Letter To The Congress President Sonia Gandhi On The Jain Minority Memorandum

LETTER TO THE CONGRESS PRESIDENT SONIA GANDHI ON THE JAIN MINORITY MEMORANDUM

July 18, 2004

Ahimsa Symbol

v   The emblem of the Jain religion, symbolizing its main tenet, is the doctrine of Ahimsa, nonviolence. It also has mystic significance of protection & benediction. The wheel in the center of the palm is the wheel of Samsara; together, they represent the halting of the cycle of reincarnation through the practice of Jain asceticism, the avoidance of harm to any living creature.

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AIDE-MEMOIRE ON JAIN MINORITY RECOGNITION &    WELFARE IN CONSONANCE WITH CONGRESS POLICY AND CMP

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Dear Madam,

  1. I have displayed the Jain symbol to bring home the fact of its auspicious affinity with the Congress symbol. The Congress has scored a triumphant comeback thanks to your leadership, but the Jain community is still awaiting its recognition as a religious minority by the Government of India which would bring us in the mainstream of the package of minority welfare schemes envisaged by the Common Minimum Programme.
  1. Way back in 1983 I was impertinent enough to write to Indiraji Gandhi asking her why she allowed the party to drift. Even then she was gracious enough to respond in her inimitable manner.  (copy enclosed.)
  1. Likewise I am taking the liberty of asking you why the Government of India and a Congress-ruled State Delhi which is itself the capital of India are being lackadaisical in granting the Jain community their constitutional minority right when the President of India belongs to a minority, the Prime Minister of India belongs to a minority and the President of the Indian National Congress and the Chairman of the National Advisory Council belongs to a minority. This is the ultimate triumph of the secular ideal enshrined in the Indian Constitution: a holy trinity-Triveni Sangam– in which the Jain community should be permitted to participate
  1. Permit me now to give a brief history of the Jain demand for the minority status in India. The  Jains are an ancient community of India with its own distinctive religion and philosophy, worship and ritual, social customs and manner. It is now recognized amongst oriental scholars that Jainism is essentially a non-Vedic religion and philosophy and in this connection attention may be invited to the view  of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
  1. “Buddhism and Jainism were certainly not Hinduism or even the Vedic Dharma. Yet they arose in India and were integral parts of Indian life, culture and philosophy. A Buddhist or Jain in India is a hundred per cent product of Indian thought and culture, yet neither is a Hindu by faith.” (Discovery of India by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru-Chapter 4 – What is Hinduism page.73)
  1. Although Jainism is, to quote Pandit Nehru, “a hundred per cent product of Indian thought and culture” It is often  forgotten that the Jains have distinctive social and religious customs. Even their ritual is still regulated according to the injunctions in the Jains sacred literature. It may also be mentioned that Jain have even a system of law of their own and attempts have been made by prominent Jains  to secure its acceptance so as to regulate legal relations amongst the Jains according  to their own system of law. It may also be pointed out that  the Jains do not follow any Varna systems nor is there regular inter-marriage between the Hindus and the Jains.
  1. The Jains’ doctrine of non-violence (Ahimsa), which is the foundation of the Gandhian creed, and universal  brotherhood and tolerance are far too well known to need special mention here. The Jain doctrine of Anekantavada and Syadvada represents a unique contribution to logic and can easily provide a theoretical basis for intellectual tolerance when the world is divided into ideological camps warring against one another. The contribution of Jainism to vernacular literature is noteworthy and  along with the Buddhists, Jains were the first to use the languages of the people for their sacred literature. It may also be mentioned  here that the Jains have their own legal system. High Court Judges like Kumaraswami Shastri, Officiating Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, and Rangnekar of the Bombay High Court have held that it is utterly wrong to think that the Jains were originally Hindus and later converted to Jainism. Raghavachariar in his Hindu Law (1947) supports this view.
  1. In modern times the Jains have played an important part in all walks of national life and their complete identification with  the national movement for freedom stands out prominently. It is a matter of pride to us that the Jains did all they could to promote the Congress struggle for freedom and so far never asked for specific or unusual concessions.
  1. Sahu Rameshchandra Jain, President, All-India Digambar Jain Parishad led a delegation to  meet you in 1999  in this connection and presented a Memorandum. In pursuance of this Memorandum, Shri Arjun Singhji, the then Chairman of the Minorities Cell AICC issued a directive to the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States asking them to expeditiously implement the recommendation of the National Minority Commission to declare minority status for the Jain community at the State level.

10. As the Central Government was not inclined to take action as recommended by the National Minorities Commission, as the then Convenor  of the Jain Minority Status Committee of Dakshin Bharat Jain Sabha I filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court in 1997. A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court directed the Central Government to take an expeditious decision as recommended by the National Minorities Commission. As Central Govt. failed to take action on the Bombay High Court Order I was constrained to file a SLP in the Supreme Court of India which may come for final hearing soon.

11. In the meanwhile the 11-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the minority educational cases laid down in 2002 that :”Linguistic and religious minorities are covered by the expression ‘minority’  under Article 30 of the constitution. Since reorganization of the States in India has been on linguistic lines, therefore for the purpose of dtermining the minority, the unit will be the State and not the whole of India. thus, religious and linguistic minorities, who have been put on a par in Article 30, have to be considered Statewise.”  Which means that the religious minority status has to be determined on the basis of the population of the particular  religious group in the State. Thus each State in India will have jurisdiction to decide on the religious minority status as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttaranchala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra States have done because jain community is a minority religious community in all the States of India. (State Jain Population Chart for 1991 enclosed.)

Such declaration of minority status for Jain community is already envisaged by the Congress directive  to the Congress-ruled States as noted above. But Delhi State remains an exception because it has not declared minority status for the Jain community yet.

v      It is important to bear in mind that declaration by a States of Minority status for the Jain community will not be enough unless and until the Central Notification under the National Minorities Commission Act, 1992 also includes Jain community as a Minority community on par with other Minority communities such as Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Zoroastrian. Such inclusion is essential because Minority status on the State level is subject to political fluctuations if there is no State Minority Act . For example, in Maharashtra State Minority Commission which had no statutary basis was wound up in 1995 when there was a non-Congress BJP-SS coalition government.

v      In the aforesaid context  we respectfully submit that the Jain community feels aggrieved because there is no uniform and statutory all-Indian recognition of their minority status. The Jain community has got its own independent cultural and religious heritage and is unquestionably a minority religious community. It is also aggrieved because it has no representation in the National Minorities Commission. There is a feeling that Jains have been denied what is obviously due to them because they have not taken to turbulent path of agitation. The Jains are a peaceful community  but appropriate representation should not be withheld from them because of their principled adherence to peace.

§         The ancient culture and civilization of the Jain community should have uniform access to minority welfare programmes enunciated by the CMP.  The denial of the minority status to the Jains will mean their death warrant as a distinctive religious cultural group especially when all other minorities are going to be recognized. Even the legitimate sections of Hinduism like the Harijan and a small community like the Parsees are treated as minorities. Although the Jains hold important positions in industry and commerce and other spheres of life, as a community the Jains are backward. At one time the Jains formed a substantial part of the Indian population but today they number barely thirty four lakhs. We, therefore, demand in the first place that the Jains be treated as a national minority and given all rights and privileges which are given to other minority communities., and that they should be brought into the mainstream of minority welfare programmes envisaged by the Common Minimum Programme.

 

THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF SAFEGUARDS FOR THE JAIN MINORITY:

v      The value and scope of safeguards for Jains in particular will be a full provision for the protection and promotion of their culture, political and economic position in the community. Special provision will have to be made for education, health and other social services, employment in Government Services, temples and other historical and cultural monuments, facilities for publication of sacred literature and promotion study and research in the universities as well as other bodies which the State might set up.

v      As regards political safeguards for ensuring the right and privileges of the Jain community  should be on parallel lines to those provided for the other minorities. The Jains should be given special representation in the administrative, executive, judicial, diplomatic, foreign and military services of the nation, of course, subject to the Government rules and regulations which shall be applicable thereto. They should also be given special representation in the Central and Provincial Legislatures, local self governing bodies, as well as in all the offical committees set up from time to time by the Central and Provincial Governments.

v      With regards to the economic safeguards it is suggested that the legitimate interest of Jain commerce, industry and trade should be protected against any communal discrimination. In all measures which involve distribution of national wealth the community should be given a special position in consonance with the present position of the Jains as well as general principles accepted for other communities.

v      RELIGIOUS,EDUCATIONAL AND CULTURAL SAFEGUARDS FOR THE JAIN MINORITY :

v      No legislation affecting religion, culture, philosophy, temple, Maths and their property as well as the personal law of the Jains should be introduced without the consent of the Jain community and their accredited  representative in the Central and State Legislatures.

v      So long as the legal system is based upon the principles of  modified  Hindu and Muslim law the Jain law should be accepted as binding as the personal law for the Jain community.

v      Special provision for education in all stages of the State systems of education.

v      Special provision for research and study of Jainism in all its aspects in the universities and other bodies set up for the purpose.

v      Special provision for the publication and distribution of the sacred literature of the Jains.

v      Special provision for the preservation of Jain monuments, temples.

v      Special protection for private institutions and organisations in their legitimate activities for the protection and promotion of Jain interests.

MACHINERY TO ENFORCE EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF MINORITY RIGHTS:

In order to protect the interests of the minorities and to enforce their rights, there is already a National Minorities Commission  with representatives of the various minorities which should be given Constitutional status as proposed by the CMP, and similar State Minority Commissions should be set up with constitutional status. All legislation affecting the minorities should require the prior consent of those commissions before such legislation is introduced and also should be approved by it. Any member of the commission may demand that legislation affecting his own community should require the consent of that particular community. In case of dispute between the legislature and the commission the matter should be referred to the Supreme Court and its precedents should be binding on both the legislature and the community concerned. It is suggested that in any Central judicial machinery that may be set up there should be a special section which alone would be competent to decide  both questions of law and fact with regard to the minorities.

The Jain community in India now looks forward for your gracious support for an expeditious declaration of the Minority status for the Jain community in India as recommended by the National Minority Commission as the most crucial step to enable them to benefit from the minority welfare package in consonance with Constitutional equity and secular justice and in furtherance of the Common Minimum Programme.

Yours respectfully,

 

(Bal Patil)

 

Smt.Sonia Gandhi,

President, Indian National Congress &

Chairperson, National Advisory Council,

24, Akbar Road

New Delhi

Encl: Annexure: 1. Jain Population in Indian States

Post Author: JHC