Are minorities discriminated against in democratic welfare states?
Though the question may be dealt with in a larger perspective covering a number of countries like US, UK and India which are considered as the democratic welfare states, it is more appropriate to take India to illustrate the above question in an elaborate manner.
The reason to deal with the above question from an Indian perspective is that India is the largest democracy in the world. In terms of population it is the second highest globally. By virtue of its culture it is a kaleidoscope, having more than 3000 languages, scores of religions with its offshoots, hundreds of castes and communities. In short India is a sub-continent.Though India has been witnessing occasional communal problems, they have been just pausing tides in a turbulent ocean.
Majority of the people of India belong to Hindu sect and its offshoots like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. People who belong to Islamic and Christian sect also form a considerable and significant chunk of the Indian population, but they have been classified as minorities, since the Hindus are widely prevalent throughout India, the Muslims and Christians are thickly populated in some parts of India like Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Kerala, they are sparsely populated in a number of states.
The prevalence of minorities in India is a colonial legacy. Realising and accepting their position and their right to live in India, India’s forefathers have enacted a written constitution declaring it as a social, sovereign, secular and democratic republic, wherein the constitution does not show any bias or favoritism to any particular religion or caste or to put it in other words ‘with malice towards none.’
Even though, some political parties like BJP impelled by the ‘Hindutva’ ideal are clamouring for a ‘common civil code for all’, ever since, India’s constitution came into force, Indian courts have been rendering justice to the minorities like muslims and Christians with regard to the disputes governing their family and property, only on the basis of their personal laws, muslim law in the case of muslims and Christian marriage act etc in the case of Christians, while the majority community ‘Hindus’ are governed by Hindu Marriage Act, Hindu Succession Act, Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act. The above method of dispensation of justice according to the personal laws of the concerned communities has been in tune with the principle of religious tolerance that has been in existence over the years in India. We also aware even in the medieval days in the 16 th century , eminent mogul rulers like Akbar, always tried their best to have a communal harmony in the state, by dispensing with ‘jesia’ a head tax on the hindus, inter-religious and inter-caste marriages were encouraged, common religious discourses involving all religious communities were held and to cap it all an innovative step of introducing a new religion called ‘Din Ilahi’, integrating the finer aspects of various religions, was introduced to integrate the muslims and Hindus. But it was a failure due to various reasons since it had not adequate followers and it was not forced on any body else.
Modern India did not lag behind. People of all religions were given equal opportunities in political, social and economic rights. Apart from that there is a separate minorities commission in India so as to ensure their rights and get rid of their grievances, if any.
Minorities like muslims and christians were given opportunities to have their own educational institutions like so as to harbour and nurture the talents of their own men. It is well known that Christian educational institutions excel in their venture by successfully running the educational institutions.
It is well known that ‘polywood’ of the Hindi film making industry, is dominated by stars like Sharukh Khan, Amir Khan and Salman Khan and number of other leading personalities who belong to minority muslim community. But for the favourable atmosphere and freedom available in India for minorities, one can not expect this much of proliferation of stars and their growth from the minority communities. One can even say that even in the proclaimed muslim countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, you cannot see the growth of such multitude of stars from the muslim community. In politics, minority communities are being given equal opportunities.It has been the tradition of India. President of India, the highest constitutional post has been time and again has been conferred to muslims, the most recent example being the eminent nuclear scientist Abdul Kalam. India never lagged behind in conferring the highest civil or military awards including the ‘Bharat Ratna’ on the minorities, again the most recently on Abdul Kalam.
Some states in India like Andhra Pradesh has provided for reservation for muslims to contest in the elections. Recently Tamil Nadu State has announced 3% reservation in employment for muslims and Christians. Apart from that as per rules of reservation minorities are enjoying other legitimate rights of getting admission into professional colleges.
Therefore as a democratic welfare state, India has been treating the minorities at par with other communities, befitting its secular status and to say the least minorities are never discriminated in a country like India.