also finding it difficult to provide such protection to all service members. It’s too expensive. State governments that fail to provide such protection are often criticized.
  4. Problem of Communal Tensions and Riots: Civil unrest and protests have been steadily growing since independence. Whenever Social tensions and protests happen for whatever reason, the interests of a few people get threatened; fear and anxiety abound. It’s  becoming a challenge for the government in the ability to restore confidence in them. Problem of Lack of Representation in Civil Service and Politics: Our Constitution provides for equality and equal opportunity for all its citizens including religious minorities, a very small community, that is, Muslims in particular they dedicate themselves to these institutions. There is a feeling between them that they are being ignored. However, such feelings do not seem to exist among other religious minorities like Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, because they appear to be economically as well as educationally better than most societies.
  5. Problem of Separatism: Some of the requirements confronting religious communities are not accepted by others. This widened the gap between them and others, with examples: The tendency to differentiate between Islamic religious extremists and their need in Kashmir. The establishment of independent Kashmir is unacceptable to some. Such a demand is considered anti-national. A demand for separate statehood by some of the Christians extremists in Nagaland and Mizoram for their province is being made. Both of these are in  support of “separa­tism” and hence cannot be accepted. Supporters of such demands have been causing a lot of disturbances and creating law and order problems in the respective states.
  6. Failure to Stay Strictly to Secularism: India has declared itself as a “secular” country. The Constitution of our country is secular. Almost all political parties including the Muslim League asserted themselves to be secular. However in actual practice, no party is honest in its promise to secularism. The Parties often politicized the religious issues. Secular issues and purely law and order problems are given religious shade. These parties are always waiting for an opportunity to politicize communal issues and take political advantage out of it. Hence, the reliability of these parties in their commitment to secularism is lost. This has created suspicion and a feeling of insecurity in the minds of minorities.

Author: Azka Shahab,
Jamia Millia Islamia 2nd Year / Law Student

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