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Trinamul Congress wants minority tag for Hindus in Meghalaya

The demand is likely to put pressure on the BJP which has always positioned itself as a “guardian” of the Hindu community, said an observer
Representational image.
Representational image.
File photo.

Vivek Chhetri   |   Darjeeling   |   Published 02.04.22, 02:21 AM

The Trinamul Congress on Friday urged the Centre to direct the Meghalaya government to grant “minority” status to Hindus in the state.

The National People’s Party (NPP), an alliance partner of the BJP, is in power in Meghalaya.

Trinamul’s demand is likely to put pressure on the BJP which has always positioned itself as a “guardian” of the Hindu community, said an observer.

Trinamul’s demand comes at a time the Centre in its submission before the Supreme Court said that states can grant minority status to Hindus if they are not in a majority and are unable to avail themselves of the benfits of central schemes meant for the minorities.

According to the last population census in the country in 2011, Meghalaya has a Christian population of around 74 per cent followed by Hindus who are a distant second with a population of around 11 percent. Muslims are around 4 per cent.

Shanta Chhetri, Trinamul Rajya Sabha member, raised the issue during Zero Hour in Parliament on Friday. “I humbly urge the august House to draw the kind attention of the home minister to urgently direct the Meghalaya government to grant minority status to Hindus via a notification as per Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution,” Chhetri said.

The Trinamul legislator specifically raised the issue of the Centre’s submission before the Supreme Court.

She said: “If the Hindus are in minority in a particular state, they should be able to establish and administer educational institutes of their choice in keeping with rights guaranteed to minorities by the Constitution as per the Centre.”

The Centre’s submission was made in response to a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay that sought directions for framing of guidelines to identify minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in a minority in 10 states and are not able to get the benefits of schemes meant for minorities

Mukul Sangma, the former Meghalaya chief minister and the leader of Opposition from Trinamul in the Meghalaya Assembly, seconded the issue raised by Chhetri.

“Always understand that the majority must always take care of the minority... minority is considered from the perspective of a state, not from the perspective of the whole country, that is what the laid down principles are,” Sangma told this newspaper.

Minority status entails certain benefits including establishing and administering education institutions.

While Article 29 of the Constitution provides for protection of interests of minorities, Article 30 provides the rights to minorities, linguistic or religious, to establish and administer education institutions.

Many believe that TMC’s demand was raised at the right time as even the BJP Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that the state government advocates defining a religious minority community district wise and had emphasised that Hindus were a minority in certain Assam districts.

“In Meghalaya the BJP alliance is in power and hence granting the status could be a natural consequence given their submission (before the Court),” quipped another TMC leader.

The NPP’s stand on the issue could not be immediately known as Wanwei Roy Kharlukhi, Rajya Sabha MP of NPP did not take calls from this newspaper on Friday evening.

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