The National Minorities Rights Day What Does It Mean Today?
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As we all know on 10 December we celebrate human rights, in commemoration of the day when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration forms the backbone of the human rights architecture of our societies, where each of us – without discrimination – has the right to live and thrive in peace and safety.
Here are the 10 first articles grounding our Rights and Freedom:
Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Article 8: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

But the fact is, these rights are not applicable for minorities all over the world. The National Minorities Rights Day is observed in India, every year on December 18 to safeguard the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of religious minorities in the country.
Article 30 of the Indian Constitution states the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. 

It says: “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” Article 30 of the Indian constitution safeguards various rights of the minority community in the country keeping in mind the principle of equality as well. Article 30 (1A) deals with the fixing of the amount for acquisition of property of any educational institution established by minority groups. Article 30(2) states that the government should not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language, while giving aid.

Overall, the constitutional rights of minorities can be broadly placed under the ‘common domain’ and ‘separate domain’. The rights which fall in the category of ‘common domain’ are enjoyed by all the citizens of our country. ‘Separate domain’ includes those rights which are applicable to the minorities only and rights under this domain are meant to protect the identity of the minorities.

To this end, the Constitution of India provides three sets of rights to the minorities: (i) right to preserve their culture and language (ii) administer and manage minority institutions and (iii) provide religious education in an institution which is managed and aided by the minority communities. However, the ‘common domain’ of constitutional rights comes under both-the Fundamental Rights (Part III of the Indian Constitution) and the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) (Part IV of the Indian Constitution). The DPSP is a set of non-justifiable rights which are connected with the social and economic rights of the people. These rights are legally not binding upon the State, but are ‘fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws’ (Article 37 of the Indian Constitution).

Unfortunately, the stark truth is, in India, rights of minorities are corrupted. For instance, India has declared itself as a secular country. So, the spirit of our constitution is secular. All political parties in India claim to be secular but in practice, none follow it. In India, the political parties play a major role in politicising a religious issue for vote banks. Muslims in particular, are often the target of religious animosity. Muslims make up nearly 14% of India’s 1.3 billion people. These days, violence against Muslims and Islamophobia has become shockingly common. Muslims have increasingly been targeted by police through profiling, staged encounters and incarceration on false accusations of terrorism under the cover of anti-terror laws, such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Leaders and students are being arrested under false cases. Muslims have also been the target of state violence, in particular in Jammu and Kashmir, where civil society groups have documented systematic and widespread human rights abuses by police, including arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. It is within this broader context that Muslims in India have been subjected to the most serious manifestations of pogroms since Partition: in many cases, violence has been actively enabled by the failure (such as lack of protection or access to justice) or even complicity (for example, through hate speech) of public officials.

USCIRF Annual Report 2017 noted:

“…Hindu nationalists often harass Sikhs and pressure them to reject religious practices and beliefs that are distinct to Sikhism, such as wearing Sikh dress and unshorn hair and carrying
mandatory religious items, including the kirpan, which is a right
protected by the
Indian constitution… ”

 

During the current government’s rule, there are numerous reports of harassment and violent attacks against Muslims by Hindu nationalists, including local and state BJP [the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party] members. Members of the Muslim community report that their abusers often accuse them of being terrorists; spying for Pakistan; forcibly kidnapping, converting, and marrying Hindu women; and disrespecting Hinduism by slaughtering cows. Members of the Muslim community rarely report abuses because of societal and police bias and police and judicial intimidation by the RSS. Recently, we have seen what happened in Tripura too.

Not only Muslims, we have also seen what the government had done to the Sikh community. Since the farmer protests began last year, Narendra Modi’s far-right government has tried to violently suppress them, lashing out at critics in a way that exposes just how close “the world’s largest democracy” is to becoming an authoritarian state. Protesters in Delhi have been surrounded by barricades and barbed wire, and had their internet, water and food supplies cut off, and more than a hundred farmers have ‘gone missing’. This is the state that saw 1984, and history continues to repeat.

In recent years religious intolerance has grown with the rise of Hindutva. Its followers use the slogan “One Nation, One Religion, One Culture”, and consider Christians and Muslims to be followers of foreign religions. Extreme Hindu groups have also targeted Dalits, the “untouchables” in the caste system, and Christians, whose churches have been vandalized in Delhi and the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Hindutva violence against Christians includes burning church buildings, destroying property and violent attacks that leave Christians seriously injured or dead. Typically, intruders break up church services, beat the worshippers and call the police to arrest the Christians on false charges of “forcible conversion”.

There are people in India, or in broader perspective, all over the world – people who are trapped in conflict zones; men, women and children who die while seeking our protection; people who are left at the margin of society and discriminated; people who continue to be repressed, beaten or killed because they seek the truth or just express themselves, people with disabilities in a society not built keeping their needs in mind, or who are trafficked and exploited. But none of this is inevitable and we all have a crucial role to play, no matter how small.

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