Observance of Minority Rights Day in Manipur:
Pledge and Corollary
Dr. M. Bahar Ud Din Shah
Manipur State Minorities Commission has been observing “Minorities Rights Day” on 18th December every year since its inception. The same day was observed for the same cause this year too (just a few days back) at Kangla Hall, Imphal which was attended by minority communities of the state such as Muslims, Meitei Christians, and Meitei Buddhists etc. along with Hon’ble Minister Agriculture and Fisheries, Janab Md. Abdul Nasir, Hon’ble Parliamentary Secretary MOBC & SC and Science and Technology, Janab Md. Amin Shah, Hon’ble MLA, Wabgai AC, Janab Md. Fajur Rahim and Hon’ble Chairperson Manipur State Minorities Commission, Janab Alhaj Abdul Halim Chowdhury, IAS (Retd.) etc. on the dias as dignitaries.
The most important goal of observance of Minorities Rights Day is to understand the rights of Minorities as well as to pursue inexorably with all efforts to fulfill these rights. Question here comes in mind was “Are Minorities Rights different from Human Rights?” Answer is definitely NO. Then why is Minorities Rights? Why a particular day is observed as Minorities Rights Day? Is it not something that the minorities are illtreated, discriminated, abused, disgraced and sidelined by refusing their due human rights and at the same time pursuing them by offering some sweet candy to appease and to take part in nation building. If due human rights are given to all section of the society regardless of any majority of minority, no such separate rights need to be offered. But it seems to be the need of the hour if you see the present scenario where the social, economic and educational statuses of the minorities which are pathetic, horrible and deplorable.
The promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to such minorities whether it is defined by less in numbers or by their social status, contribute to the political and social stability of the state in which they live. Meeting their aspirations and ensuring their rights acknowledge the dignity and equality of all individuals and further participatory development. This in turn contributes to the lessening of tensions among groups and individuals. These factors are major determinants for stability and peace. Thus the faith and confidence of the minorities in the functioning of the State in an impartial manner is an acid test of its being just a State.
There is a need to introspect about the status of Minority rights in India in general and Manipur in particular. Minority right is a concept which was founded on the democratic norms. That was only on 18th December, 1992, the United Nations (UN), with an aim of safety, security, promotion, protection and development of the status and rights of minorities which not only less in numbers but also a weaker section of the society, had affirmed the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities”. Since then, the day has been observing every year throughout the world as ‘Minorities Rights Day’. The global community through UN has tried to evolve the norms for these rights for all the people of the world. One can surely say that the status of the democracy of a country can be judged by the status of minority, particularly the religious minorities and weaker sections of society. On that scale of 20 years of declaration of Minority Rights, the implementation of these rights if not formulation, most obviously we in Manipur are lagging far behind in this direction.
It is a known fact that Manipur State Minorities Commission was constituted by an executive order of the Govt. of Manipur on 20th February, 2004 as One Man Commission with Janab Alhaj Abdul Halim Choudhury Shahib, IAS (Retd.) as the Chairperson of the Commission. Terms of reference of the Commission, as mentioned in its Annual Report, 2010-11, were:
• To evaluate the working of the various safeguards provided in the Constitution and in the laws passed by the State Legislature.
• To make recommendations with a view to ensuring effective implementation and enforcement of all the safeguards.
• To undertake a review of the implementation of policies and schemes of the State Government with respect to minorities.
• To suggest to the State Government appropriate legal and welfare measures in respect of minorities.
• To study and other matter which, in the opinion of the Commission is important from the point of view of the welfare and development of minorities and make appropriate recommendations.
• To undertake a review of the implementation of the PM’s 15 Point Programme.
• To consider the grievances of the minorities and suggest appropriate solution from time to time,
• To make periodical reports to the State Government at prescribed interval etc.
Every effort has been made to give the Commission a statutory status and now it gains its goal after the Manipur State Minorities Commission Bill 2010 passed by the State Legislative Assembly on 29th June, 2010. It is a good thing that such a Commission was constituted and came into being on 20th February, 2004 and is one of the very few in the country (not all the states have their minority commission). Manipur State Minorities Commission is now functioning as three member commission with a Chairman and two members represented from different minority communities of the state and is being administered with the help of a Secretary on deputation basis. Commission loads so much of work to be done with less no. of staffs and “ludicrous powers”. I said ludicrous power with much emphasize even after having statutory status because of its nature of function with seemingly no such power to implement, monitor and review the welfare schemes of minorities. Letters and recommendations are kept on sending to the concerned ministers and bureaucrats but hardly any action is seen in and out. Does the Commission ever relook any of its recommendations made and know the status? Very few of it might have been ignited but contemptible.
Let us not forget that the Indian Constitution is also committed to the equality of citizens and the responsibility of the State to preserve, protect and assure the rights of minorities in matters of language, religion and culture. That is why our national leaders while framing the Constitution, emphasized the doctrine of unity in diversity.
As democracy is a game of numbers, the numerically weaker sections of the citizenry in any society may and often do get marginalized by the majority. In such a situation legal protection from the hegemony and preponderance of the majority community becomes a pressing need of the religious Minorities as a whole, and not just that of the ‘backward’ sections among them. To provide such necessary protection by law we do have in the Constitution a Directive Principle of State Policy, Article 46, which speaks of “weaker sections of the people” – notably without subjecting them to the condition of backwardness – and mandates the State to “promote with special care” the educational and economic interests of such sections.
Last year in the Kangla Hall when the same day observance was held, the Hon’ble Chief Minister emphasized on strengthening and capacity building by employing more staffs including a permanent Secretary of the Commission. Two years back on the very date at G. M. Hall, Imphal, the then Hon’ble Minister of Education who was the Chief Guest of the function assured the audience that the budget earmarked has been made to establish model girls schools at muslim inhabited sites. Indeed, any of those assurances given are hardly seen in reality.
This year too, reluctantly yet meticulously, the members on the dias quoted certain achievements of the Government over and above Minority Community in the recent past and highlighted the areas to be addressed to start with. Let us see how much of their assurance is going to be ignited.
Adding to the terms of references made while constituting the Commission, it is necessary to bestow more powers to the Commission while delivering their functions. Some of the steps needs to be taken with immediate effect are,
• Increase the no. of supporting staffs, Research cum Documentation Cell may be opened for effective implementation of the welfare schemes. Permanent Research Staffs should be appointed.
• Commission should be associated with the state Government in the formulation of Minorities specific Plan Proposals and Schemes.
• Commission should also be granted the power of follow up action and enquiry of its recommendations made.
• Legal Status to the PM’s 15 Point Program so as to enable effective implementations and achieving the desired goals.
• Power to implement, monitor and review the schemes free handed especially under Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Program.
As the processes of economic development unfold, pressures are likely to build up and intensify when there is unequal development and some groups or minorities lag behind in the development process. Ideally, development processes should remove or reduce economic and social obstacles to cooperation and mutual respect among all groups in the society. If development processes are misdirected, they may have the ill effect. It is this aspect which is important and needs to be addressed so as to give confidence to minorities.