“Majority rule only works, if you are also considering individual rights, because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper”. –Larry Flynt
India’s largest minority is suffering and facing economic and educational difficulties. The backwardness of Muslims has been very well articulated by Sachar Committee.
In a democracy, majority rules but taking minority rights with hand in hand. These rights cannot be jeopardized by majority rule. When majority is allowed to vote on rights of minority, it is tyranny and absolutism. The relation between majority and minority can’t be pushed to master-servant relationship. Can majority be allowed to decide minority rights without wishes of minorities?
In India, Muslims are feeling marginalization and disenfranchised to decide their own rights. The lynching incidents and cow vigilantism have created a reign of terror in the minority community. The issues like love jihad, ghar wapsi, land jihad are deliberately taken and pushed to intimidate the minority community. One bill allows immigrants from nearby countries to apply for citizenship while Muslim immigrants are labelled to pose a threat and denied citizenship rights, broadly defined. All this is being done with a framework of divisive politics to divert attention of majority from real issues which India is facing like unemployment, poverty and other similar issues.
Notwithstanding all this, the judicial route has been taken in the name of social reform and gender injustice to eliminate civic laws of Muslims. The personal laws including divorce, marriage (polygamy) which constitute an intrinsic part of religion, hence obliged to Sharia law are deliberately taken to infringe upon them. Personal laws of a community cannot be rewritten in the name of social reforms. The Indian Constitution guarantees this.
The Preamble of Indian constitution guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith. Article 25, 26 and 29 guarantee freedom of practice and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs and protection of minorities respectively. These safeguards therefore provide for no interference in religious freedom and include freedom in acts done in pursuance of religion.
The courts are being used by certain powers that be to interfere with personal laws, infringing and eliminating rights of minorities to manage their religious affairs themselves. Article 26 gives minorities’ freedom to manage their religious affairs on their own. But, alas, the misuse of institutions other agencies is as old as the creation of these institutions. The income tax department is being widely used against political rivals and opponents. Arun Jaitley, the senior most minister of ruling party, wrote a piece in Outlook Magazine on 01 Oct 2013 accusing Congress of misusing agencies against senior BJP leaders. The same is true for incumbent ruling party.
The minority community is feeling alienated and marginalized day by day. The identity of Muslims is under threat with the export of hate, prejudice, bigotry and hatred from right wing forces. The policies of ruling party to reform the Personal laws are misleading and deceitful. On one hand, they are unable to stop lynching incidents on minorities and therefore going against the spirit of Article 29. But, on the other hand, nothing or little is being done to empower Muslims educationally and economically. The backwardness of Muslims can be depicted by their low rate of literacy, educational backwardness and poverty. There is shallow representation of Muslims in government and private jobs. The vibrant democracies don’t give rights to minorities in vacuum but pave way for enforcing those rights. If sincerely rights of minorities are to be enforced and social reforms have to be initiated, begin it from economic and educational rights. Muslims should be allowed to decide their own religious affairs and practice their personal laws as enshrined in the constitution.
—The author is a student of Law at Department of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir. He blogs at Abrar Reyaz.wordpress.com and can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org