The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindutva outfits have sought amendments to Articles 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution for mainstreaming ‘Hindu religious texts’ and ‘literature’ into the educational system and enhancing the development of ‘Hindu’ culture
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times
On September 21, Hindu outfits grouped together under the banner of the Hindu Charter Team sought Constitutional amendments to Articles 28, 29 and 30 to emphasize the ‘civilisational development of the Hindu culture and tradition’.
The groups made these demands at a national conference, seeking ‘Equal Rights for Hindus’ while asking for non-interference of the State in the maintenance of the majority community’s temples and other religious institutions.
At the day-long conference inaugurated by VHP’s National Working President Alok Kumar, participants also pointed out the enormous influence of foreign literature in the nation’s educational system with attempts being made to keep the syllabus insulated from expansive reserves of Hindu literature.
While the VHP and other affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) through the politicisation of religion have laid claim to all that is ‘Hindu’, critics and scholars have always made a distinction between the Hindu faith –as practised in multiple facets and a myriad ways throughout India –and Hindutva, which is the militarised brand of these outfits’ theocratic ideology. It begs the question therefore which and what Hinduism is sought to be ‘imparted’ by the VHP?
Articles 28, 29 and 30: What do they say?
Article 28 of the Indian Constitution was placed under a separate heading of ‘Right to Freedom of Religion’.It provides freedom from any religious instructions in educational institutions which are maintained wholly out of State funds. This article is not applicable to an educational institution if it is administered by the State, but was established under any endowment or trust requiring certain religious instruction to be imparted in that institution. This article also protects a person from taking part in any religious instruction or attending any religious worship which may be conducted in an institution recognized by State or receiving aid from State funds unless his guardian has consented.
Articles 29 to 30were placed under the heading ‘Cultural and Educational Rights’. Article 29 deals with the right of any groups of citizens with a distinct language, script and culture to be able to conserve the same. It also emphasized that no citizen could be denied admission to any educational institution based on their religion, race, caste or sex.
Article 30, which is also called a Charter of Education Rights, promises to all religious and linguistic minorities the ‘right to establish’ and the ‘right to administer’ educational institutions of their choice. The spirit of Article 30 is that it intends to ensure that minorities are not discriminated against or denied equal treatment.
Criticisms by the Hindu(tva) Charter
This rally by the Hindu Charter Team began in 2018, when they came out in support of Bill No. 226 by Dr. Satya Pal Singh, M.P., on September 22 over a 100 Hindus from all over India met to call for a Just and Equitable move and Equal Rights for Hindus.
The Hindu(tva) Charter Team says that the Indian State has been dis-incentivising the majority population of the country which follow Hinduism and other local religious and spiritual traditions. They claim that Articles 25 to 30 are being read, interpreted and enforced selectively by the Government and the Judiciary.
They rue that –
(i) Only Hindus don’t have the right to administer their educational institutions without undue interference from the State;
(ii) Only Hindus don’t have the right to manage their own places of worship;
(iii) Only Hindus are being denied scholarships and other benefits being made available exclusively to non-Hindus; and
(iv) Only Hindu religious and cultural practices and festivals are being targeted and adversely interfered with both by the Indian State and the Courts.
They cite the Ramakrishna Mission case and the Lingayat issue as examples of State inflicted malaise on the Hindu Society where sections of Hindu society such as these sought to be categorized as Non-Hindu or Minorities to escape the constitutional, legal and policy driven disabilities thrust on Hindus.
They say, Article 30 actually divides the country on religious lines since institutions run by the Hindus suffer government intervention, while minority educational institutions enjoy complete autonomy. It is evident that Article 30 protects the rights of the few and deprives the majority. The developments in the recent past indicate a possibility of communal imbalance being aggravated as many institutions have started claiming minority status purely for the sake of benefits they can avail.
Fake News Circulated to Rouse Majority’s Anger?
Hindu nationalism and the plummeting cost of mobile phone data services have led to the rise of fake news in India. There have been various Whatsapp and Facebook posts claiming the threat to Hinduism in India.
A social media post claiming that Quran could be taught in madrassahs, but the Bhagwad Gita could not be taught in schools went viral recently.
There is no Article 30 (A) in the Indian Constitution. This news was unearthed by a fact checking outfit and was found to be fake.
Another Whatsapp message claiming to project a bias against Hindus by the Indian Constitution was too found to be fake by another prominent fact checking website.
Consequences of Amendments
Supreme Court advocated has clearly refuted that the provisions mentioned by the Hindu Charter possessed any exclusivity towards a religious or linguistic group in them. Speaking of the TMA Pai judgement, he said that there was nothing religious about the articles 28, 29 and 30.
The demands of the Hindu Charter Team that are professedly secular but conspicuously communal are aimed at denying and eventually wipe out cultural and religious minorities. Directly targeting the Muslim majority, these demands will also prey on other minorities that pose any threat to the Hindu norm.
To defend secularism from this onslaught will require a direct confrontation on the issue of minority rights and unmasking the non-secular claims o the Hindu right. Secularism needs to be given more concrete content so that State action demarcated by the protection of secularism is clearer to us. Only then can we be a truly democratic nation.