LETTER TO THE UNION HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER SRI ARJUN SINGH ON THE JAIN MINORITY MEMORANDUM
July 18, 2004
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.
MEMORANDUM ON JAIN MINORITY STATUS
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 Smt.Soniaji Gandhi’s 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. I am concerned to present this Memorandum on behalf of the Jain community for your careful consideration.
2. I may state at the outset that your letter as Chairman, Minorities Cell, All-India Congress Committee, dt.July 14, 1999 to the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States has served as the most important guideline and inspiration in our pursuit of the Jain objective for minority status. (copy enclosed)
3. The Programme of Action 1992 (under the National Policy on Education 1986) formulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India when you were the Minister, HRD includes a detailed Plan of Action for Minorities Education. It is pertinent to note that the Government of India Resolution No.F.8-9/93-SC/ST dated 28-7-95 of the Ministry of Human resources Development, Dept of Education, SC/St Cell, constituting a National Monitoring Committee for Minorities Education (Published in Part I, Section I of the Gazette of India) in its Memorandum of Minorities Education Cl.3.1.3, mentions that “according to 1981 Census the religious minorities constitute about 17.4% of the population of which Muslims are 11.4%, Christians 2.4%, Sikhs 2%, Buddhists 0.7% and Jains 0.5%. It means that per 10,000 persons in India 8,264 are Hindus, 1,135 are Muslims, 243 are Christians, 196 Sikhs,71 Buddhists and 48 are Jains.” (Copy enclosed)
4. This is a clear pointer that the Government of India, HRD Ministry when you were the Minister recognised Jains as a minority on par with Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. In this context it is heartening to note that once again, Sir, you are in charge of the HRD Ministry and you have reiterated your resolve when inaugurating the Minorities Conference on 4th July 2004 that you have “set a time limit of four months for the action plan” for the implementation of the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme for the minorities such as setting up two Commissions- National Commission for the Minority Educational Institutions and a National commission for the Social & Economic Welfare of the Minorities.
5. However, Sir, for the Jain community to claim the full benefits promised by your policy directives in consonance with the CMP without any administrative hindrance in the parametres of the Central governance as a whole, and the States, although Jains are recognised as a minority religion in the purview of the HRD Ministry, it would be necessary that the Jain community is recognised as a minority on par with the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) under the National Commission of Minorities Act 1992.
6. For this purpose it is necessary that the Social Justice & and Empowerment Ministry of the Govt. of India should expeditiously act and declare Jains as a minority community as recommended by the National Minority Commission. As noted by you in your letter to the Congress Chief Ministers referred to above that you received a Memorandum from Sahu Rameshchandra Jain, President, All-India Digambar Jain Parishad and also that a delegation also met the Hon’ble Congress President, Smt.Sonia Gandhi in this connection. And further there is also reference to a Note (Copy enclosed) from the Chairman, National Commission for Minorities recommending minority status for Jain community which is pending with the Central Government since 1994.
7. 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.
8. In the meanwhile the 11-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the minority educational cases laid down 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.)
9. 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.
10. But 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.
11. In the aforesaid context we respectfully submit that the Jain community feels aggrieved because there is no uniform and statutary 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.
12. 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: “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)
Although Jainism is, to quote Panditji, “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 systems 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.
13. 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 as compared with the role of other minorities who have often been obscurantists and demanded heavy price for their support. 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.
14. In view of these considerations we strongly feel and respectfully submit that the Jains should be treated as minority. The recognition of the Jains as a separate minority on the national level as recommended by the National Minority Commission has now become necessary for at least two reasons. First, in spite of their glorious past and substantial contribution to modern India the community has been declining in numbers and it is not in a position to make its rightful contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of the country.
15. 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.
Shri Arjun Singhji,
Hon’ble Minister for
Human Resource Development,
Govt. of India,
Encl. Annexure No.1: Shri Arjun Singhji’s letter to the Chief Ministers
Annexure No.2: Plan of Action for Minorities Education, HRD Ministry, 1994, & Govt of India Gazetted Resolution on Minorities Education
Annexure No.3: Note from the Chairman of the National Minorities Commission recommending Jain Minority status
Annexure No.4: Indian States Jain Population Chart