Minorities Within A Minority

Dr. Bashir A Dabla

In the federal political structure of India, the religious, regional, linguistic and other minorities have the constitutional status that guarantees their fundamental rights and ensure their role in the polity and society.  In this federal system, the status and role change, i.e. while at the national level, a community maintains the majority status but the same community attains the minority status at the state level, the vice versa is also applicable in this system.  This situation applies to the present-day Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.  Accordingly, the Muslims form the minority at the national level but are the majority in this state.  This change of status stands inherent in federal and liberal political systems.

The Indian society compose a plurality of minorities, especially the religious minorities, and the Constitution of India has accepted and safeguarded all these diverse/different religious, regional, cultural, linguistic and ethnic entities and identities.  The religious composition of Indian society reveals a character according to which Hindus constitute the dominant majority of 80.50 percent of the total population in the country, while minorities have 13.40 % [Muslims], 2.30 % [Christians], 1.90 % [Sikhs], 0.80 % Bhuddists], 0.40 % [Jains] and 0.60 % [others] of the total population in the year 2001.

As mentioned earlier, the status of majority and minorities change in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  Here while Muslims form the majority of 68 percent of total population, the minorities – Hindus 29.60 percent, Sikhs 2.00 percent, Christians 0.20 percent and Bhuddists 1.10 percent of total population in 2001.  
The composition of majority-minorities gets more complex when taken at the regional and district level.  First, Hindus compose an extreme heterogeneous lot, like Kashmiri Pandits and Jammu Dogras.  Second, while Muslims form 98 percent dominant majority in Kashmir and 47.40 percent inLadakh regions, they have 31 %percent population in the Jammu region.  Third, in the Jammu region, while some districts such as Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and Kistwar have Muslim majority, other districts such as Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur have Hindu majority.  Fourth, more than 15 languages are spoken by many communities simultaneously, so have developed linguistic similarity irrespective of their religious dissimilarities.

The concept of minority has often proved a ‘problem-oriented’ concept and relationship between majority and minorities have proved ‘conflict-oriented’.  This has been experienced at the pan-India level and at the state level in J&K.  In the context of post-accession developments in the state, the minorities have been involved in the problems of identity, integration, development and diversity and issues like extreme perceptions of political realities and different ideological-political perceptions.  This led to a situation of chronic political instability/uncertainty which was further accentuated by the colonial role of the centre.  

In turn, these developments gave rise to the sentiments of alienation, which was accelerated by the role of minorities.  Thus, in the prevailing situation, Ladakhis felt betrayed by Jammu and Kashmir rulers.  The Jammu Dogras felt discriminated by the Kashmir rulers.  Finally, the Kashmiri masses felt dominated and humiliated by the Jammu rulers and their patrons in Delhi durbar.

These particularistic and unrealistic perceptions played havoc with the processes of national integration of the state with rest of India.  The ideal role of the minorities could have been different.  It follows that these communities and groups, which have full representation at the centre, could have played the role of facilitator, mediator or interlocutor.  These political entities could have pursued the broader cause of development, progress, modernization and change in the state.  They could have increased, intensified and accelerated the processes of identity formation and national integration.  

The forces these entities represent could have evolved culture and politics of ‘unity in diversity’.  But, the political developments of recent decades show that they neither thought about it realistically nor worked for this national ideal practically.  Like the majority in the state, the minorities were trapped in a situation that could help the forces of disintegration and not of integration.


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