By Itifaq Lone
Jammu: The Government of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to take a call on determining the state-level minority communities, as the Ministry of Minority affairs await an official comment on the contentious issue.
A long running petition in the Supreme Court has been asking for declaring Hindus as minority in Jammu and Kashmir and nine other States and Union Territories.
The Central Government has told the Supreme Court (SC) a day ago that it has held consultative meetings with all State governments, Union Territories and other stake holders on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level. The stakeholders included the ministries of Home, Law and Justice, Education, the National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions.
Among all the states and UTs, 14 states and three UTs have furnished their views so far, and remaining 19 states and UTs including the UT of Jammu and Kashmir have not filed comments regarding the matter.
Although the Central Government was granted six-week time to place on record the stand in the matter.
The SC was hearing the pleas, including the one filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, which sought directions for framing guidelines for ‘Identification of Minorities’ at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.
In the Hindu majority nation, Jammu and Kashmir is one of States and UTs in the country where Hindus are in minority. In Jammu and Kashmir Muslims make the majority but the community is a minority at the national level.
During the hearing, Upadhyay told the SC bench of justices S K Kaul and A S Oka that he has challenged the validity of section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004.
Also Read.. Identification of Minorities: Held consultative meetings with States, UTs, says Centre
Terming section 2(f) of the Act, which empowers the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India, as “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending”, his plea has alleged that it gives unbridled power to the Centre.
The bench observed that there is a need to delve into these issues and it cannot be decided suddenly since the matter is sensitive in nature’ and will have far-reaching ramifications.
As majority of the States and UTs failed to furnish their comments regarding the identification of minorities, the Central Government mentioned that some States and Union Territories have requested for more time for the finalization of their views.
While the Government is yet to decide who are minorities in J&K and who are not, the UT administration has only four weeks time to submit their comments to the Central government, and next SC hearing will be in January 2023. Moreover, the recently split Ladakh UT from J&K has furnished their comments.
14 states including Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, West Bengal, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and three Union Territories namely Ladakh, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Chandigarh have furnished their comments. And to the states and UTs failed so far, were given a reminder to file their comments at the earliest.
The report said. “The state governments/UTs were requested that in view of the urgency of the matter, they should expeditiously undertake the exercise with stakeholders in this regard so as to ensure that the views of the state government are finalised and conveyed to the Ministry of Minority Affairs at the earliest.”
However, it is bizarre that the identification of minority community is being carried out at the State and UT level, as expressed displeasure by the Supreme Court over Centre’s shifting stand on the issue.
Pertinent to mention here that Muslims constitutes 68.31% of Jammu and Kashmir population and Hindu are minority forming 28.44% of total population. Although, the Government is yet to decide who are the minorities in here, which eventually would be known after it files its comments regarding the Identification of Minorities to the Central Government.
Interestingly, in March 2022, the Central Government had said it was for the States and Union Territories to take a call on whether or not to grant minority status to Hindus and other communities where they are less in number.