Minority Rights Within the Ambit of “Nation And Nationalism”

India is among those countries in the world which has a heterogeneous population. There is no kind of homogeneity in Indian Population. India has placed the principle of “Secularism” as a cornerstone of its democracy. But this still has been the major area of debates regarding the meaning and relevance of the word “Secularism”.

The word “Secularism” has mere become a tool of modern political parlance. There exists a tussle for the quest of true and real secularism by various sections of the community who have acquired their roots in India from the era of coinage. The principle of secularism still remains as an undiscovered treasure which India has been searching after its independence. The word “Secularism” has been narrowed down as Hindu-Muslim Debate whereas the other religious minority community such as Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as been regarded as pantheon of Hinduism. The principle object of this paper is to highlight the rights of Minority within the ambit of “Nation and Nationalism”.


“The promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities contribute to the political and social stability of peace and harmony in the state in which they live.”[1]

Almost all countries all the around the world have one or minority groups within their national territories which is characterized by their own language, linguistic, ethnic, cultural or religious identity which differs from the majority population. Harmonious principle of relationship of one minority with the other and between the minorities and majorities is of greatest asset to the diverse and multi- cultural groups of global society. It is one of the foremost and primary functions of the “State” to safeguard the interest of different communities in a particular state. Meeting the aspirations, needs of national, religious, ethnic and linguistic groups and ensuring the fundamental equality of the person belonging acknowledges the rights and dignities of the entire individual of the minority community.

India has opted for the democratic form of government where maximum decision has been made by taking into the consideration of majority opinion; therefore the need of the hour is to provide safeguards to minority and marginalized sections of the community. Most of the States have rightly identified the rights of the minorities and have tackled the problems. H.M Seervai, jurist and Constitutional law expert have expressed that special rights are being provided to the minority community because in the democratic form of country with universal adult suffrage, majorities by virtue of their number, can protect themselves.[2]


The expression “Minority” has been derived from the Latin word “Minor” with suffix ‘ity’ which simply means small in number. In simple terms the word “Minority” means “group held together by ties of common descent, language or religious faith and feeling different in these respects from the inhabitants of a given political entity. Louis Wirth, who conducted studies on the problem faced by the minority have offered a definition and classification to the word “Minority” as “A group of people who because of their physical and cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment and who therefore regards themselves as objects of collective discrimination.

Moreover, the minority status carries with an exclusion from full participation in the life of the society.[3] The question that still is asked in the today’s nationalism is “Who is a minority”? Which community fits right into the definition of minority? Who are the beneficiaries of minority rights? These are the questions which have still remained as an undiscovered treasure still in the 21st century and neither government has been able to answer these questions.


In the International sphere the demand and desire for the special safeguards to protect the cultural and linguistic identity of minorities groups have many time emerged from the principle that owing to war like circumstances beyond their control so as to preserve the ethnic things from getting extinct. The Human Rights for Minorities have explicitly set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants, the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of Child, The Declaration on Rights of Person belonging to National or ethnic, religious or linguistics Minorities and others have widely adhered to International Human Rights Treaties and Declarations. In order to attain the object, two things are regarded as particularly necessary-

  • Firstly is to ensure that Nationals belonging to racial, religious and linguistic minorities shall be placed in every respect on a footing of perfect equality with other nationals of the state.
  • Secondly to ensure for the minority groups and communities all suitable means for the preservation of their racial peculiarities, their tradition and their national characteristics.

These two requirements have a closed inter relationship in order to curb all problems regarding the minority. There would be no equality between a majority and a minority if the latter were deprived of their basic rights and are consequently compelled to renounce that constitutes the very essence of its being minority.


The protection of the rights of minority is a sine qua non in a healthy democracy.  The very basis of the minority protection is that the political non dominant i.e. a group small in number, need to be protected against interference of majority in their cultural and linguistic development. This differential treatment is necessary to preserve the basic characteristics which they posses and which distinguish them from majority of the population. Interest of minorities, their culture and individuality of minority need to be protected without jeopardizing the interest of majority at large.

The idea of giving some special rights to the minorities is not to have a kind of a privileged or pampered Section of the population but to give to the minorities a sense of security and a feeling of confidence. The great leaders of India since time immemorial had preached the doctrine of tolerance and catholicity of outlook. Those noble ideas were enshrined in the Constitution. Special rights for minorities were designed not to create inequality. Their real effect was to bring about equality by ensuring the preservation of the minority institutions and by guaranteeing to the minorities autonomy in the matter of the administration of these institutions. The differential treatment for the minorities by giving them special rights is intended to bring about an equilibrium, so that the ideal of equality may not be reduced to a mere abstract idea but should become a living reality and result in true, genuine equality, an equality not merely in theory but also in fact. The majority in a system of adult franchise hardly needs any protection.

[1] Preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or

Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

[2] Servai. H. M. Constitutional Law of India, Vol. 3, p1734 (1979)

[3] Laponce J. A. The protection of minorities, University of California publication in Political Science Volume 1960 Pg 5

Pranav Kaushal

Pranav Kumar Kaushal, Content Writter, Law Corner, Student B.A., LLB 7th Semester, School of Law, Bahra University, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.

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