Human Rights Violations of Minorities: Effects and Repercussions

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By Ram Puniyani *

There is a need to introspect about the status of Human Rights in India as observed on Human Rights Day on December 10. Human rights is a concept which is founded on the democratic norms. Over last many decades, after the coming into being of United Nations in particular, the concept of human rights has been picking up in a strong way. The global community through UN has tried to evolve the norms for these rights for all the people of the world. Many a countries, including India, are signatories to the norms, charters prepared by UN.

Though India is a signatory to these charters, it needs to be seen as to what is the status of human rights of minorities in India? One can surely say that the status of the democracy of a country can be judged by the status of human rights of minorities, particularly the religious minorities and weaker sections of society. On that scale most obviously we in India are lagging far behind in this direction.

The violation of human rights is the outcome of rising tide of communal violence and the infiltration of communal politics in our body politic. The elements believing in communal politics have found place in different arena of our society as well due to which the divisive tendencies are going up leading to the violation of human rights of religious minorities. These are the processes which supplement and strengthen each other.

Since the communal violence is the most visible part of communal politics, let us see what is happening there. During last sixty years, communal violence has been gradually rising and more so with the identity related issues in the decade of 1980s. After Shah Bano incident communal forces got the pretext to unleashed themselves, which led to the rise of politics of identity related issues. In turn Ram Temple issue became their rallying point. From here on the violence assumed horrible proportions. This violence was initially directed against the Muslim minorities and later the Christians were also made the target of the same. One can discern that in the anti Muslim violence, which began from Jabalpur violence in 1961 to the current spate of major incidents of violence in UP, the victims of violence, those losing their lives in the violence, 90% are Muslims. In the population their percentage is 13.4% as per the census figures of 2001. As far as anti Christian violence is concerned it picked up during the decade of 1990 and peaked in the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains in 1999 and the Kandhmal violence in 2008.

The violence is not an isolated phenomenon. It is preceded by the demonization of the targeted community. Communal violence is possible because of the mechanics of communal forces and communalization of state apparatus, the police force in particular. It leads to polarization of the communities along religious lines and further strengthens the communal politics. The polarization along religious lines leads to the ghettoization of religious minorities, whose economic condition takes a further beating in the adverse direction. In most of the big cities of the country the polarization is going on and is worsening by the day. This has a strong impact on the economic condition of the Muslim minorities in particular. The Human rights index is an overall reflection of the feeling of security and equity of the community. It can be measured in terms of the economic indices, the employment status and the overall economic-social deprivations and feeling of security of the community.

As far Muslim community is concerned, it has a historical baggage which comes in the way of its economic uplift. They have been marginalized in the economic arena, and due to lack of any affirmative action for them they have been lagging further behind in economic fields. We recall that at the time of partition of the country, the majority of Muslims who opted and stayed in India belonged to lower socio-economic conditions. To add to this they were looked down in popular perceptions. In popular perception they were regarded as the ones’ who are responsible for the partition. They were denied their rightful place in the society in the area of employment and economic opportunities. This left them in the lurch, marginalized to the core. To add to this the communal violence directed against them made their condition further vulnerable and they were left rudderless, as the major political parties ignored their plight and the major leadership from amongst the Muslim community could not face up to the challenge.

This gets reflected in the reports like the one’s of Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission, which tell us how much they have been downgraded on the scale of economic index. All in all the human rights violation of Muslim minorities are totally gross. The community is at one level feeling very hopeless about its situation, due to which the efforts for education need lot of coaxing and encouragement for achieving a semblance of equity. The need for an affirmative action from the side of the state is very much necessary to ensure that this community is able to come close to getting its human rights. The ghettoization of the community always leads to an increase in conservative trends in community. That’s something which requires the prerequisite of communal peace. This can happen if the nation ensures that the communal violence is prevented at all costs by undertaking all the possible measures. In this context the bringing in of the communal violence prevention Bill and the efforts by state and social groups to counter the wrong propaganda against this community is of paramount importance.

Physical security is the key for prosperity and for getting of the democratic and human rights. With the rise of ideology of religion based nationalism, in many a place, the Muslim community is being relegated to second class citizen, in Gujarat for example. In place like Madhya Pradesh the cultural imposition in the name of state policies is effectively marginalizing the Muslim community through educational, cultural and economic mechanisms.

Both these require that the politics, which derives its legitimacy from the identity of religion, has to be fought against and values of Indian Constitution brought to the fore in all the aspects. Surely, Muslim minorities also have to come up internally to see that the conservative trends are negated and an alliance with social movements, struggling for secular democratic values nonhuman rights is promoted at different levels. That’s the best guarantee for protection of their human rights.

* The author is Professor Biomedical Engineering at IIT Mumbai and  has been involved with human rights activities for last two decades. He is recipient of Indira Gandhi National Integration Award in 2006. He has worked  with groups for workers rights. Since 1992, he has been associated with various secular and democratic initiatives, working for communal harmony and opposing the rising tide of Fundamentalism-Fascism in India. He has written books, contributed articles and essays in magazines and newspapers and conducted seminars and workshops on the theme of  threat of communal politics to democratic society. He is running a fortnightly e-bulletin ‘Issues in secular politics’. His email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

JULY 2017

Vol. 11 - No. 12










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