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Why I, As A Jain, Don’t Want To Be Termed A ‘Minority’

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By Mayank Jain: 

In politics, an organized minority is a political majority.”- Jesse Jackson

This day and age of coalition politics and short lived sentiments of the public at large, makes it pretty challenging for a government to hold on to its position. The UPA is staring at one of the toughest polls ever, and definitely these desperate times called for desperate measures. The party can’t be criticized on this ground as they are doing their best to secure some extra votes in May when the elections happen and it is quite a given that the most populist will survive.

jainsJains are no exception to the vote bank politics which has now become the standard tactic to achieve the throne all over this country, by different means and ways ranging from caste based tickets for elections to reservation for certain communities. The decision that came from the Union Cabinet to grant the Jain community the status of a “national minority” is the latest move in the same direction.

While the community is busy celebrating it and I noticed a certain amount of happiness in my family as well as other friends who share the same surname; I am a little saddened on how we have descended to granting every other religious community the status of a ‘minority’ because that will help ‘protect their interests’. Jains are the sixth one to be included into the group which already had Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis. The status allows them special attention in budget allocation as well as constitutional safeguards.

It wasn’t long before the report came in media that other Hindu groups have started preparing to demand a minority status for themselves too. The problem with granting everyone a minority status is that there won’t be too much space left for a majority to prevail in the country. While securing someone the opportunities he/she requires to be on the equal footing with others is justified, victimizing just about any other community because it ‘desires special attention’ is just another lowly attempt to secure votes and appreciation from the communities.

If we do assume that the communities need attention and provide them minority status, then all the government will try to do before every election is just to provide some reservation to the minorities and then some more until we are left with nothing for the ‘general’ people. A characteristic of every progressive society is raising equality among different demographics and communities and not reservations just on the basis of their surnames. We need equal opportunities and support for people with weak economic backgrounds than weak surnames. And while the issue of reservation is debatable, the implications of converting every community into a minority are clear enough.

Speaking of Jains, there are 3 sub divisions in the religion who have different rituals and different beliefs altogether and they might demand autonomy for themselves tomorrow which might help ‘digambars’, shvetambars’, and ‘pitambars’ become minority communities in themselves and while this might be of zero real benefit to the already prosperous and literate community, it will nevertheless fuel dissatisfaction in many other communities. One’s achievement will fuel other’s ambitions and the parties are only too happy to play the community card to get an extra chance to remain in power to discriminate further.

I would have been happier had the government announced some new universities or abolished a few reservations, kept them open to all on the basis of merit and completely free for the disadvantaged sections. No matter how much pride and happiness this brings to my parents or the members of this community, but a surname can take you only so much far no matter how many seats are reserved for you.

We all must wake up from the illusions and myths about getting recognized or achieving special status for ourselves, because no one wants to live in a country with majority of communities recognized as ‘minorities’, or do you?

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  1. Shashank Jain

    There is wrong impression that minority status is being asked by Jains for some reservation or benefits. It is not SC/ ST/ OBC quota. In fact, being minority will rule Jains out of reservation as religion based reservation cannot be given in India. It is being sought by Jains as this will give them distinct identity to religiously different group like sikhs, parsis, muslims etc.

    This is a very old demand, more than100 years, by Jains and anyone who knows about Jainism will agree that it is entirely different religion.

  2. ashish

    There should be reservation for atheist, agnostics and harrypotter fans too

  3. balayogi

    Very well written.

    Mean politicians will mutilate everything if that can get them to power and in this case a desperate and frustrated attempt to prevent people from seeing the new items introduced by a new chef in the Indian political menu card called economic development, governance, education etc and all these too to be served without the salt and or sugar called corruption, nepotism, favoritism etc

    If these item turn up then those who do not like these items, much less have never cooked them would be rendered jobless as chefs. So they have resorted to another retrograde step. But fortunately majority of the minority Jains won’t waste their time, life etc leaning on these crumbs called reservation and petty benefits thrown at them as most of them known to me [as my students and friends] are sane, simple, silently spiritual, sober and sumptuously well off materially too.

    My only worry is weaning away a population which is used to and fed on the nonsense for more than two generations of populist schemes, peddling doles, providing freebies etc

    When and who is going to suggest to the nation that providing proper basic necessities, giving enough opportunities for excellent education, improved infrastructure, generation of more meaningful employments other than and beyond service sector, recognizing merit etc are a priority over those puerile pet schemes and putrefying parochial isolations which is done in many names and forms for many reasons.

    The moment we isolate any group, for whatever reason or justification, and classify them for some special attention or treatment we resort to or tend to look through [based on our own inbuilt identities and our willingness or unwillingness to relate to such group/s] sometimes with a magnifying glass, sometimes with a micro scope, sometimes with a telescope etc and scrutinize in depth.

    This very process distorts our perception about the group and we come up with multiple dogmas and from then on it is the dogmas that we discuss, debate and deal with and almost forget or push into background the issue or person or thing or group for which or about which such dogmas were established. However let us not forget that the evolutionary process in the genesis of social dogmas has no end. So we will be caught in the vicious circle of dogmas and debates without delivering long term benefits.

    Are we really intelligent? Can we be proud of a country which is pulled into the whirlpool of isolating groups for appeasement purely for vote bank politics?

  4. John A Raju

    point well made. also making the income level ie the economic factor the main criteria for reservation in colleges and jobs should be mulled. Just because a poor guy is born into a higher caste, losing an opportunity to get a higher degree or better job is unfair. In today’s times it is a blessing to be born into the backward classes with all the reservations and benefits which aren’t entirely fair.

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