Benefits of Minority Tag in India

Some leaders of the Lingayat community in Karnataka have renewed their demand for their group to be considered as separate from Hindus. They want to ‘move out’ of the Hindu fold. This demand has been in existence from many decades and seems to have a co-relation to the recognition of non-Hindus as ‘minorities’ and consequent benefits being granted to them. In the past too, other groups, such as the Ramakrishna Mission, have demanded to be ousted from the Hindu fold.

It is a no-brainer that the demand to be considered as a non-Hindu has its basis in the institutional, legal and economic benefits associated with the tag of a minority, rather than cultural or religious reasons. Else, there is really nothing that a Hindu needs to do to move away from being one. Hindu religion does not really codify what it takes to be a ‘Hindu’ nor does it define anywhere what would be considered blasphemy for a group to be thrown out of the Hindu fold. So Lingayats could just declare themselves non-Hindus from tomorrow and continue their practices as it exists today.

However, what they are really looking forward to is an inclusion, by the Government of India through the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), into the official list of minorities. Currently Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists are the six religious minorities recognised.

When any Government implements policies aimed at affirmative action, it is natural that there is a redistribution of resources between ‘preferred’ groups and ‘non-preferred’ groups. Typically the resources are economic in nature. The reasons for classifying certain groups under the preferred category are mostly social and/or economic. In countries like India, due to centuries of denial of opportunity and equality, many communities have suffered socially and economically. In order to address this problem, policies such as reservation have been introduced since Independence (some form of reservations existed in British India too). In addition to reservation in education and jobs, financial benefits such as scholarships, easy access to finance and targeted infrastructure delivery are also usually provided.

With these benefits in sight, it is only natural that those communities which are in the non-preferred list would be keen to make it to the preferred groups’ list. In India, there exists two main categories of preferred groups. Category 1 is based on caste and the main groups under this denomination are the SCs, STs and OBCs. Category 2 is based on religion. It’s members are known as minorities and the six religions noted above belong to this category.

Let us look at some factors which make this transition from the non-preferred to the preferred list easy or difficult. The focus of this post is on Category 2 where the grouping is based on religion.

Benefits of getting redesignated as a minority

If one community enters the preferred group based on caste, the benefits primarily are economic and, to an extent, social. However, if one enters the preferred group based on religion, in addition to economic benefits, institutional and legal benefits are also granted. In fact, such institutional and legal benefits outweigh the economic benefits (otherwise extremely well-to-do communities such as Jains and Parsis wouldn’t figure in the list).

Minorities get absolute freedom to run educational institutions due to Article 30(1) of our constitution and few other sections. It is an undisputed fact that education is the key to social and economic progress of an individual or community. And unfettered rights to establish and administer educational institutions of choice is an extra ordinary instrument available ONLY to minorities to control social and economic development of not just their own group (religion) but those of others as well.

In addition to #Core1 benefits as mentioned above, minorities get a dedicated budget to fund socio-economic schemes based on religion. You can avail a handsome scholarship from grade I all the way to your post-graduation if you are a minority student. And the budget for these schemes only keeps increasing significantly year after year. There are schemes to help finance any entrepreneurial ventures that minorities want to undertake. Easy access to finance can be key to establishing businesses. And availing it can become easy if you are a non-Hindu.

An important point to note here is that, unlike schemes run for caste-based-preferred groups, the distribution of resources in schemes run for religion-based-preferred-groups is perfectly pro-rata. So, even though you can get clubbed with a number of other co-minorities, your share of the redistributed resource is fixed and guaranteed.

The Government of India also runs several schemes (such as those under JNURM and 15-point programs) where areas with high(er) concentration of minorities get special attention from an infrastructure development point of view. So if you are a minority and are living in an area with a significant population of your religion, you stand a better chance of getting good roads, lighting, schools and so on.

Cost of not being preferred

World over, it is well recognized that affirmative action, in the immediate term *at least*, is a zero-sum game i.e. the non-preferred groups lose what the preferred groups gain. Some like Thomas Sowell have, with empirical evidence, argued very well that in the long run affirmative action is actually a negative-sum game (for the country) because both the preferred and non-preferred groups perform sub-optimally – for opposite reasons. Irrespective of it, there is no dispute on it being a zero-sum game at least.

One would therefore think that even in India, affirmative action could be a zero-sum game in the immediate term. However, for religion based affirmative action, it is actually a significant negative-sum game for the community that is in the non-preferred group. Firstly, you of course lose out on the seats and scholarships that goes to those in the preferred group. Secondly, you are deprived of the institutional and legal rights that minorities are given. However, the death-blow comes from the fact that you are not just deprived of benefits but are subject to severe restrictions if you are a non-minority.

So it is not just that you cannot easily establish and administer educational institutions of your choice but that you are subject to a myriad web of rules and regulations if you want to run a school or college. Run a school without a sufficiently large playground and you could receive a show-cause notice. Punish a rogue student who indulged in indiscipline in your college and your principal could be arrested. Refuse to admit a student who showed signs of being a complete academic misfit in your school and, well, your school could simply be shutdown.

An equally deadly scenario exists when it comes to another important institution of religious dimension. If you are a Hindu, your temple has most likely been taken over by the state government. Every single activity in the temple is subject to approvals from ‘relevant authorities’. As with every institution where Government has a role, these temples too have to deal with corruption involving officials.

On the economic front, there is partial spite in case you are a Hindu and belong to a community that is covered under the caste based preferred-groups policy. However, increasing discrimination there too is rendering the existing thin advantage slip-by. If you are a kid belonging to the OBC community, you can still get a scholarship from the Government for your education but it will be an order of magnitude less than what a minority kid studying the same course can get (exact differences covered elsewhere in this blog).

If you are a Hindu and do not belong to any caste-based preferred-group, then there is a complete loss even on the economic front. A poor brahmin kid is at the mercy of a state government to show some benevolence and grant it a scholarship with a meagre budget that can address perhaps a few tens of kids every year.

Therefore, the cost of not being in a preferred-group is chiefly threefold

  • Total lack of freedom to run educational institutions and being subject to extreme Government control.
  • Takeover of your religious institutions by the Government.
  • Measurable impact on the economic and infrastructure front

The ease of ‘redesignation’

The above two sections where we looked at the benefits of being a minority and the dangers of being a non-minority make it obvious that communities currently under the non-preferred category will desire to make it to the preferred group. One factor that can dampen the enthusiasm for such ‘conversions’, usually, is the difficulty associated with such a redesignation.

However, in the present case, two reasons make even this redesignation process very easy.

  1. The loose definition of who is a ‘minority’. There is only one requirement here – that of being a non-Hindu. All one needs to prove to become a minority and avail the numerous benefits is to somehow show how he is not a Hindu. Note: While this definition is actually true when looked at from a demographic point of view, the problem is the association of this definition with institutional, legal, social and economic benefits.
  2. The vague, or non-existent, definition of who is a ‘Hindu’. Except perhaps the Brahmin sect, who are joined at the hip with Vedas, Smritis, Puranas and rituals, every other community can venture to claim they are non-Hindus, or at least ‘no longer Hindus’. Most kshatriyas today are not into military or police service. Very few Vaishya communities are still in business. The remaining communities surely can cite the instances of them being denied equal privileges in the past to claim they were never ‘allowed to be Hindus’. Further, Hinduism as a religion, has never mandated any holy book, custom or ritual that every adherent must follow in order to be treated as an Hindu. This makes the task of detaching oneself from Hinduism even more simpler.

When it comes to becoming a minority, the key is to get the Government to accept what you are NOT (Hindu) rather than make them realize who you are. Due to this – historical conditions, present economic situations, relative social position – none of these matter in the attempt to get redesignated.

Another side-effect of such a classification, with no socio-economic parameters being considered, is that it is safe to assume that there is no exit criteria for falling out of the minorities list. Once you are in, you cannot be out just because for e.g. your community grew into a very affluent one. If there were to be the case, there is simply no explanation for why communities such as Jains and Parsis have to be in the minorities list in the first place. Get in once, and stay there forever.

Conclusion

There are significant benefits to becoming a minority in India. And the reasons are not just socio-economic but much more significant centering around institutional control. If you are a community that has a significant stake in institutions (such as Lingayats for e.g) it simply makes no sense to subject oneself to the draconian measures intended for the ‘non-minority’.

Demand for recognition as a non-Hindu is therefore only natural. In all likelihood, as knowledge of the benefits of redesignation and dangers of existing designation become known, more and more Hindu communities are likely to demand the same status.

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New Livestock Rules: Background and Intent

Background:

In 2014, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi asking the Court to direct the Government of India and various border states of India to take steps to prevent illegal trafficking of cattle to Nepal. Large scale trafficking of cattle to Nepal was taking place for sacrifice as part of the Gadhimai Festival held annually.

The Supreme Court heard the matter over nearly 2 years and passed several orders. The core of the matter, with a nudge from the 2-judge bench, was to be settled through an agreement between the central government and the governments of the states of Bihar, West Bengal, UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh.

With the Supreme Court’s direction and approval, a Committee was setup under the chairmanship of Sri Banshi Dhar Sharma, DG, Sahastra Seema Bal and a report with steps to address this problem was submitted to the court. The Supreme Court accepted this report fully and directed the central government and state government to take steps towards compliance.

This order was passed on 13/07/2015.

Each state government, in addition to several other steps, had to do the following:

  • Constitute a district SPCA, within 4 weeks
  • Constitute Animal Welfare Boards, within 4 weeks
  • Submit a compliance report to the Court, within 8 weeks

As part of the same committee report, accepted by the Court, the Central Government had to frame rules under Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, specifically to ensure reduction in cruelty to animals in livestock markets, sale, etc.

On the 4th of July 2016, the Supreme Court passed an order confirming the receipt of compliance reports by all concerned states. The bench noted that the Center had not yet complied with its direction to frame and notify rules.

The GOI responded that it is bound to frame the rules as per the directions of the Court, and would do so soon. The matter was posted for 12/07/2016.

On the 12th of July 2016, the SC disposed of the case under the following directions.

  • The central government, which had informed the court that draft rules were almost ready, should finalize the rules *within three months*.
  • The central government would convene meetings between itself and the various stakeholder states to arrive at a comprehensive future plan to resolve this problem.

Notification of Regulation of Livestock Market Rules:

As per the orders of the Supreme Court, as highlighted above, the Government of India framed the rules for governing livestock markets, placed it for review and feedback, and in the end notified the rules (with finalization based on feedback inputs) on the 23rd of May 2017.

Aim of notification:

Based on the SSB led Committee report submitted to the Supreme Court, and the directions of the Court, the Government of India decided to modify the structure of the sale of livestock. Quoting the official press release itself.

“The livestock markets are intended to become hubs for trade for animal for agriculture through this process and animal for slaughter will have to be bought from the farmers at the farms

To obtain better control over the whole process of cattle trade, the following 2 decisions have been taken.

  1. Livestock markets will now be dedicated for trading of animals for agriculture
  2. Animal purchases for slaughter will have to happen from farmers directly

Some key Q & A:

  • Has purchase of cattle for slaughter been banned by this notification?
    • No.
    • Livestock markets, though, are no longer the place for purchase of cattle for animal slaughter.
  • Have state governments lost their power in framing rules governing cattle sale for slaughter?
    • No. Under section 38 of the PCA, the central government has now *redefined some aspects of the business model* for purchase of animals for agriculture and slaughter. The rules regarding what cattle to purchase, what is not allowed to be purchased for slaughter, where to slaughter, how to slaughter, etc will all be completely decided by the respective state governments.
  • Has legal purchase of cattle been banned?
    • No.
  • Has the process of legal purchase of cattle for slaughter become difficult?
    • IMHO, yes.
  • Many news articles are claiming that the notification was issued by the Government in a surprise move, and in a hurry. Is this true?
    • No. The move by the center was due to the directions of the SC. Further, the deadline for implementing this was October 2016 whereas it became a reality only in May 2017.
  • Could the whole process of coming up with guidelines have been better executed?
    • (Again, just my opinion) YES. At least definitely on the communication and media management side.
  • Were the states kept in dark about the whole process?
    • At least all the states with international borders were fully aware of the developments. West Bengal, which is now protesting the move, was also fully aware.

References:

  1. Rules on prevention of cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) to ensure welfare of Animals & Protect Animals from Cruelty: Environment Ministry
  2. Press release related to the notification – dated 27th May 2017
  3. Supreme Court – Interim orders and final judgement – WP/881/2014
  4. Supreme Court – Interim orders – WP/210/2015
  5. Cattle trafficking: Supreme Court asks Centre to frame rules in 3 months

 

Ban against Cow-slaughter: Need for a Constitutional Mandate

There has been a lot of anger and outrage at the recent killing of a cattle rearer in Alwar. Such private violence is totally unacceptable and without a shadow of doubt, the culprits must be given the harshest possible punishment for such a ghastly murder.

In this post, I am not going to delve into the issue of cow vigilante groups, and their violent actions. The #Core position on that is very clear – no room in a democracy for private violence. However, the focus of this post is on the Constitutional and Legal status of cow slaughter in India.

As it stands today, there is just a Directive Principle in our Constitution, vide Article 48, which asks the State to move towards prevention of slaughter of cattle.

Article 48 says the following.

“Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”

As one can see, it only advises the Government to “take steps” towards prohibition of cow slaughter.

It is left to the various state governments to frame laws regarding cow slaughter. A majority of the states have banned cow slaughter while some like West Bengal and the North Eastern states allow it, under certain terms and conditions.

The issue of prohibition of cow slaughter is an important one for Hindus. In spite of all the intellectual exercises undertaken by secular liberals, it remains an undisputed fact that cows hold a special place in the Hindu scheme of things. It is a divine being, revered by many tens of crores of Hindus. Go-pooja or the worship of cows is an integral part of Hindu religion.

The demand from Team #Core on this issue, has been aptly surmised by RealityCheckIndia in this post. I reproduce the relevant portion here.

Cow slaughter : Need to have  a better law that openly says that cows get protection due to their special position in Hindu religion. The laws also have to be deeper and more well thought out. An example might be for outlaw and enforce in letter the killing of male calves. Today the laws are worded as if the target is the butcher, consumer, and not the seller and the calf-killer. Can also institute a permanent amnesty regime by micro-chipping the herds. Today, if Congress comes back in MH the herds who are immune from slaughter today can be picked up.  The costs of maintaining cattle must also be borne as far as possible by Hindus via tax deductions and special assessments on temples.”

The key point is that the ambiguity regarding the State’s position with respect to cow slaughter must be removed.

  • Cows hold an exalted position in Hindu religion and culture.
  • Ban of cow slaughter does not deprive any other community of any Fundamental Right.
  • Hence Cow Slaughter must be prohibited in the Constitution itself.

When we look closely at the framing of Article 48 of the Constitution, we realize that the makers of the Constitution also expressed their intent along the above lines. Even more surprisingly, the members of the drafting committee who were from the Muslim community were vocal in demanding that there be a proper law banning cow slaughter enshrined in the Constitution.

In its original form, Article 38A of the Draft Constitution looked as below.

“The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breeds of cattle and prohibit the slaughter of cow and other useful cattle, specially milch and draught cattle and their young stock”

This Article was in fact not present in the initial draft, and was introduced by Sri Pandit Thakur Dass Bhargava. A majority of the members, during the subsequent course of debate, support the insertion of this Article, and hence it came be part of the Constitution as Article 48.

During his speech when introducing the amendment Sri Bhargava gave multiple reasons for this Article, including religious and economic ones. His actual intent was to see cow slaughter ban as being part of Fundamental Rights! Some excerpts below

“To my mind it would have been much better if this could have been incorporated in the Fundamental Rights,but some of my Assembly friends differed and it is the desire of Dr. Ambedkar that this matter, instead of being included in Fundamental Rights should be incorporated in the Directive Principles.”

….

Therefore, I want to submit before you that the slaughter of cattle should be banned here Ours is an agricultural country and the cow is `Kam-Dhenu’ to us – fulfiller of all our wants. From both points of view, of agriculture and food, protection of the cow becomes necessary. Our ancient sages and Rishis, realising her importance, regarded her as very sacred. here, Lord Krishna was born, who served cows so devotedly that to this day, in affection he is known as “Makhan Chor”. I would not relate to you the story of Dalip, how that Raja staked his own life for his cow. But I would like to tell you that even during the Muslim rule, Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir and even in the reign of Aurangzeb, cowslaughter was not practised in India; not because Muslims regarded it to be bad but because, from the economic point of view, it was unprofitable.”

Seth Govind Das, who spoke during the debate was also vociferously supportive

AsPandit Thakur Das told you, I had submitted this earlier to be included in Fundamental Rights but I regret that it could not be so included. The reason given is that Fundamental Rights deal only with human beings and not animals.”

“I consider myself a religious minded person, and have no respect for those people of the present day society whose attitude towards religion and religious minded people is one of contempt. It is my firm belief that Dharma had never been uprooted from the world and nor can it be uprooted.”

Prof Shiban Lal Saxena had this to say

“Sir, I had given notice of an amendment in which I desired that cow slaughter should be banned completely. But after the agreement arrived at about Pt. Thakur Dass Bhargava’s amendment, I waive my right to move my amendment.”

Dr Raghu Vira, Sri R V Dhulekar and others also strongly supported a full ban.

MR Z H Lari, who was a Muslim, and a representative of United Provinces, made some very interesting comments during the debate. It is perhaps reflective of the Muslim mindset on this issue.

“We are not here to obstruct the attitude that the majority community is going to adopt. But let there not linger an idea in the mind of the Muslim public that they can do one thing, though in fact they are not expected to do that.”

….

“Therefore, if the House is of the opinion that slaughter of cows should be prohibited, let it be prohibited in clear, definite and unambiguous words. I do not want that there should be a show that you could have this thing although the intention may be otherwise. My own submission to this House is that it is better to come forward and incorporate a clause in Fundamental Rights that cow slaughter is henceforth prohibited, rather than it being left vague in the Directive Principles”

Syed Muhammad Sa’adulla, another prominent Muslim representative from Assam made similar comments.

“Some who want to have a section in our Constitution that cow killing should be stopped for all time probably base it on the religious front. I have every sympathy and appreciation for their feelings; for, I am student of comparative religions. I know that the vast majority of the Hindu nation revere the cow as their goddess and therefore they cannot brook the idea of seeing it slaughtered. I am a Muslim as everyone knows. In my religious book, the Holy Qoran, there is an injunction to the Muslims saying –

“La Ikraba fid Din”,

or, there ought to be no compulsion in the name of religion.I therefore do not like to use my veto when my Hindu brethren want to place this matter in our Constitution from the religious point of view”

“I mean the Constituent Assembly if they come out in the open and say directly:”This is part of our religion. The cow should be protected from slaughter and therefore we want its provision either in the Fundamental Rights or in the Directive Principles

At the end of the debate, Dr B R Ambedkar accepted the amendment and the House voted this amendment to be one of the Directive Principles.

Over the past 70 years, we have witnessed the confusion that has resulted due to the lack of clear direction from our Constitution with regard to this sensitive issue.

It is time, as part of the #Core agenda, to revisit this, and prohibit cow slaughter as a Constitutional Law rather than leaving it as a Directive Principle which cannot be mandated (as clarified by the Supreme Court in Akhil Bharat Gosewa Sangh vs State of A.P 2006)

Note: It is left to the discretion of the State Laws as it stands today. In that sense, the Constitution does not mandate cow slaughter prohibition.

No doubt there will be economic effects (I wouldn’t term it *costs*) of such a move. But I am sure the State has in its crafts various devices to overcome any potential adverse impacts. On the other hand, the positive impact it will have on the Hindu community in terms of re-assuring their religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs will be immeasurable.