Ahmedabad: Thanks to the Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled Gujarat government's push for religious majoritarianism, the minorities, who form 11.50 per cent of the state's population, have been reduced to second-class citizens and remain so even 19 years after the bloody Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.
In the absence of an independent minorities' welfare department like the one at the Centre, all minority-related activities fall under the social justice and empowerment department of the state government with the result that there is no focused approach to ameliorate the plight of the marginalised communities.
All major states have their own minorities commission but despite countless representations for a dog's age, the administration in the wealthy state ruled by the saffron party for the past 25 years has also failed to set up a minorities' panel and provide it with a constitutional set-up by passing a law in the state legislative assembly.
The minorities in Gujarat include 9.7 per cent Muslims, 1 per cent Jains, 0.5 per cent Christians, and Sikhs, Buddhists and others 0.1 per cent each. Surprisingly, the Gujarat Minorities Finance and Development Corporation has been headless with no non-government members since July 29, 2018, and the state's Haj Committee also is in limbo for the past two years.
With the government's promise of social justice remaining only on paper, the Minority Coordination Committee (MCC) Gujarat had on the World Social Justice Day on February 20 dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out that the National Minorities Commission set up by Parliament had no chairman since May 25, 2020 and all its members had also retired what with the National Haj Committee also functioning without a chairman since June 6, 2020.
"It is important to fill up these vacancies at the earliest to absorb the minorities into the mainstream society," MCC convener Mujahid Nafees told Madhyamam on Friday on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the 2002 communal riots that had claimed the lives of 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
With the budget session of the Gujarat legislative assembly set to begin on March 1, he has also shot off a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and urged him to jack up the insignificant allocation of funds made in the budget for the minorities in Modi's home state.
According to him, only a paltry Rs 144.46 crore—just .066 per cent of Gujarat's Rs 217,000-crore budget--has been set aside for the welfare of minorities but he has demanded Rs 19,300 crore for education, skill development, livelihoods, etc. so that they received the same treatment as every other citizen under the concept of fraternity and equality as enshrined in the Constitution.
Indeed, Gujarat has 10 minority-concentrated blocks in Kutch, Junagadh, Panchmahals, Bharuch, Sabarkantha, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Junagadh, Anand and Borsad which have not been benefited by the schemes under the Prime Minister's new 15-point programme that includes enhancing opportunities for education, upgradation of skills, enhanced credit support, better housing and rehabilitation of victims of communal riots.
No wonder, MCC has also asked the state government to set up higher secondary schools up to standard 12 in minority-dominated areas, provide madrasa schools certificate the status of the Gujarat state board certificate and set aside a special economic package for the minorities.
"Unless concrete measures are taken immediately for the uplift of the minorities, they will continue to eat their hearts out," lamented Nafees.