NEW DELHI: The BJP-NDA Government is set to redefine the word ‘minority’ to include communities hitherto little known.
The Narendra Modi-led Governemnt is set to expand the ambit of the term ‘minority’ and give it a wider meaning by including more communities -- religious, linguistic and ethnic.
As part of the exercise, the Centre has decided to initiate a survey to find out the socio-economic status of the ‘others’ in the Census, who do not fall into the existing list of six minority communities -- Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains.
“Till now, minority meant only Muslims. That’s going to change as more communities will be included on the list,” an official attached to the Ministry of Minority Affairs told Express. According to him, the plight of these minority groups is worse than many known minority groups and the government will do a ‘thorough analysis’ to plan suitable policy initiatives for them.
The official added that the population of those in the ‘others’ category is estimated to be 73.39 lakh, which forms 0.6 per cent of the total population. Their population is significant in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Arunachal Pradesh.
“But there won’t be any frantic move. Any decisions will be taken only after due deliberations,” the official said. To begin with, the ministry has decided to look into individual applications from communities to be included on the list and the first one likely to be added are Bahais.
The Bahai community has its origin in Iran and has around two million members in the country, spread across various states. When asked about the general financial well-being of the community and the need for government assistance, the official said the Bahais were not seeking any financial help but recognition as a minority community.
Sources said that recognition for Bahais, who are being persecuted in Islamic countries, especially in Iran, will send out a strong message to the international community, which often accuses India of ‘ill-treating’ its minorities.
The official said the ministry had sought the opinion of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and is about to take a final call on the matter soon. According to him, the Centre is also looking at the issues of linguistic and ethnic minorities with the same seriousness and will be studying their condition as well.
The UPA too had appointed a commission - the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (Ranganatha Misra Commission) -- to look into various issues related to linguistic and religious minorities. The Commission had recommended 10 per cent quota for Muslims and five per cent for other minorities in government jobs and also in educational institutions. The UPA did not act on the recommendations fearing political repercussions.
The NDA Government now feels that the Commission had its focus on Muslims and it now wants a ‘more holistic view’ of the minorities in the country.