India’s Unity: Democracy and Minorities

India is a country of diversities. Her population is basically made up of descendants of six ethnic groups. It doesn’t matter if all of them are of Indian origin or not. It is also not important whether they came from other parts of the globe. Today, what is important is that all of them are Indians. They all are followers of the Indian Way.

The adherents of the world’s six major religious communities – Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity – dwell in India. People belonging to other religious communities, such as Zoroastrianism [Parasi], Judaism and Bahaism, also live here. Over 1,600 local languages are spoken throughout India. Indian people celebrate 29 major religious festivals. Hence, India can be seen as an exemplary nation of the world. It holds a special status among the countries of the world.

India is also known as a country of unity in diversity. The basis of India’s unity has been its harmonious and composite culture, but today democracy plays a vital role in maintaining and strengthening the unity of the country.

Undoubtedly, democracy is the rule by the people. But the basis of its management is the will of the people in terms of a majority. So there is always a need to pay attention to those in the minority within a democracy and particularly during the implementation of policies in equal public interest. If attention is not paid, the system is liable to be abused, and it is possible that interests of many people to be ignored, particularly those in the minority within society and the nation.

Democracy could become ideal and exemplary in a country like India if minorities were essentially coming within the scope of practical equality as well. It could flourish if minorities became more conscious, on the one hand, and part and parcel of the social, political, and economic life of the nation, on the other.

It is ironic that, after 62 years of independence from colonial rule and despite an increase in literacy rates, India’s minorities, particularly the Muslims, who are approximately 15 percent of the total population of the country, are comparatively backward in almost all walks of life, which is, indeed, a matter of serious concern.

Figures issued by the government and other reliable sources from time to time indicate that, despite a rapid increase in literacy rates among Muslims, Hindus are generally far ahead of them in the field of higher education, as is evident from the total number of university graduates in the country.

Approximately 48 million men and women in India are university graduates. In the Hindu population, 22 percent are university graduates. Contrary to this, among the whole Muslim population only 3.5 percent hold university degrees. Furthermore, Muslims are far behind Hindus in literacy in rural areas, particularly in northern India, where up to more than 85 percent of Muslim women are unable to read or write. Moreover, Muslims are deprived of value education, which is necessary to get more job opportunities for one reason or the other. This disparity is unfortunate.

In such a situation, Muslims are affected in all areas of life – social, political and economic – which is not good for the health of India’s democracy. Therefore, as a first step, the greatest need of the hour is to awaken Muslims. They must receive more education and particularly have more opportunities for value education, which, as said already, paves the way in getting suitable work and making one self-sufficient in the workplace.

It is not only the responsibility of government and Muslim leadership, but also the responsibility of the majority community to come forward to do something concrete in this regard. Particularly, those who are committed to democracy in India, who desire the consolidation of democracy and through it the unity of the country, need to work honestly and sincerely and without prejudice for it.