In a setback to the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in Jammu and Kashmir, the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP government in the state, through an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, has opposed creation of a minority commission in the state.
The state government was responding to a PIL filed by a Jammu-based lawyer Ankur Sharma, seeking a direction to set up a minority commission in the state to safeguard the interests of religious and linguistic minorities.
‘In the absence of a minority commission, the benefits exclusively meant for the minority communities including crores worth aid are being given away to a certain community, which is the majority Muslim community, in an illegal and arbitrary manner,’ Sharma had submitted.
Jammu and Kashmir law secretary Abdul Majid Bhat contended that Sharma’s view, saying: ‘Assertion of the petitioner for setting up a state minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir through proper legislation including time-bound identification and notification of religious and linguistic minorities by the state is legally not maintainable.
‘It is up to the concerned state/Union territory to set up a minority commission in their respective state/Union territory.’
The J&K government said law is well settled on the issue that the apex court cannot direct the government to legislate on a particular subject.
‘It is for the state legislature to consider in its wisdom as to which laws are required to be made considering the circumstances prevailing in the state,’ the state government said.
Questioning the PIL petitioner’s motive, the affidavit said: ‘As per information available, the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Sikkim, Andaman, and several UTs have not set up a minority commission.
‘The present petition only seeks its establishment in Jammu and Kashmir. In case the present petition has been filed in public interest, he should have prayed for its setting up in all these states.’
According to the 2011 census, about 68.3 per cent of the state’s population is Muslims.
Among the minorities, 28.4 per cent are Hindus, followed by Sikhs (1.9 per cent), Buddhists (0.9 per cent), and Christians (0.3 per cent).
In Kashmir valley, about 96.4 per cent are Muslims, followed by Hindus (2.45 per cent), Sikhs (0.98 per cent) and others (0.17 per cent).
Sharma argued that Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir are unable to benefit from central and state welfare schemes for minorities.
The Union government indirectly recognises Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians of Jammu and Kashmir as ‘minorities’.
This is in spite of the fact that the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, is not applicable to J&K and thus the recognition of Muslims as ‘minorities’ is whimsical and illegal, the plea said.
The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has awarded 717 out of the 753 available scholarships to the majority community in Jammu and Kashmir, it said.
Constitutional guarantees under Article 29 and 30 (rights of minorities) are no guarantees at all in Jammu and Kashmir due to the government’s failure to identify religious and linguistic minorities and declare them as notified minorities, said the PIL.
Rights and benefits due to the minorities are being siphoned off arbitrarily and illegally, it added.
It wants the Supreme Court to order setting-up of a state minority commission to identify religious and linguistic minorities, or to appoint a panel of experts under its supervision to submit a report on the religious and linguistic minority communities of Jammu and Kashmir.
The plea also wants a direction to extend the National Commission for Minorities to J&K.