Even as the government prepares to table the Constitution (126th amendment bill), 2019 in the Rajya sabha on Thursday -Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi had pushed for his passage on Wednesday without discussion but the House didn’t agree – strong objections have come from the Anglo Indian Community about the census numbers. The Bill while extending reservation for SC/STs also does away with the provision for nomination of Anglo Indias to the Lok Sabha and some state Assemblies.
In a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi, the All India Anglo-Indian Association objected to law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s claim that there are just 296 members of the community and said that there are “several lakhs of Anglo-Indians” in the country.
Barry O Brien president-in-chief of the All India Anglo-Indian Association says: “We accessed the government data which is from 2011 census. It shows nine Anglo Indians in West Bengal. There are probably more than that in my own family. Also it shows zero in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand yet those Assemblies right now have sitting members from the community. Did the state government then nominate non Anglo-Indians? How can they? Also a petition we started already has 750 signatures of Anglo-Indians. The truth is nobody knows how many Angllo Indians there are in the country. Al we know is it’s not just a few thousand, neither or it in crores. It’s probably somewhere in the Lakhs.”
Barry is brother of Trinamool RS MP Derek O’Brien. Their father Neil O’Brien was briefly a nominated Lok Sabha MP in 1996.
Talking about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Trinamool MP Derek O’brien traced the roots of his Irish grandfather to talk about how it was because of the Constitution of India that the O’briens of India stayed put, while those of Pakistan moved out to Canada, England or Australia. That Constitutional protection may now be on its way out.
The Anglo-Indian community in India traces its origins to an official policy of the British East India Company to encourage marriages of its officers with local women. A Pagoda – about nine shillings or Rs 5 – was paid to every child born of such a marriage.
Provision for nomination of two Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha was made under Article 331 of the Constitution. It says: “Notwithstanding anything in Article 81, the President may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community is not adequately represented in the House of the people, nominate not more than two members of that community to the House of the People.”
Article 333 of Constitution deals with the representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Legislative Assemblies. It says: “Notwithstanding anything in Article 170, the Governor of a State may, if he is of opinion that the Anglo-Indian community needs representation in the Legislative Assembly of the State and is not adequately represented therein, [nominate one member of that community to the Assembly].”
Currently 14 states have one Anglo-Indian member each in their assemblies. They are: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The 126th amendment if passed by both Houses of Parliament and notified by the President, will do away with this as well.
In a letter to Prasad, Barry O’Brien wrote: “The number of Anglo-Indians in India today is far greater than that (296) and we have documentary evidence to prove it. I am privileged to head the All India Anglo-Indian Association, the oldest and largest registered body of Anglo-Indians in India…our association currently has 62 branches across 20 states/UTs in the country…we have as many as 6 branches in chennai alone and each of them has between 300 and 1000 members. Similarly, in branches like Bangalore and Kolkata we have more than 700 members in each of them. We have branches with about 300-400 members in cities like Madurai, Cochin, Tiruchirapalli, Hyderabad-Secunderabad and Vishakhapatnam. In Maharashtra alone, Anglo-Indians belonging to Mumbai, Pune, Nagour, Bhusawal, Devlali, Nashik and Igatpuri are members of our association while in Uttar Pradesh we have four branches namely Lucknow, Agra, Allahabad and Jhansi.”
The letter also claims that the membership is increasing by “leaps and bounds” in Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad. There are also active branches in erstwhile railway colonies like Asansol, Kharagpur and Adra in West Bengal, Khurdah Road in Odisha, Jabalpur and Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh and VIjaywada in Andhra Pradesh.
“It is unfathomable as to WHY this drastic step of amending the constitution has been taken. What appears to have shattered our community today is the suddenness with which this is being done and the fact that not a single Anglo-Indian leader or member of the community has been consulted, nor has a justification been offered before going in for this amendment. Why has the community been kept completely in the dark?,” Barry O’brien, who had briefly joined the BJP some years back, wrote in his letter to Modi.
In 2014 the NDA government nominated George Baker, an actor, and Richard Hay, a teacher from Kerala to the Lok Sabha. In the current 17th Lok Sabha the two seats are still empty.