In the 1857 War of Independence, there was no issue of majority-minority among the Hindus and Muslims who fought against the British Rule as “One People” i.e. Hindustani. But Congress’s approach of appeasement of Muslims to seek their cooperation and role in the freedom struggle ended in the vivisection of our motherland in 1947. But that did not end the majority-minority divide!
On January 9, 2022, the Supreme Court of India gave the Central Government the “last opportunity” to respond to a public interest plea demanding identification of ‘minorities’ state-wise and that Hindus be declared ‘minority’ in at least six states and two union territories.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh in course of hearing a petition on this issue gave the Centre four weeks’ time to file an affidavit.
The petition was filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyaya, a BJP leader challenging the Constitutional validity of Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992. The act considered only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians (Parsis) as minorities but leaves aside minority groups like Hindus, Baha’is, and Jews.
Citing the 2011 census, Ashwini Upadhyaya explained how Hindus have become the minority in six states of Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), and Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (31.39%), and Punjab (38.40%) and in the two Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir (28.44%) and Lakshadweep (2.5%), and pleaded that the minority rights of these Hindus should be protected.
He said that Hindus are reduced to the minority level in all these states but their minority rights were denied as neither the Centre nor the states notified them as minorities… Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights and protections guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30, he pleaded. Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan represented the petitioner.
The petitioner also argued that Christians are a majority community in Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Nagaland but enjoy full protection as a ‘minority’ under the prevailing constitutional provisions. They also have a considerably large population in Arunachal Pradesh (despite the existence of the Freedom of Religion Act since 1978), Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. They also enjoy the status and rights of minorities. Similarly, Sikhs being a majority in Punjab, enjoy the minority status there and also in Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh.
Likewise, Muslims who have a dominating majority in Jammu and Kashmir, and Lakshadweep and significant presence in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, and Kerala are also treated as a minority community.
On January 7, 2022, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed that Hindus have become a minority in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district since 1980 but the 2011 census indicates otherwise.
The High Court made this observation while passing an order on the plea by a Catholic priest P. George Ponnaiah seeking quashing of hate speech case filed against him for mocking Hindu religious beliefs at a meeting held at Arumanai, a village in Kanyakumari districts, according to a Bar and Bench report.
“The demographic profile of Kanyakumari in terms of religion has seen an inversion. Hindus became a minority in the District in 1980. Though the 2011 census gives an impression that Hindus are the largest religious group with their number pegged at 48.5 percent that may not represent the ground reality,” the Court said.
The High Court order further observed: “One can take judicial notice of the fact a large number of Scheduled Caste Hindus, though having converted to Christianity and professing the said religion, call themselves Hindus on record for the purpose of availing reservation”. Such persons are called as crypto-Christians, the Court added.
The above-mentioned two observations coming from the top court and a High Court of a state are significant from the point of the status of the Hindu community in India. Since time immemorial India is known as the nation of Hindus. As early as the British advent the country is known as ‘Hindustan’ i.e. the land of the Hindus. Till the Muslim invasions, there was no issue of conversion of Hindus to other religions. There were sects within Hindu Dharma and their number kept dwindling as per the needs of the time.
Since the religious conversions began, first with the Islamic invasion and later with the advent of the British when the Christian Missionaries came to India and launched a tirade against the Hindu Dharma and started converting the local populace to their religion by force, fraud, deceit, and allurement the issue of majority-minority divide arose.
In the 1857 War of Independence, there was no issue of majority-minority among the Hindus and Muslims who fought against the British Rule as “One People” i.e. Hindustani. Sensing trouble for their future political plans if this unity of Hindus and Muslims continued the wily British sowed the seeds of the majority-minority divide. They pampered the Muslims telling them that they had ruled this vast country prior to their arrival and it was their right that they should get the reins of power back in their hands when the British left. But the Hindus have a majority and in a democratic process, it was but natural that the reins of power would go into their hands.
To the Hindus, they said, “Look, we are ready to leave this country and hand over the administration to you. But what about the Muslims? You should take them in confidence and assure them about their well-being and welfare. You should achieve the unity of Hindus and Muslims to become eligible for freedom.
When the Congress launched its non-violent freedom struggle under M K Gandhi’s leadership the watchword was ‘Hindu-Muslim Unity’. The Congressmen were so meek and weak to stand upright and face the Muslim hooligans. They just surrendered to their highhandedness taking shelter under the patriarchal leadership of Gandhi. The Congress’ approach to Mopla uprising in Malabar in Kerala, Gandhi’s reaction in ‘eulogizing’ Abdul Rashid, Swami Shraddhananda’s killer, as ‘Gazi’, the opposition to the singing of ‘Vande Mataram’, allowing cow slaughter as ‘religious right of the Muslims’… the list is unending. This approach of appeasement of Muslims to seek their cooperation and role in the freedom struggle ended in the vivisection of our motherland in 1947. But that did not end the majority-minority divide!
Voices of concern were expressed and warnings issued against this appeasement approach by leaders like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar, Yogi Aurobindo, Dr. B. S. Moonje, Swatantryveer V. D. Sawarkar, and others were simply ignored or ridiculed.
Even in independent India, this majority-minority divide was nursed by the so-called secular parties like the Congress which depended on the Muslim vote bank for their political power. They continued to pamper them for political gains. Their soft approach towards the Christian missionary and church organizations gave a fillip to their proselytizing activities in sensitive border regions like the northeast, Jharkhand, Bastar, and other tribal-dominated areas. They did not stop at giving a new religion to these forest-dwellers. They changed their religion, culture, traditions and introduced them to a new world of western ideas, ideology, tradition, and culture and also ‘de-Indianized’ and ‘de-Hinduized’ them giving rise to anti-India movements, rebellions, and armed insurgencies in those regions. The continued Naxalite encounters are the best examples to drive this point home.
It was Dr. K. B. Hedgewar who proclaimed with the firm conviction that this is the land of Hindus since the hoary past and will remain so even a single Hindu lives here. He believed that this is a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and it faced downfall because of the disunity of the Hindu society. When he founded the RSS in 1925 he did not name it Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. Instead, he named it Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh thereby conveying the message that the national identity of the people living in this country is undoubtedly Hindu and there are no divisions like majority and minority.
Once Doctor Hedgewar visited ‘Hindu Colony’ in Mumbai’s Dadar locality. The people of that locality approached him to know his opinion on removing the word ‘colony’. Instead to their surprise, he asked them to remove the word ‘Hindu’. He explained to them: “I am not opposed to the word ‘Hindu’ as such but I am opposed to its use in the present context which denotes that in our country ‘Hindustan’ we Hindus have formed a colony! How can there be a colony of Hindus in Hindustan? If some Hindus go to England and live in a particular area and later on call it a Hindu Colony it is understood. But a British Colony in England, or American Colony in the US, and a Hindu Colony in Hindustan is an absurd proposition. Either you accept that this is not your motherland and that you have come from somewhere outside and formed a colony here, or you change the name ‘Hindu’. However, those people could not understand and realize that there was something incongruous and absurd in having a Hindu colony in our own country. So the name continues even today!
Hindus by their natural status are the nationals of this country and Dr. Hedgewar would say that using the Hindu would mean that we consider ourselves only at par with the innumerable communities in this land and that we do not realize our natural status as the nationals of this country.
When the Janata Party Government came to power in 1977 post-emergency elections the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai proposed to set up a Minority Commission. Balasaheb Devras was the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS then and under his leadership, the Sangh had played a monumental role in the re-establishment of democracy in India. The Sangh fought with all its energy and resources against the tyranny of Indira Gandhi’s Congress government during the emergency. He strongly opposed the idea of having a Minority Commission. Instead, he suggested having a human rights commission to deal with the cases of human rights violations. His argument was that there was no minority in India; all are Indians and as such nationals of this country. Only the Jews and Parsis could be bracketed as minorities but they are not demanding any special rights for them.
By convention, it has become a practice in our country to equate minorities with Muslims. Devras used to argue that the 99.99 percent of Muslims in India were the progeny of those Hindus who were converted to Islam some generations ago due to historical, political, and economic reasons. But that did not mean that they had cut their roots and completely alienated them from their ancestors, cultural moorings, traditions, and motherland. He often used to quote the example of Muslims of Indonesia.
Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the South East Asian region but the Muslims there follow Ramayana, Mahabharata in their cultural shows, their airline is named ‘Garuda Airways’, the names are essentially Hindu, and so on. When countered about this they said that though we have changed our religion, we did not change our forefathers, culture, and traditions. The Muslims in India can follow their Indonesian counterparts, he would advise them.
Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, the present Sarsanghchalak of RSS had also reiterated on a number of occasions that the concept of Hindu Rashtra would be incomplete san Muslims. He underlined that the DNA of all people living in India is the same thus they are related to each other as children of one single motherland. As such, there is no scope for the division of the Indian society as majority and minority.
But the continuation of this majority-minority divide is in the interest of some vested political and religious groups and political parties who would like to pursue their politics of power on this principle of ‘divide and rule’. In the light of the Supreme Court observation about Hindutva being a lifestyle of the people of India, we must understand the fallacy of such a divide. All are Hindus in India and as such there are no majority and minority groups. At the most, there can be sections of the society that are economically weak, academically poor, and socially at the lower strata. Efforts should be made to remove these discrepancies and achieve that all-round progress under the Prime Minister’s “Sab Ka Saath-Sab Ka Vikas-Sab ka Vishwas- Sab Ka Prayas” principle.