Minorities and Indian Constitution

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Minorities and our constitution: Historical Approach and its present relevance:

Though Indian society has been plural from ancient times, the minority problem faced as faced by the framers of the Constitution is widely  believed to be the creation of the colonial regime.  The plural Indian society has various groups – ethnic, religious and linguistic. They used to live harmoniously together with broad cultural unity. Even Islam co-existed with Hinduism. However, the British rule made a qualitative difference in the minority problem. It accepted the plural nature of the Indian society but stressed the importance of groups rather than individuals in the political processes and attempted to widen the gap among different groups based on ethnicity, religion, language and other interest in order to sub serve their imperial interest. In the words of Milton Gordon, British emphasized on ‘corporate pluralism’ rather than ‘liberal pluralism’ In corporate pluralism emphasis is on groups and individuals are treated as members of the group: in liberal pluralism emphasis is on individuals as citizens. The Corporate Pluralism led to the separation among groups and thereby it creates difficulty in national integration. The latter neo-liberal pluralism helps the process of national integration and nation building.

The national leaders accepted that Indian society was plural and that any constitutional framework could not ignore it. However their concept of Indian plural society was based on ‘Liberal Pluralism’ which emphasized the fact that though an individual was a member of his group, he participated in the political system as a citizen. This concept, they hoped, would ultimately strengthen the national bond among different minority groups and which foster the approach was evident in the Nehru Committee Report, 1928, which recommended on one hand, joint mixed electorates and on the other hand favoured such fundamental rights for individuals as right to equality, freedom of religion, etc. With such constitution they believed, the problem of minority could be solved after the departure of the British. It was under the Cabinet Mission Plan, 1946, that the Constituent Assembly was elected to frame constitution for India. The Cabinet Mission proposed the formation of an advisory committee on minorities, fundamental rights of individuals and to suggest measures for safeguarding interests of minorities. The advisory committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sardar Vallabhai Patel which commented:  The question of minorities cannot possibly be overrated. It has been created so far creating conflict, distrust and cleavages between the different sections of the society. Imperialism thrives on such difference. So far the minorities have been stimulated and have been influenced in a manner which has hampered the growth of cohesion and friendliness. But now it is necessary that a new chapter should start and we should realize our responsibility. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar while moving the Draft Constitution for consideration of the house said: In this country both minorities and majorities have followed the wrong path. It is wrong for the majority to dent the existence of minorities and it is equally wrong for the minorities to immortalize themselves. A solution must be found which will serve double purpose. It must recognize the existence of the minorities to start with. It must also be such that it enables majorities and minorities to merge someday into one…. When the Constituent Assembly decided to do away with communal separate electorates and communal reservation, Nehru welcomed it as a “historic turn of our destiny”. It was also welcomed by Sardar Patel . Thus it is clear that the constitution framers hoped that by abolishing separate communal reservations and by guaranteeing fundamental rights to citizens, India will be able to solve the problem of minorities and will emerge one day as “one community”. However, this hope was disproved by later...
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