Two state governments notify Sikhs as minorities
Sikhs of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka will now enjoy the status of minority as the Government of the respective States have notified Sikhs as minority community.
Minority status would mean for Sikhs to take advantage of the benefits granted under the Prime Minister's new 15-point programme for the welfare of minority groups.
Among other benefits, schemes for pre-matric and post-matric scholarships for students from minority communities would also make them avail Rs 2.5 million worth scholarship to the students of Class X and XII.
When asked about such move of States’ Government, a member of National Commission for Minority, Harcharan Singh Josh said, "The issue had been under deliberation with both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for more than a year." These states considered Sikhs a community in majority till now, he added.
The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 had notified five religious communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians as minority communities. However, the aforesaid Act doesn’t apply to every state and accordingly not all the states are granted minority status.
First, the State Government have to notify the particular group as per the 1992, Minorities Act, followed by the Central Government discretion in the matter, which is entitled to take as per the constitutional law. On its part, the National Commission for Minorities suggest appropriate measures in respect of any minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.
From the very beginning such issues have been the bone of contention between the State and the Central Government, as some states take this measure with the purpose of increasing vote banks. The minority issue again going to be debatable in coming period.
As per the law, the state governments have been given powers to grant minority status to religious groups. Likewise, not all the states have come forward to grant minority status to these religious groups.
Recently, a controversy raged in Punjab when the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared that Sikhs were not a minority in Punjab and accordingly striking down 50 percent reservation quota for Sikh students in SGPC run medical colleges. The Court observed that according to the last census carried out in 2001, the Sikhs constitute almost 60 per cent of Punjab's population while Hindus make up 37 per cent. So, how could Sikhs be declared minority in Punjab.
The state government challenged the High Court decision in Supreme Court.
The Apex Court in February this year came with the ruling and justified the State’s High Court decision. Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan took the State government’s decision as strange to assume that Sikhs were minority in Punjab.
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