State Fails to Promulgate Minorities Act: J-K only state that doesn’t have minority panel
Sumit Hakhoo (Tribune India)
Jammu: Even after 21 years, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is ignoring a suggestion of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), seeking extension and amendment to the NCM Act, 1992.
Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country that doesn’t have a Minority Commission to safeguard the interests of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, who fall in minority list in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
The state faces a unique problem, as here Muslims are in majority while Hindus and other communities are in minority. So, the amendment is necessary so that benefits of schemes for the minority groups are implemented properly.
As per the procedure, the state has to make a recommendation to the President of India that an amendment may be made to the Act to make it applicable to the state by considering enactment of a law for promulgation of the J&K Minorities Act along the lines of model Act developed by the Commission and circulated to all states.
The last effort for setting up a commission was done by then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, when the Social Welfare Department had set in the process for the same, but it was put under the carpet after Omar Abdullah took over reins of the state.
Sources said despite several reminders by Minority Commission chairman Wajahat Habibullah to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Law Department to take steps to make the Act applicable in the state, the Law Department has remained silent on the issue.
“It has been very slow in its response. J&K has even failed to bring the State Minority Commission Act. But we are still making efforts on our part”, said Wajahat Habibullah, NCM chairman. Habibullah said as the state has separate Constitution, it is mandatory to seek approval of the state Assembly before any Central Act passed by Parliament of India is extended to the state.
Article 1 sub (2) of the National Minorities’ Act of 1992 excludes Jammu and Kashmir from the jurisdiction of the Act. Nevertheless, the Union government did advise the state to have such laws passed by the state legislature and made applicable by appointing the Minority Commission.
However, state law secretary GH Tantary ruled out any early solution. “The Act can’t be extended in J&K but we are studying ways to create a separate body of our own. The process is going on,” Tantary said.
The state government has been contending that complexity in declaring any group a minority arises from the existence of a peculiar, region-wise and community-wise composition in the state, where no community is in minority in all the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Leh.