Friday, January 22, 2010

Veerashaivas Claim to Religious Minority Tag


Vice president of All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha and former minister, S S Patil, stoutly argued that the Veerashaivas are not Hindus. “We never embrace, nor are the followers of, Hinduism. Ours is a separate religion, and hence, we fall under the category of religious minorities,” he advocated, speaking at a press conference organized here on Monday January 18.

“Just like religions like Islam, Jainism and Sikhism, Veereshaivism is a separate religion. Veerashaivas, a religious minority community, needs to be given facilities that are due to them as per the country’s constitution,” he argued.

Claiming that there are about two crore Veerashaivas in the state, he termed it unfortunate that in the last census, the number of Veersahaivas was wrongly arrived at 49 lac. He announced that the Mahasabha will create awareness all over the state and educate the people properly, to ensure that this blunder does not get repeated.

Patil said that the union government has been urged to allot a separate code for the Veerashaivas. Once the code is allotted, the Veerashaivas will be able to get the religious minority tag. At present, a large number of Veerashaivas are getting themselves grouped under different sub-castes of Hinduism during the census, with the aim of bagging certain facilities. Once a separate code is allotted, the problem of mentioning sub-castes gets solved, he noted.

He informed that the centenary celebrations of the Mahasabha and of the ‘Shivayoga Mandira’, set up by its founder, Hangal Kumaraswamy, will be organized for four days from April 8 this year, for which, President, Prime Minister, various religious heads and national level leaders will be invited. He added that he will be undertaking the tour of the state and hold district-wise meetings of Veerashaivas, to give fillip to the preparations for the centenary celebrations, registration of memberships, formation of different committees and to streamline the organizational aspect of the Mahasabha.

He strongly asserted that anyone who sports the ‘Lingam’ on his body and follows the ideals preached by Basavanna, including the dalits, are to be regarded as Veerashaivas and that Veerashaivas never get converted to other religions under any circumstances.

State president of the Mahasabha and retired IPS officer, S S Pavate, general secretary, B S Vageesh Prasad and various other functionaries were present.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Separate Identity of Sikhs Rejected

A Sikh man who sought to log a petition to the Supreme Court in India for a separate Sikh identity has been disappointed as Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider the petition.

Petitioner Joginder Singh Sethi mentions a stipulation to Article 25, of the Indian constitutions that ‘guarantees right to freedom of religion’ and expressed concerns to the perception the constitution generates that Sikh are Hindus.
Sethi is adamant that Sikhs have a separate identity as they have a religion and a language that is not Hinduism. Sikhism if the worlds fifth religion.

He urged implementation of an eight-year-old recommendation of Constitution Review Committee seeking removal of the proviso.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and Deepak Verma explained the proviso to Article 25 to allay the misconception.

When Sethi's counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued for conferment of a distinct identity to Sikhism, giving examples of how Non Resident Sikhs faced harassment when they traveled due to their distinct identity, the Judges were not listening.
Rohargi further raised India’s lack of recognition that the Sikh Anand Kharaj (Sikh Wedding) as a separate entity, yet neighboring Pakistan have enacted Sikh Marriage Act.

The Bench agreed with the counsel that immigration authorities in Middle-East countries were stubborn but counselled the petitioner to move the appropriate authority in government for a solution rather than approaching the court.
As a consequence the petition was removed.

What is ethnicity, culture and identity?

Ethnicity - belonging to a group that shares the same characteristics, such as country of origin, language, religion, ancestry and culture. Ethnicity is a matter of biological and historical fact and is not changed by the culture in which a person grows up.

Culture - describes what people develop to enable them to adapt to their world, such as language, gestures, tools to enable them to survive and prosper, customs and traditions that define values and organise social interactions, religious beliefs and rituals, and dress, art, and music to make symbolic and aesthetic expressions. Culture determines the practices and beliefs that become associated with an ethnic group and provides its distinctive identity.

Identity - classified as an individual's personal identity, social identity or ethnic identity.

Courtesy: The Sikh Times, U.K.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Government committed to minorities welfare: Khurshid

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) The government is committed to the welfare of minorities but “fairness” in implementing schemes is needed to avoid questions being raised, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Monday and assured that a commission to deal with discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender and language will be created soon.

“There is nothing to worry about (for minorities). We are committed. We have programmes for their welfare but let’s implement them with fairness so that no questions are raised,” Khurshid told reporters here.

He was speaking at the 10th editors’ conference on social sector issues.

The minister said the government has “entirely” accepted the recommendations, barring one, of the Rajinder Sachar Committee, which was appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to study the social and economic status of minorities in India.

The Sachar Committee report suggested mechanisms to ensure equity and equality of opportunity in jobs and education to Muslims, who form the largest minority in India.

Of India’s 1.2 billion population, Muslims constitute 14 percent followed by Christians at 2.3 percent, Sikhs at 1.9 percent, Buddhists at 0.8 percent, Jains at 0.4 percent and others including Parsis at 0.6 percent.

Salman Khurshid said an equal opportunities commission will be formed soon to deal with discrimination faced by minorities in areas like employment, education and housing.

“The report on the equal opportunities commission is close to draft legislation. It will take the social justice discourse to a new higher level,” he said.

The minister said that the commission won’t be specific to minority communities only.

“It will work among identified groups who have suffered deprivation. It will ensure that equal opportunities are given to all,” he said.

He said the government has identified 90 districts in the country where Muslims comprise 25 percent and has earmarked Rs.3,700 crore for the development of these districts in the current Five Year Plan (2007-12).

Khurshid said the government was in the process of finalizing a bill to ensure that the Wakf boards - trusts which look after Muslim mosques, shrines and allied properties - function in a streamlined fashion.

The records of Waqf boards will also be computerised “to ensure proper survey and cross checking of Waqf data in all states and improve office efficiency and preparation of timely reports on various administrative matters”, he said.

The scheme will streamline record keeping and introduce transparency in Waqf properties.

The scheme will be uniformly applicable across all the 29 state Waqf boards except for Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

Minorities in Pakistan

By Mansoor Raza

The religious minority demographic of Pakistan’s population is 3.7 per cent (an estimated six million). There are approximately 30,000 Sikhs, 20,000 Buddhists, 1,822 Parsis, and 600,000 Ahmadis (an exact estimate is difficult to obtain because of their reluctance to register as non-Muslims in the census). Other religious groups are Bhais, Kalasha, Kihals and Jains.

Hindus and Christians are the two biggest minorities. They comprise 83 per cent of the non-Muslim population in Pakistan. Ninety-three per cent (2.4 million) of all Hindus live in Sindh and 81 per cent (2 million) of Christians live in the Punjab. Those accused of blasphemy over the years primarily hail from the following divisions of the Punjab: Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot and Sargodha.

Urbanisation is providing opportunities to minorities for upward social mobility, which in turn is perpetuating awareness about individual rights and their assertion in the public spheres. For the feudal mindset, this empowerment has become a challenge and the blasphemy law is providing a way for landowners – as well as those dependent on the landowners’ good favour – to keep minority subjects in fear, and thus under control. Increasingly radicalised mullahs in rural areas are helping landowners maintain their stranglehold over minority workers.

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