The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government is facing another challenge in the Supreme Court along with that to the state’s permanent resident law that has triggered a political storm. A public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the minority status of the state’s Muslims is coming up for hearing on Tuesday. Jammu lawyer Ankur Sharma had filed the PIL last year, seeking a Minority Commission for the state’s Hindus, other religious and linguistic minorities. The petition challenges benefits given to the state’s Muslims in view of their minority status and asks for a probe into it. Sharma has sought the commission through legislation besides time-bound identification, notification of religious and linguistic minorities. He has called for appointment of an experts panel under the court’s supervision to identify communities, which qualify as religious and linguistic minorities. The petition pleads for extension of National Commission for Minorities Act to J&K.
The state’s ruling coalition partners — the Peoples Democratic Party and BJP – are not in agreement over the issue. But the state government has ignored this case. Earlier this year, the court had slapped a Rs 15,000 fine on the state and Central governments for not filing their replies. J&K Advocate General Jahangir Ganai said that the Union minority affairs ministry had constituted a committee after the court had asked the Centre and the state government representatives to together take a stand on the issue. He said that a secretary of the ministry heads the committee while J&K chief secretary and a National Minority Commission representative are its members. “The committee has held a meeting and decided to have more discussion on the issue before arriving at a decision,” said Ganai. He said that senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi will represent the state government.
A state government law officer pointed out that the petitioner seeks the change only in J&K even as minorities at the national level are in majority in six states. “In Punjab, Sikhs are the majority, Christians are majority in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram while Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep and J&K,’’ he said. “The largest (Hindu) minority in J&K is part of the larger majority in the country.’’ He asked why change the yardsticks for determining a minority. “Why should then we have a state as a unit in that case? Why not a district or a tehsil? The population is not distributed evenly anywhere.” He added that the J&K High Court had dismissed the PIL.