09/25/2006, 00.00
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Anti conversion Bill in Gujarat, a problem for the Jain minority too

by Bal Patil

The Gujarat state assembly while amending its anti-conversion law classified Jains and Buddhists as part of Hinduism. Such a classification was an unwarranted assault on the distinct religious identity recognised by the Indian Constitution itself, says noted Jain activist Bal Patil* in the following column.

Delhi (AsiaNews) - The amended Freedom of Religion Bill passed by the Gujarat assembly classifying Jains and Buddhists as Hindus is an unwarranted assault on the distinct religious identity recognised by the Constitution itself.

I can do no better than quote what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who assured to a Jain delegation on the so-called ambiguity of Explanation II of Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

On 25th January 1950, a Jain delegation met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other central leaders to draw their attention to the anomalous position of the Jains under sub-clause (b) of Clause 2 of Article 25 and a petition was submitted. Jawaharlal Nehru clearly assured the delegation that the Jains are not Hindus.

Six days later his Principal Private Secretary, Mr. A.V. Pai, replied to the petition in which he said: "It is clear that Buddhists are not Hindus and therefore there need be no apprehension that the Jains are designated as Hindus. There is no doubt that the Jains are a different religious community and this accepted position is in no way affected by the Constitution."

In his Allahabad speech on 3rd September 1949, Nehru said: "No doubt India had a vast majority of Hindus, but they could not forget the fact that there are also minorities Moslems, Christians, Parsis and Jains. If India was understood as a "Hindu Rashtra" it meant that the minorities were not cent per cent citizens of the country." (The Statesman, 5-9-1949)

The National Minorities Commission arrived at their recommendation that the Jain community be declared as a minority religious community. It was in consideration of the following: 1)the relevant constitutional provisions, 20 various judicial pronouncements, 3) the fundamental differences in philosophy and beliefs (theism vs. atheism principally) vis-a-vis Hinduism, and 4) the substantial number of Jain population in the country resolved to recommend to the Government of India that the Jains deserve to be recognised as a distinct religious minority, and that, therefore the Government of India may consider including them in the listing of "Minorities." This recommendation was issued on Oct. 3, 1994.

So far Jains have been declared as a minority in Maharashtra, (which has the largest population of Jains in India) Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttara Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttaranchala. I am pursuing the issue of national minority status for Jains in the Supreme Court of India.

Hindus and Jains are fundamentally different. Lokmanya Tilak said: "In ancient times innumerable animals were butchered in sacrifice. But the credit for the disappearance of this terrible massacre from the Brahmanical religion goes to the share of Jainism." (Bombay Samachar, 10-12-1904).

Thus it would be appropriate to say that the Hindus of the modern India have adopted the Jain culture instead of saying that the Jains assimilated the so-called Hindu culture or customs. There was nothing known as Hindu in Vedic times. It is significant to note that the Jains do not believe in the most characteristic Hindu-Vedic-Brahmanic ritual Shraddha.

Besides, the Jains, Buddhists and the Sikhs have been counted as separate religious denominations right from the first Census in India in 1873 under the Indian Census Act.

In view of the foregoing evidence I would respectfully submit that the proposed Bill of Freedom of Religion as passed by the Gujarat Assembly is clearly a violation of the constitutional religious identity of the Jains and Buddhists and urge that it should be rejected.

*Patil is Secretary-general of the All-India Jain Minority forum, Ex-Jain Member of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission. He pursues the cause of national Jain minority status in the Supreme Court of India for the last ten years.

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