PUCL Bulletin, April 1995

Shiv Sena: Intolerant of minorities
By R. M. Pal, 18 March, 1995

The first "act" of the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra was to ask "foreign nationals" to leave the country. Of course, the spokesman was the Shiv Sena "supremo", Mr. Bal Thackeray who announced as his own decision, reflecting the fact that he is the extra constitutional authority, a kind of de jure and de facto ruler of Maharashtra. He identified the "foreign nationals" as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis - "these 42000 managed to secure voting rights in the last elections, but this will not do", thundered Mr. Thackeray. The obvious reference is to the recent Supreme Court judgement restoring the rights of Muslims to vote whose names are arbitrarily removed from the electoral rolls on the ground that they did not have birth certificates (see, "Muslim Voters' Right Restored", PUCL Bulletin, March 95, p.3.)

Such utterances by those in power - in the present instance, the Hindutvavadis, now ruling the state of Maharashtra - - smack of anti-minoritism. It is a cruel paradox that such a fatwa was issued by the fuhrer even though his party and its ally owe their being the power to the considerable support of Muslim voters. The mixing up of anti-minoritism with the question of illegal immigration is deliberate, the consequence of the mindset which is built on intolerance of minorities. The Shiv Sena has graduated from animus against non Maharashtrians to anti-minoritism. The question of illegal immigration must be dealt with in accordance with law of the country, and not as a witch hunt.

In this context, the new rulers of Maharashtra need to be made aware of international laws with regard to minorities - one wonders if they have heard of, for example, UN General Assembly Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, Resolution 47/135-11 December 1992. Article 1 prescribes that states shall protest the usual, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of the identity; and that persons belonging to minorities have the right to establish and maintain their contacts across frontiers with citizens of other States to whom they are related by national or ethnic, religious or linguistic ties. Article 4 offers them adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue; and States "shall take measures where required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law".

Let us hope that December 6, 1992 (which will stand out in Indian history for violation of all standards of temporal law, which was an appeal to violence, to emotions, and gangsterism-the sole objective being destruction of the weak and assertion of the strong) is not repeated in Maharashtra, or in any other part of the strong) is not repeated in Maharashtra, or in any other part of the country. It is only for this reason that we have reminded the political rulers of the provisions of not only our own laws, but also India's international commitments.

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