Is National Commission for Minorities mere a blunt political tool?

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National Minority Commission NCM

On a request from Congressman Shehzad Poonawalla, the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) has reportedly served a notice on the district magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar, asking it to explain within seven days the circumstances leading to the murder of a Muslim resident of Bishara village in Dadri. The notice was sent on September 30 even as the Union Home Ministry awaited a report from the state government on the incident. Is the Bishara incident a communal affair? Well, the opinion differs on the issue. But it is pertinent to remember that the NCM has little jurisdiction in a case of murder or culpable homicide.

May it be recalled that the NCM was constituted by the Janata Party government in 1978. Without applying its mind and defining what constituted a minority, the then government set up the Commission to placate a section of the Delhi-based Muslim leadership.

The vagueness, arising from a lack of definition of minority, has become a headache for the Commission which is said to be often flooded with ‘frivolous’ complaints, which are as difficult to verify as to prove them in court of law. And so they are dropped.

Even the Supreme Court, which dealt with the issue of defining minorities, preferred not to get caught in a web of sociological, political, religious, ethnic, and linguistic wrangling and cleverly shifted the onus on the states to decide what constituted a minority in their territory. Happily, the states have confined themselves to the easiest part of the job – that of defining religious minority without, of course, subjecting it to the size of population.

And this is beginning to boil the pot again. The Kerala Brahmana Sabha (KBS), representing the sizable TamBrahm population of the state, has announced its intent to agitate for a minority status for the state’s Brahmana population. Earlier, the Yogakshema Sabha, a forum of Kerala’s famous Namboodri Brahmans, had aired the same demand. If the agitation turns political, as is likely because of KBS talking to the Patel quota leader Hardik Patel to chart out its agitation, the Commission will be flooded with lot of interesting sociological and political work.

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