State of the World's Minorities 2007 - India
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||4 March 2007|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - India, 4 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a97130d.html [accessed 19 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
India recognizes three types of minorities: religious, caste based and linguistic. According to the National Minorities Commission, the designated minority religions are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. The Indian Constitution designates Scheduled Castes (SCs or Dalits, comprising 16 per cent of the population) and Scheduled Tribes (STs or Adivasis, 8 per cent of the population) for protection by enacting affirmative action programmes that provide not only equal protection in law but also 'reservation' of seats in the Assembly and national Parliament. An Act of Parliament passed in 1973 allows women and SCs and STs entitlement to 'reservation' jobs in government, educational institutions and elected bodies. The government has established nearly 35 bodies for the protection of minorities at a national level, including the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, other Backward Castes, Minorities and Linguistic Minorities. Numerically large linguistic minorities with a distinctive history and regional identity, such as Gujaratis and Maharashtrans, have been entitled to a state-province within the Indian federation.
Evidence of continued commitment to minority rights standards in India in 2006 included the creation of a Ministry for Minority Affairs, the publishing of the Sachar Report on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community and the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the welfare of minorities. The government has also been considering a Draft Plan for the Tribals, however activists have criticized both the contents of the draft and the lack of adequate opportunity for consultation with leaders of Adivasi groups.
While Dalits and Adivasis have begun to mobilize themselves politically, they remain on the fringes of Indian society despite the affirmative action in their favour. An attempt to raise 'reservations' in public institutions to 50 per cent in April 2006 has divided the country. Meanwhile, Dalits and Adivasis continue to languish at the bottom of social indicators tables, face rising levels of discrimination and are often subject to violence. In September, in a village in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra, a Dalit woman and her three children were dragged out of their home by an upper-caste mob and murdered. The four were reportedly beaten with bicycle chains and sticks. The mother and daughter were allegedly raped by the mob, many of whom lived in the same village and were possibly their neighbours. The murders remain unresolved and Dalit organizations accuse state police of mishandling the case.
Frustrations with the oppression of the Hindu caste system continues, and is visible in mass ceremonies of Dalit conversions to both Buddhism and Christianity in 2006. However, if Dalits convert to Christianity and are then discriminated against, they will have no recourse to the protections and safeguards that exist for Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh Dalits.
India's 138 million Muslims (13.4 per cent) remain particularly vulnerable; 31 per cent of them fall below the poverty line, according to the Sachar report. The seeds of distrust against Muslims in India go back at least to the battle for Indian independence and partition. The perceived grievances have been nursed through the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, and more recently through the bomb-blasts on the Mumbai rail network on 11 July 2006, which claimed over 200 lives. Police claimed that the Mumbai attacks bore the hallmarks of an Islamic militant group. The investigations continue.
India's troubled north-east has also been marked by ethnic tension. Although fragile, the ceasefire between the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the government remained in place and the rebels' cause was weakened by factional infighting. The NSCN believes that India should create a unified Naga homeland by merging the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states into the state of Nagaland. Ever since talks between the United Liberation Front of Assam and the government collapsed in September 2006, the insurgents have targeted minority Hindi-speaking migrants, mostly from the northern state of Bihar, with bomb and grenade attacks. Fifty-five migrant workers were killed during the first days of 2007.