"Secularism Is Not An Issue, But Minorityism Is": Global Minority Report Author Durga Nand Jha

"Secularism Is Not An Issue, But Minorityism Is": Global Minority Report Author Durga Nand Jha

by Nishtha Anushree - Thursday, January 5, 2023 03:59 PM IST
"Secularism Is Not An Issue, But Minorityism Is": Global Minority Report Author Durga Nand Jha The launch of 'Global Minority Report'.
  • Global Minority Report is the first report that analyses the approach of the state towards minorities.

    It asks for rationalisation of the minority policy of India.

Centre for Policy Analysis's (CPA's) Durga Nand Jha came up with the Global Minority Report in November 2022. It ranked India number 1 among 110 countries for its inclusiveness and the treatment of religious minorities.

This report is an outlier because such "global" reports mostly give India a poor ranking when it comes to minorities. Jha calls these reports "agenda-driven" as they "selectively target" India while keeping their eyes shut towards Christian countries.

What's more intriguing is that Jha not only suggests that India treats its minorities well but goes ahead pointing out that "India needs to rationalise its minority policy if it wants to avoid conflictual situations in the country".

He explains that minorities are at a greater advantage than the majority in India because of special provisions for them and such discrimination can cause conflicts in the future.

The Problems With India's Minority Policy

"Problem is that the government is not secular. Secularism is a bad word now because of the bad works done in the name of secularism. But secularism is not a bad thing, given it doesn't mean minorityism," Jha says.

He points out that the Ministry of Minority Affairs got a massive budget that superseded 34 ministries/departments for the financial year 2021-22. Its budget is almost equal to that of the Commerce Ministry.

"If compared to the other important Ministries, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has a budgetary allocation that is 1.79 fold higher than the Ministry of Culture; 1.85 fold bigger than the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports," the report says.

Besides this, many ministries like Education Ministry also use its funds for minority programmes, most of the provincial governments also have a ‘Department of Minority Affairs’, and they also get sizeable allocations from respective state budgets.

The problem is not just these budgetary allocations, but the "lack of purposefulness" associated with it, Jha says.

"What's the objective of these efforts, do you want to integrate minorities into the mainstream or boost their separate identities," he asks while emphasising the need for a "clear-cut minority policy".

"If you want a cohesive atmosphere in the country, it's necessary that the majority and minorities don't have complaints against each other. This is possible only when no community gets an extra advantage, but that's not the case," Jha says.

Another point he raises is that India is still not clear about whether religion is an individual right or a group right. Jha believes that it should be an individual right only, minority status, etc, make it a group right.

He is also disappointed with courts which show an ambiguity on this issue as they often say religion is both a group right and an individual right, while the Constitution grants rights to individuals.

Jha says that policies in India are often "emotion-driven" and not deeply thought. "Proper analysis and study of implications should be done and a proper process should be followed," he explains how India can make a minority policy.

How This Report Is A Standout

Mostly we have seen such reports on minorities follow a 'utopian approach' where they consider 'all religions as equal'. This approach creates a basic flaw in their analysis.

But the Global Minority Report has given a substantial amount of space for discussing different religious views and hence goes to the root cause of why minorities are treated in a certain way by certain communities.

This report is unprecedented as no other report has analysed how a state treats its minorities. It is also unprecedented in the sense that it has indexed over 100 countries.

"We shortlisted countries having more than a population of 10 lakh. There were 126-127 countries. Then due to lack of data or lack of minority population in some countries, we came down to 110 countries and indexed them," Jha explains.

"We defined parameters beforehand and then evaluated countries. In choosing countries, there was no consideration about region or the majority religion of the country," he says while highlighting the contrast with other such reports.

Jha says that International Religious Freedom only analyses Asian and African countries so that by targeting the 'absence' of religious freedom in them, conversion agenda can be run, "their reports can't be called scholarly."

Many questions have been raised on CPA's report like why it doesn't consider crimes against minorities or why only laws of the land are considered and not the ground reality.

Jha answers that to consider criminal incidents, one has to create a balance-sheet because there are also instances of crimes by minorities against the majority which would further complicate the indexing.

He also says he is ready to expand the parameters of evaluation as he plans to release this report annually. "As this was our first attempt, we tried to keep it concise," he explains that his target was to keep the report under 200 pages so that people at least read.

"In the second layer, we will consider those variables that are between macro and micro. For example, the religious composition of legislature and judiciary," Jha says about his future plans.

The Challenges And The Way Forward

Jha narrates the resource constraints that he faced while making this report. "We approached many places but nobody was ready to fund," he says.

"We even approached the foreign ministry but were denied because the report could have harmed the relations with other countries if they were criticised," he adds.

Ultimately, CPA was able to come up with a report with the help of domestic funding. They don't plan to apply for any FCRA licence as they believe foreign funding will influence their research.

CPA also faced allegations of favouring India to which Jha answers that his report is completely transparent, anybody can cross-check oneself that which parameters were included and how formulae were made to give scores to countries.

When asked about why more Indian think tanks are unable to come up with their own indices, Jha says that they don't lack technical abilities but they lack the courage to stand out from the crowd.

He shares his observation that Indian think tanks prepare their reports from a borrowed perspective and there is no original research, they merely copy-paste the fundamentals and add upon it.

Jha believes that his report will provide courage to other think tanks. He asks for more domestic funding which will help the Indian think tanks to grow.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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