CJI Kapadia, secularism and the law of tiny minorities

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  1. Vishwarupa

    Vishwarupa Senior Member Senior Member

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    CJI Kapadia, secularism and the law of tiny minorities | Firstpost

    Sarosh Kapadia, in the course of his I-Day speech at a function organised by Supreme Court Bar Association in Delhi, is believed to have lauded India’s secularism where a person from the minority community can aspire to the top judicial post in the country.

    According to The Times of India, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) said: “I am proud to be an Indian and it is only in India that a person of (the) Parsi community of one lakh population can aspire to be Chief Justice. Such things do not happen in our neighbouring countries. It needs to be appreciated.”

    Another version of his speech has the CJI saying this: “I am proud to be an Indian where one from 1.6 lakh Parsis can aspire to the head of the Supreme Court.”

    CJI Sarosh Kapadia. AFP.
    Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha, contrasts the plight of minorities in Pakistan – where many of his cousins were converted to Islam – with those in India with these words in India Today: “I thought of our life in India, the freedom to go to church, the freedom to practise my faith, the freedom to be myself, the freedom that my country gave its minorities. I’ve never felt prouder of being an Indian.”

    While there is no doubt that the Indian constitution has no discriminating clauses in it, and Indian society in general is more accepting of minorities than some others, it would only be fair to point out some additional issues that emerge from these two statements.

    First, Kapadia is not quite right in saying that minorities have not made it to high office in countries like Pakistan – though he did not mention Pakistan by name. A Hindu, Rana Bhagwandas, was acting Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2007, when the military government was in conflict with the judiciary. Dorab Patel was both Chief Justice of the Sind High Court and later the CJ of the Pakistani Supreme Court.

    So, Kapadia is not quite right in assuming that only in India Parsis or minorities can reach the top. However, one presumes he was trying to make a positive comment on India’s broader secularism. Moreover, the constitution in India is not loaded in favour of any community – as in Pakistan or even in Bangladesh (where Islam gets a special mention), though this has been substantially diluted during Sheikh Hasina’s rule.

    Second, while both Kapadia and O’Brien are right to be proud of India’s secular culture, both probably benefited from the fact that they belonged to minuscule minorities. Most countries tend to be very indulgent with minorities that are too small to threaten the majority. In Kapadia’s case, the Parsis are so small in number that Indians takes special pride in offering them as Exhibit 1 in our claims to secularism.

    Ditto for Derek O’Brien, who comes from another minuscule Anglo-Indian Christian community.

    This is not to debunk their statements or rubbish their feelings of gratitude for being able to be who they are in secular India. Not by a long chalk. In Pakistan, they are not able to treat even a tiny minority like Hindus well.

    But the point is in India, our secularism will really be tested not by the tiny minorities, but the larger, and seeming more assertive ones, like Muslims and newly growing aggressive evangelist groups.

    I have no doubt India will pass the test in due course, despite occasional flare-ups in various parts of the country.

    But some help from minorities would be welcome. Hear O’Brien on this. “India is an inclusive society, but that inclusiveness is as much for the minority to demand as for the minority to demonstrate.”

    In short, secularism is not about the majority being secular, but also the minoritie
     
    ani82v and maomao like this.
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