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Constitution, Conversations and Community: Kolkata Marks World Minorities Rights Day

Articles 29 & 30; Dr Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan highlights lesser-known articles protecting minority rights

Kolkata: December 18, holds great significance, as it marks the World Minorities Rights Day. The day serves as a reminder to those in power of their pledge to safeguard the rights of religious, racial, linguistic and ethnic minorities residing in their country.

In Kolkata, the day extended beyond Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s tweet and was celebrated across the city.

So, if a section of Jan Bazar had been cordoned off to allow the Congress Party to address the rights of minorities in India, then a little away from their location, Kolkata’s Mayor Firhad Hakim was addressing another group of people at a symposium on the ‘Inclusion of minorities is vital for sustainable democracy’ and little further away in Central Kolkata, All India Milli Council’s Kolkata chapter called for a yet another discussion on the road ahead for the minorities in India.

The panelists comprising Dr Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan, Associate Professor, National University of Juridical Science, Kolkata; Maulana Shafique Qashmish, VP AIMC, West Bengal, Rafay Siddique, convenor AIMC, Kolkata and Amaan Ahmed of AIMC.

The two-hour-long session aimed to raise awareness about December 18 and its significance. “The event is to raise awareness, promote understanding, and actively champion the rights of minority communities in India,” informed Maulana Qashmish.

Adding to that Dr Khan, spoke at length about the significance, evolution and the need for ‘The World Minority Rights Day’. “The whole idea of safeguarding the minority rights stems from the fact that no society can progress, if it is not inclusive,” Dr Khan.

“Our constitution was being drafted around the time the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared,so those drafting it took care of incorporating clauses to safeguard minority rights. It was to create an inclusive India,” he said.

Speaking about the Indian Constitution and its safeguards, he made the audience aware of two lesser-used but vital articles that protect minority rights. “Article 29 of the Constitution states that any section of Indian citizen having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same. Also, no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.”

He elaborated on Article 30 of the Indian Constitution, which grants all minorities, whether based on religion or language, the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. And the second clause of this article states that the State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.” However, he lamented over the fact that Muslims till date have been unable to use these two articles for their best.

“We the people of India, is a right given to the people of India by those drafting the Constitution. No government is going to put your rights on a platter before you. It’s upon the citizens on how they make sure that their rights and provisions are given to them,” said Maulana Qashmish.

Siddiqui mentioned, “Creating awareness about minority rights has become even more important today. Today, minority communities are facing a lot of issues right from the arrest of activists spearheading the CAA-NRC movement, the houses of those speaking against the government being bulldozed, drafting laws that are discriminatory among many other issues.” He added, “Hence, we have reached a point when we need to be aware of our rights and also the legal recourse to get them.”

On being asked what the panelists had to say about Umar Khalid and Khalid Saifi being behind bars even today, Dr Khan said, ‘What has happened is unjust. The prosecution team may struggle to present substantial evidence and in the end, they are likely to be acquitted. Sadly, by the time they are released their prime years will have been spent behind the bar.”

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