The pluralist character of the Indian society is reflected in the multitude of religious communities that inhabit the country. The numerical strengths of some of these communities are more overwhelming than the others.
Such communities have been designated as majority religious communities (example: the Hindus). India being a multi-religious country, it becomes an imperative for the government to protect the rights of the minority religious communities in the country.
The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) was established by the government to facilitate the same, in 1992. It was instituted under the National Commission for Minorities Act of the same year. Six religious communities have been designated as minorities by the union government.
These six communities are – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Jains.
The basic criterion for a community to be designated as a religious minority is the numerical strength of the said community.
A number of problems have surfaced especially in the recent past, with regard to the religious minorities. These problems range from discrimination faced by them to their forced conversions. The instances of such issues have become more prominent in the recent times.
Apart from these burning issues that require the immediate attention of the government, other constraints faced by these communities also include problems of poverty and the consequent feeling of alienation that has developed among them.
They increasingly feel alienated from the society at large, due to the deprivation faced by them as a direct result of discrimination. This has produced an acute impact on the social and economic life of the members of the minority communities.
Deprivation of beneficiary job opportunities and quality education has led to the members of some of these communities to struggle for a minimum standard of living. Abject poverty characterizes the members of some of these communities.
The issue of identity also becomes prominent in this regard. The minority communities have felt disoriented and displaced due to their fear of being engulfed by the overwhelming majority. They feel threatened by the proposition of losing their own identity to the majority religious community.
Moreover, in the recent times, we have witnessed an alarming rise in the hate crimes against the minority communities in India, including the desecration of places of worship. Programs like the Ghar Wapsi Movement, have led to the rise of forced conversions in different parts of the country.
The pluralist and multi-religious character of the Indian society faces a constant challenge against these problems confronting the minorities. These problems not only correspond to the failure of the government in facilitating equality to all communities but are also major human rights violations. They contradict the fundamental statutes of religious freedom and equality, as guaranteed by the constitution.
Thus, the development and well being of these minority religious communities rests on the amendments to existing laws and the better implementation of the same. Immediate attention is required to protect the rights of these communities and to improve their conditions of welfare.