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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Your Honour, I am not a minority?

In a strange judgment the Allahabad High Court has said that Muslims who constitute 18% of the population of Uttar Pradesh are not a religious minority in the state.

I have tremendous respect for the judiciary in this country and I am not dying to keep this tag of minority on myself but I am not at all amazed when it comes from the Allahabad High Court. There is a history. From verdicts on AMU's status and the 1-day imprisonment given to Kalyan Singh under whose rule the Babri Masjid was pulled down with state complicity by vandals in disregard to constitution and in full public view, Muslims have seen many very unfavourable judgements. Read an earlier post on this issue here. And there is another story here.

There is criticism of judgment. I rather like Jamiat's statement that has welcomed it and also the tag of majority for Muslims. Of course, political parties and religious outfits have their agenda. This verdict doesn't 'hurt' me but it has surely surprised me because the observation comes from a single judge bench and it hardly has any chance to stand in the Apex court. It has no sound basis at all.

Of course, I don't mind being called a member of majority community. Students in madarsa may get affected though. But I wonder what prompted the judge to make this comment as it would not do any harm to Muslims or Hindus but it is impractical, incorrect in its essence and has no factual basis. Say, just because you are seeing more Muslims around and you may not like the sight, it can't be a reason.

I wonder what His Majesty thinks about the status of Muslims in West Bengal, Kerala and Assam that have 25%, 24% and 31% population respectively. I didn't know what was the threshold for coversion from minority to the next nameless stage, which is surely not a majority either.

In Sri Lanka, Hindu Tamils number around 18% and are surely a minority. There may be confusion about status of Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the multi-ethnic Bosnia. But, in a state in Indian Union where Hindus constitute 80% of the population, Muslims are surely a minority unless the definition of minority as per constitution and spelt by Supreme Court is changed.

If minority will be defined on the basis of a certain threshold about which no one seems to have an idea and it will vary from states to states then what about districts within UP. In a district like Jalaun that barely has 5% Muslims or Lalitpur that has 2% Muslims, the judgement should have clarified their position compared to Rampur and Moradabad that have 49% and 45% Muslims.

Further, we can go down to towns and then villages as there is diverse population composition in each unit. The observation that Muslims are not a minority doesn't astonish me. In UP, systematically Muslims were kept out of education and jobs after partition (unlike other states where there was not such level of bias).