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India

BJP leader under fire over minorities' rights

Constitution's Article 30 has harmed the cause of equality in India, says general secretary

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BJP leader under fire over minorities' rights

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker enjoys a victory march in New Delhi on May 23, 2019, after the party won India’s general election. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

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A senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Madhya Pradesh has come under fire for saying that minority rights have harmed the cause of equality in India.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of the pro-Hindu BJP, said that Article 30 of the constitution, which gives rights to minorities to run educational institutions, is not justified.

Article 30 has harmed the constitutional right of equality to Indian citizens, he said on Twitter on May 28. He said it is wrong because it does not give other religions that right. “India is a secular country. What is the need of Article 30?” he asked.

Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian bishops' Commission for Tribal Affairs, hit back at Vijayvargiya.

“In a democratic country, special provisions are given to minority groups so that they can come up in their lives and be treated equally, and there is no harm in that,” he told UCA News.

Father Barla, also a lawyer and activist, said that “questioning Article 30 is unfair and uncalled for because it is a special provision given to the weaker section of people so that they can improve their socioeconomic conditions and may not be left behind the majority group.”

He added: “If the minister is talking about equality for all, then why in our country are tribals, Dalits, Muslims and downtrodden people struggling to make ends meet? Why are the federal and state governments not able to give them the privilege of equality even after more than 70 years of Indian independence?

“The fact is that no government wants the minorities to come up in their lives. In fact, many believe this provision of Article 30 should not be given to minorities.”

According to Article 30, all minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The constitution says that it can be based on religion or language. The state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any institution on grounds that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

Critics say Vijayvargiya, who is known for his controversial remarks, has a history of attacking minorities, particularly Muslims.

He was charged by Madhya Pradesh police with threatening government officials during a Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) event in Indore in January.

He also drew criticism in January after saying that laborers who carried out construction work at his house could be Bangladeshis because of their “strange” eating habits.

Another controversial remark was after the state election in 2019 when one of his party’s candidates, Surendra Nath Singh, lost in the assembly election. He said that "it is surprising that a nationalist government which stopped cow slaughter was in power in the state, but a beef eater won against you.”

Religious minorities like Christians and Muslims say that India has been witnessing increased religious polarization since the pro-Hindu BJP came to power in 2014. It projected itself as the champion of Hindus, bolstering Hindu groups to accelerate their action to turn India into a Hindu-only nation.

Muhammad Arif, chairman of the Center for Harmony and Peace, said that Vijayvargiya is known for his controversial remarks and “there is no surprise in that because he is there to push the party agenda among minorities that they are superior and minorities are second-class citizens.”

He added: “Article 30 was introduced after suppression in world history where minorities were treated like slaves. It was added to the Indian constitution so that their rights would be preserved.

“It is very unfortunate that some people even question the constitution. Their party’s agenda is occasionally to threaten weaker sections and put them in a situation where they may live a fearful life.”

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