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Overview:

With over a thousand languages, hundreds of cultural groups, and tens of religions, India is among the world's most diverse countries. But within this diversity, there are clear majorities. Almost half of the country considers Hindi their mother tongue and Hindus make up over 80% of the population. Having an overwhelming religious majority, frequently creates social tension.  Recognizing that minorities were vulnerable, the writers of India's Constitution strived to provide a broad framework for their protection. This effort was redoubled post-Independence when communal riots, feelings of marginalization among religious minority groups, and concerns over socio-economic development led the government to intensify efforts to protect and promote minorities. The National Commission for Minorities, established in 1978 as the Minorities Commission, is a part of that effort. Now functioning under the newly created Ministry of Minority Affairs, which was established in 2006, the commission is the central body responsible, broadly, for minority welfare.

more
History:

The framers of India's Constitution, written in 1949, recognized the new nation's diverse linguistic, cultural, and religious fabric and addressed the need to protect minority groups by granting such groups specific rights. In addition to the “Common Domain” rights – those afforded to every citizen, the Constitution also provides so-called “Separate Domain” rights or minority rights. Notable provisions under “Separate Domain” include:

 

  • Article 29: grants any section of citizens the right to conserve their language, script, or culture.
  • Article 30: grants religious and linguistic minorities the “right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
  • Article 347: grants the President of India the power to specify a certain language in a state for official purposes if a substantial portion of the population of that state speaks the language and desires to use it.
  • Article 350: grants individuals the right to petition the government in any language used in the state or the Union.
  • The 7th Amendment to the Indian Constitution which inserted Articles 350(A) and 350(B). The former provides for state and local assistance in the establishment of “adequate facilities” for educational instruction in the students’ mother tongue at the primary level. The latter appoints a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to oversee constitutional protections.

 

The presence of these safeguards, however, has done little to ameliorate divisions between the majority and minority groups, primarily between Hindus and Muslims, India's two largest religions. This is most pronounced in northern states like Delhi and Punjab, where violent communal riots during partition created deep hostilities that remain today. With Hindus forming the overwhelming majority, minority groups, especially in states where they felt most vulnerable, needed government protection for their safety and development. To accomplish this goal, states began establishing minority commissions. Uttar Pradesh established its minority commission in 1969, in the wake of several devastating communal riots.  Bihar followed suit in 1971, with Karpuri Thakur establishing a one-member minority commission to “look after the interest of the religious and linguistic minorities and suggest measures for their educational, social, political, and economic well being.” Even the BJP’s manifesto for the 1977 General Election called for the establishment of a national commission “to make suitable institutional arrangements for the protection of the constitutional and civil rights of minorities and other weaker sections of the society.”

 

In 1978, a Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution noted that “despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force, there persists among the minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination.” It further stated that for the sake of national integration as well as secularism, the central government was committed to the “enforcement of the [constitutional] safeguards provided for the minorities.” To achieve this, the resolution recommended that “effective institutional arrangements are urgently required for the enforcement and implementation of all the safeguards provided for the minorities in the Constitution, in the Central and State Laws and in the government policies and administrative schemes...” The same year, the Minorities Commission (MC) was established under the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 1984, MC was moved under purview of the Ministry of Welfare.

 

The establishment of MC, although a positive step, wasn't very effective. It operated under a resolution, without statutory backing and was a part of a ministry rather than an independent body. Recognizing the need for a stronger and more autonomous body, the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was enacted in 1992. This act changed the name of the MC to NCM and provided it with much needed legal backing. The first statutory commission was constituted in 1993 and it declared the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians as minority communities.

 

The commission has not always been popular. It was initially decided to establish the commission through Lok Sabha bills; however, this effort failed multiple times. Former Chief Justice of India and the head of MC from 1981-1988, M.H. Beg, wanted to “do away with Minority Commission and replace it with or merge into a National Integration-cum-Human Rights Commission.” Even the process of according statutory status to the Commission along with conferring powers under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 was met with resistance. The Minister for Welfare in 1988 opined that were no justifications for such demands. One of the creators of the Commission, L.K. Advani, stringently opposed the 1992 NCM Act. He stated that the MC was “aberration from the [1977 BJP] election manifesto.” Even in its present form, the commission faces stiff opposition over its mandate and jurisdiction.

more
What it Does:

Headed by a chairperson, the commission operates from New Delhi. The secretariat includes a secretary, joint secretary, deputy secretary, and under secretaries (Administration and Research), who manage day-to-day tasks. The commission’s research and investigative staff is crucial to the NMC's mission. Though small (no more than ten people), this staff carries out the bulk of the commission’s duties.

 

NCM’s mandate is broad and its fundamental duty is twofold: to evaluate the development of minorities under the Union and state governments as well as monitor the implementation of the constitutional protections, laws, programs, and schemes afforded to minorities. As the central statutory body for minorities, it is also tasked with making recommendations to the central and state governments for minority development and protection. The NCM Act mandates that recommendations to the central government must be presented to the parliament alongside  actions taken or actions proposed to address that recommendation. The Commission inquires and investigates human rights complaints and alleged atrocities. In this role, it is highly visible in the aftermath of communal riots where it receives and investigates complaints. NCM also sanctions minority-related research and studies and makes grants to educational and research institutions. In addition to office-based research, Commission members actively tour the country to investigate complaints and oversee minority-related policy in a particular region.

 

The commission’s recommendations as well as other measures are non-binding. As a result, its mostly an oversight and investigative body without prosecutorial powers. The commission, however, can summon individuals to Civil Court and enforce their attendance or nonattendance; examine such individuals under oath; mandate the discovery and production of documents; request public records; and “issue commissions” for witness and document examination. In early 2012, the commission, upon receipt of a complaint, summoned former Indian Police Service (IPS) officers from the state of Gujarat who were on duty during the 2002 communal riots. The commission also investigated similar attacks that took place in 1998 against Christians in Gujarat.

 

In addition to these official duties, the Commission remains outspoken and proactive on issues concerning minorities. Most recently, the NCM came out in support of Islamic Banking or any alternative financial structure that could help alleviate poverty among Muslims. In the past, the Commission has also supported categorizing Jains as a religious minority distinct from the Hindus. In July 2012, the commission urged the Jammu and Kashmir government to undertake measures to protect religious shrines. Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson of the NCM, called for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to be “done away with.”

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The most recent year that the commission’s budgetary allocation is available is 2009-2010. Taking into account that the commission’s role has not changed drastically since then, it can be surmised that budgetary allocations for 2012-2013 mirror those of 2009-2010. NCM’s total budget for that year was Rs. 505 lakhs ($911,000 USD). Out of that it spent Rs 451 lakhs ($813,000 USD). The greatest expenditure was salaries, which the commission Rs. 323.43 lakhs ($583,000 USD). The commission spent Rs 100.5 lakhs ($181,000 USD) on “other expenses.” It should further be noted that for 2011-2012 as a result of “austerity measures, undertaking less tours, no foreign travel, posts remaining vacant, less number of medical bills, non-materializing of purchase of equipment, non qualification of bidders for Research/studies etc.,” the commission returned Rs. 62.5 lakhs ($113,000 USD) out of its allocated Rs 5.62 crore ($1.01 million USD) budget.

more
Controversies:

Subramanian Swami Offends Muslims and Everybody Else

On July 16, 2011, three days after bombings in Mumbai killed 26 people, Subramanian Swami, President of the Janata Party, authored an op-ed titled “Analysis: How to wipe out Islamic terror.” The article, seen as propagating anti-Islamic sentiment, generated a great deal of controversy and was subsequently labeled as “pure hate mongering,” “offensive and inflammatory,” and “absurd.” The article espoused denial of voting rights for non-Muslims, removal of mosques, forced relocation of Kashmiri Muslims, annexation of Bangladeshi land, actively insinuating India in Pakistan's Balochi and Sindhi insurgencies (as opposed to covertly through RAW) and taking over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

 

The article elicited a strong response from the NCM. On August 2, the commission decided filed a criminal complaint against Swami for “spreading enmity between communities.” By month's end, the Delhi Police Crime Branch had booked Swami under “Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion … and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), Section 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).”

 

The commission also requested the Election Commission of India (ECI) to deregister Janata. The letter, written by Habibullah, stated:

 

“…the National Commission for Minorities is of the view that the said article amounts to the commission of a criminal offence… The article of Subramanian Swamy above mentioned clearly shows that he and his Party does not abide by secularism as set out in the judgments of the Supreme Court… the Janata Party has lost the right to continue to enjoy registration under the Act and must be deregistered by the Election Commission of India.”

 

Citing his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, Swami, in a letter to the Secretary of the ECI, stated “I stand by my views stated in the article published in DNA newsdaily” and that “I deplore having to waste my time to reply to every ignorant and foolish call for my prosecution and/or explanation for such views.” He further alleged corruption and incompetence at ECI.

 

In January 2012, Swami was again questioned by the Delhi Police Crime Branch. Never one to shrink from controversy, he stated that the criminal charges were politically motivated, stemming from appointments made by the Congress Party, the BJP’s arch nemesis. (Swami's Janata party, of which he is the only member, is a partner of the BJP.) He also suggested that the case was punishment for his dogged pursuit of the 2G spectrum case. The case is ongoing.

 

Minority Commission to File Case against Swamy for Spreading 'Enmity' (The Indian Express)

Case Filed Against Swamy on NCM Complaint (The Hindu)

Deregister Janata Party of Subramanian Swamy: NCM Writes To ECI (TwoCircles.net)

Subramanian Swamy Booked on Charges of Spreading Enmity among Communities (The Times of India)

Harvard Instructor May Face Removal Over Anti-Muslim Op-Ed (by Ujala Sehgal, Atlantic Wire)

Comment: Dr Swamy, the Prophet Taught Us to Kill Evil with Good (by Firdous Syed, Daily News & Analysis)

Anti-Muslim article: Delhi Police quiz Subramanian Swamy (The Indian Express)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Impanel Search Committee to Select NHRC Members

In 2004, the Indian government formed the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Headed by Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra (thereby called the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission), it was responsible for “identifying criteria for socially and economically backward classes among the religious and linguistic minorities, and to suggest various welfare measures for minorities including Reservation.” In its recommendations, the commission advocated a change in the way chairpersons and members of the NCM are appointed. The current mechanism is ad hoc and depends on the preferences of the government in power. The Mishra Report recommended changing this to emulate a system followed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). NHRC chairpersons and members are selected based on the recommendations of search committee which consists of the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of the People (Lok Sabha), Minister-in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People, Leader of the Opposition in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), and the Deputy Chairman of the Council of States. Additionally, the NHRC has strict selection criteria for its chairperson as well as members. The chairperson must have been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It further requires one member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court, one member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court, and two members who have “knowledge of or practical experience in matters relating to human rights.” The reason for this change is to ensure that a knowledgeable body of individuals is in charge of the Commission.

 

Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (Union Ministry of Minority Affairs)

more
Debate:

Should India Allow Islamic Banking?

Introducing the Islamic Banking (IB) system is contentious. Based on Shariah (the comprehensive Islamic law, which addresses political, social, and economic facets of individuals and society), IB bans the collection or payment of interest. Interest, according to Islam, widens the gap between the rich and the poor. The system “operates on the theory that the return on investment is a compensation for the risk taken by the investor by providing a fund for commercial activity. As per this, the money can be lent on a profit-sharing or a fee-based model.” Proponents contend that IB's benefits outweigh its costs and the system can benefit a traditionally poor community. Critics complain about IB's religious orientation and the regulatory challenges posed by its enforcement.

 

Allow Islamic Banking

Proponents argue that India’s large (and disproportionately poor) Muslim population would benefit greatly from IB's introduction. Supporters point out “growing demands from various sections of the Indian society, especially the economists and businessmen for the introduction of Islamic banking services in India for the past few years.” Reports indicate that India needs upward of half a trillion U.S. dollars for infrastructure construction and other economic development programs. Supporters say that capital could come from oil-rich Gulf countries. Additionally, by embracing a key tenet of Shariah, India can engender goodwill with Muslim countries.

 

While the IB has gone on for years, the NCM only recently stated its position. In mid 2012, Habibullah met with senior Ministry of Finance officials to push for IB. In an interview Habibullah observed:

 

“The conventional form of banking is not stable as is evident from the collapse of the banking systems across the world,” Habibullah said. “Implementation of interest-free model will provide that stability. This will also help the country to channelize more funds from the Muslim business community abroad.”

 

Addressing the religious nature of the system and India’s desire to be a secular nation, Habibullah noted “Interest-free banking should not be associated with the religion. It is not in violations of any rules…” Another advocate of the system states that IB is “good development towards opening the doors for much-needed investment in India, and promoting an equitable banking structure that will benefit all, irrespective of the religious beliefs of the customers.” Habibullah has also called for the amendment of various banking regulations to facilitate interest free banking.

 

Joining Habibullah is Union Minister of Law Salman Khurshid who, in June 2012, wrote to the Indian Planning Commission as well as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank, to explore the possibility of utilizing IB. At a news event during the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIFE) in India, Mr. Khurshid stated “Let me say at this point of time that Islamic banking is an interesting idea…It’s an attractive idea.”

 

In light of this advocacy, the Finance Ministry has asked the RBI to re-examine IB.

 

Islamic Banking In India: Will It Open A Pandora's Box? (NDTV Video)

Will India Accept Islamic Banking? (by Mahendra Ved, New Strait Times)

Banking on the Muslims: Interest Payments Rejected under Islamic Law Could Be Used to Help the Poor of India (by Maneesh Pandey, Daily Mail)

Minority Commission Backs Islamic Banking (by Dinesh Unnikrishnan, LiveMint)

RBI Should Look At Islamic Banking Afresh: Khurshid (by K.R. Srivats, The Hindu Business Line)

 

Don't Allow Islamic Banking

For the time being, the RBI and Indian government remain opposed to IB. IB's also faces an image problem. Critics also believe a religious-based financial system is at odds with a secular republic and its introduction further distances Muslims from Hindus. In an NDTV piece titled “Islamic Banking in India: Will it open a Pandora’s box?,” Dr. Subramaniam Swami, IB's most vocal critic, maintained that India needs a secular banking structure and IB's inclusion may cause India's banking system “tremendous chaos” through its potential to germinate similar demands by other religious groups. He also believes that Islamic religious obligations will mean cutting off credit to certain categories of business. Concern also remain that IB may be used as a wedge issue in India's increasing communal politics.

 

In spite of Khurshid's support, he has acknowledged that major roadblocks remain to adopting interest-free banking. “It was difficult to fit in Islamic banking with the existing regulations, as the very concept of debt and equity was very different in Islamic banking,” he told the TK.

 

In response to a Rajya Sabha question, Union Minister of State for Finance TK Meena stated that “that RBI has informed that in the current statutory and regulatory framework, ‘it is not legally feasible for banks in India to undertake Islamic banking activities in India or for branches of Indian banks abroad to undertake Islamic banking outside India.’” The Indian Banking Regulation Act’s (1949) Section 5(b) and 5(c) prohibit a bank’s investment on profit and loss sharing, “the very basis of Islamic banking.” Section 21 explicitly requires the payment of interest. Further, Section 8 states “No banking company shall directly or indirectly deal in buying or selling or bartering of goods…” This prohibits an Islamic bank from generating profit.

 

Islamic Banking Is Not For Muslims Alone (by Faizy Syed, Daily News & Analysis)

'Islamic Banking Not Feasible In India' (The Indian Express)

Islamic Banking in India: What More Needed? (by Imanul Haque, Fayaz Lone, and Ghulam Hassan Thakur, Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking, and Finance)

Islamic Banking Not Legally Feasible For Indian System: Central Govt. (TwoCircles.net)

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Former Directors:

Mohammed Shafi Qureshi (March 2007 - February 2010)

Mohammed Shafi Qureshi served as the chairperson of the 5th NCM from March 2007 to February 2010. Born in 1929, Qureshi holds a B.A. from Sri Amar Singh College, Srinagar and an M.A. and LLB from the Aligarh Muslim University.

 

A Congress Party loyalist, he has been involved in public service for almost five decades. He is the founder and former president of Congress Party in Jammu and Kashmir. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1965 and to the Lok Sabha in 1971.

 

His central government appointments include Union Deputy Minister for Commerce; Union Deputy Minister for Steel and Heavy Engineering; Union Deputy Minister for Railways; and the Union Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation. During different times from 1991 to 1996, he served as the Governor of Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.

Along with Habibullah, the UPA also reportedly considers Qureshi a viable Muslim Vice Presidential.

 

Official Biography

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Founded: 1978
Annual Budget: Rs. 6.36 crore ($1.16 million USD) (2012-2013)
Employees: 85
Official Website:
National Commission for Minorities
  • Latest News
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

With over a thousand languages, hundreds of cultural groups, and tens of religions, India is among the world's most diverse countries. But within this diversity, there are clear majorities. Almost half of the country considers Hindi their mother tongue and Hindus make up over 80% of the population. Having an overwhelming religious majority, frequently creates social tension.  Recognizing that minorities were vulnerable, the writers of India's Constitution strived to provide a broad framework for their protection. This effort was redoubled post-Independence when communal riots, feelings of marginalization among religious minority groups, and concerns over socio-economic development led the government to intensify efforts to protect and promote minorities. The National Commission for Minorities, established in 1978 as the Minorities Commission, is a part of that effort. Now functioning under the newly created Ministry of Minority Affairs, which was established in 2006, the commission is the central body responsible, broadly, for minority welfare.

more
History:

The framers of India's Constitution, written in 1949, recognized the new nation's diverse linguistic, cultural, and religious fabric and addressed the need to protect minority groups by granting such groups specific rights. In addition to the “Common Domain” rights – those afforded to every citizen, the Constitution also provides so-called “Separate Domain” rights or minority rights. Notable provisions under “Separate Domain” include:

 

  • Article 29: grants any section of citizens the right to conserve their language, script, or culture.
  • Article 30: grants religious and linguistic minorities the “right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
  • Article 347: grants the President of India the power to specify a certain language in a state for official purposes if a substantial portion of the population of that state speaks the language and desires to use it.
  • Article 350: grants individuals the right to petition the government in any language used in the state or the Union.
  • The 7th Amendment to the Indian Constitution which inserted Articles 350(A) and 350(B). The former provides for state and local assistance in the establishment of “adequate facilities” for educational instruction in the students’ mother tongue at the primary level. The latter appoints a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to oversee constitutional protections.

 

The presence of these safeguards, however, has done little to ameliorate divisions between the majority and minority groups, primarily between Hindus and Muslims, India's two largest religions. This is most pronounced in northern states like Delhi and Punjab, where violent communal riots during partition created deep hostilities that remain today. With Hindus forming the overwhelming majority, minority groups, especially in states where they felt most vulnerable, needed government protection for their safety and development. To accomplish this goal, states began establishing minority commissions. Uttar Pradesh established its minority commission in 1969, in the wake of several devastating communal riots.  Bihar followed suit in 1971, with Karpuri Thakur establishing a one-member minority commission to “look after the interest of the religious and linguistic minorities and suggest measures for their educational, social, political, and economic well being.” Even the BJP’s manifesto for the 1977 General Election called for the establishment of a national commission “to make suitable institutional arrangements for the protection of the constitutional and civil rights of minorities and other weaker sections of the society.”

 

In 1978, a Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution noted that “despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force, there persists among the minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination.” It further stated that for the sake of national integration as well as secularism, the central government was committed to the “enforcement of the [constitutional] safeguards provided for the minorities.” To achieve this, the resolution recommended that “effective institutional arrangements are urgently required for the enforcement and implementation of all the safeguards provided for the minorities in the Constitution, in the Central and State Laws and in the government policies and administrative schemes...” The same year, the Minorities Commission (MC) was established under the Ministry of Home Affairs. In 1984, MC was moved under purview of the Ministry of Welfare.

 

The establishment of MC, although a positive step, wasn't very effective. It operated under a resolution, without statutory backing and was a part of a ministry rather than an independent body. Recognizing the need for a stronger and more autonomous body, the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was enacted in 1992. This act changed the name of the MC to NCM and provided it with much needed legal backing. The first statutory commission was constituted in 1993 and it declared the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians as minority communities.

 

The commission has not always been popular. It was initially decided to establish the commission through Lok Sabha bills; however, this effort failed multiple times. Former Chief Justice of India and the head of MC from 1981-1988, M.H. Beg, wanted to “do away with Minority Commission and replace it with or merge into a National Integration-cum-Human Rights Commission.” Even the process of according statutory status to the Commission along with conferring powers under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 was met with resistance. The Minister for Welfare in 1988 opined that were no justifications for such demands. One of the creators of the Commission, L.K. Advani, stringently opposed the 1992 NCM Act. He stated that the MC was “aberration from the [1977 BJP] election manifesto.” Even in its present form, the commission faces stiff opposition over its mandate and jurisdiction.

more
What it Does:

Headed by a chairperson, the commission operates from New Delhi. The secretariat includes a secretary, joint secretary, deputy secretary, and under secretaries (Administration and Research), who manage day-to-day tasks. The commission’s research and investigative staff is crucial to the NMC's mission. Though small (no more than ten people), this staff carries out the bulk of the commission’s duties.

 

NCM’s mandate is broad and its fundamental duty is twofold: to evaluate the development of minorities under the Union and state governments as well as monitor the implementation of the constitutional protections, laws, programs, and schemes afforded to minorities. As the central statutory body for minorities, it is also tasked with making recommendations to the central and state governments for minority development and protection. The NCM Act mandates that recommendations to the central government must be presented to the parliament alongside  actions taken or actions proposed to address that recommendation. The Commission inquires and investigates human rights complaints and alleged atrocities. In this role, it is highly visible in the aftermath of communal riots where it receives and investigates complaints. NCM also sanctions minority-related research and studies and makes grants to educational and research institutions. In addition to office-based research, Commission members actively tour the country to investigate complaints and oversee minority-related policy in a particular region.

 

The commission’s recommendations as well as other measures are non-binding. As a result, its mostly an oversight and investigative body without prosecutorial powers. The commission, however, can summon individuals to Civil Court and enforce their attendance or nonattendance; examine such individuals under oath; mandate the discovery and production of documents; request public records; and “issue commissions” for witness and document examination. In early 2012, the commission, upon receipt of a complaint, summoned former Indian Police Service (IPS) officers from the state of Gujarat who were on duty during the 2002 communal riots. The commission also investigated similar attacks that took place in 1998 against Christians in Gujarat.

 

In addition to these official duties, the Commission remains outspoken and proactive on issues concerning minorities. Most recently, the NCM came out in support of Islamic Banking or any alternative financial structure that could help alleviate poverty among Muslims. In the past, the Commission has also supported categorizing Jains as a religious minority distinct from the Hindus. In July 2012, the commission urged the Jammu and Kashmir government to undertake measures to protect religious shrines. Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson of the NCM, called for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to be “done away with.”

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The most recent year that the commission’s budgetary allocation is available is 2009-2010. Taking into account that the commission’s role has not changed drastically since then, it can be surmised that budgetary allocations for 2012-2013 mirror those of 2009-2010. NCM’s total budget for that year was Rs. 505 lakhs ($911,000 USD). Out of that it spent Rs 451 lakhs ($813,000 USD). The greatest expenditure was salaries, which the commission Rs. 323.43 lakhs ($583,000 USD). The commission spent Rs 100.5 lakhs ($181,000 USD) on “other expenses.” It should further be noted that for 2011-2012 as a result of “austerity measures, undertaking less tours, no foreign travel, posts remaining vacant, less number of medical bills, non-materializing of purchase of equipment, non qualification of bidders for Research/studies etc.,” the commission returned Rs. 62.5 lakhs ($113,000 USD) out of its allocated Rs 5.62 crore ($1.01 million USD) budget.

more
Controversies:

Subramanian Swami Offends Muslims and Everybody Else

On July 16, 2011, three days after bombings in Mumbai killed 26 people, Subramanian Swami, President of the Janata Party, authored an op-ed titled “Analysis: How to wipe out Islamic terror.” The article, seen as propagating anti-Islamic sentiment, generated a great deal of controversy and was subsequently labeled as “pure hate mongering,” “offensive and inflammatory,” and “absurd.” The article espoused denial of voting rights for non-Muslims, removal of mosques, forced relocation of Kashmiri Muslims, annexation of Bangladeshi land, actively insinuating India in Pakistan's Balochi and Sindhi insurgencies (as opposed to covertly through RAW) and taking over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

 

The article elicited a strong response from the NCM. On August 2, the commission decided filed a criminal complaint against Swami for “spreading enmity between communities.” By month's end, the Delhi Police Crime Branch had booked Swami under “Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion … and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), Section 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).”

 

The commission also requested the Election Commission of India (ECI) to deregister Janata. The letter, written by Habibullah, stated:

 

“…the National Commission for Minorities is of the view that the said article amounts to the commission of a criminal offence… The article of Subramanian Swamy above mentioned clearly shows that he and his Party does not abide by secularism as set out in the judgments of the Supreme Court… the Janata Party has lost the right to continue to enjoy registration under the Act and must be deregistered by the Election Commission of India.”

 

Citing his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, Swami, in a letter to the Secretary of the ECI, stated “I stand by my views stated in the article published in DNA newsdaily” and that “I deplore having to waste my time to reply to every ignorant and foolish call for my prosecution and/or explanation for such views.” He further alleged corruption and incompetence at ECI.

 

In January 2012, Swami was again questioned by the Delhi Police Crime Branch. Never one to shrink from controversy, he stated that the criminal charges were politically motivated, stemming from appointments made by the Congress Party, the BJP’s arch nemesis. (Swami's Janata party, of which he is the only member, is a partner of the BJP.) He also suggested that the case was punishment for his dogged pursuit of the 2G spectrum case. The case is ongoing.

 

Minority Commission to File Case against Swamy for Spreading 'Enmity' (The Indian Express)

Case Filed Against Swamy on NCM Complaint (The Hindu)

Deregister Janata Party of Subramanian Swamy: NCM Writes To ECI (TwoCircles.net)

Subramanian Swamy Booked on Charges of Spreading Enmity among Communities (The Times of India)

Harvard Instructor May Face Removal Over Anti-Muslim Op-Ed (by Ujala Sehgal, Atlantic Wire)

Comment: Dr Swamy, the Prophet Taught Us to Kill Evil with Good (by Firdous Syed, Daily News & Analysis)

Anti-Muslim article: Delhi Police quiz Subramanian Swamy (The Indian Express)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Impanel Search Committee to Select NHRC Members

In 2004, the Indian government formed the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Headed by Chief Justice Ranganath Mishra (thereby called the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission), it was responsible for “identifying criteria for socially and economically backward classes among the religious and linguistic minorities, and to suggest various welfare measures for minorities including Reservation.” In its recommendations, the commission advocated a change in the way chairpersons and members of the NCM are appointed. The current mechanism is ad hoc and depends on the preferences of the government in power. The Mishra Report recommended changing this to emulate a system followed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). NHRC chairpersons and members are selected based on the recommendations of search committee which consists of the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of the People (Lok Sabha), Minister-in-charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People, Leader of the Opposition in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), and the Deputy Chairman of the Council of States. Additionally, the NHRC has strict selection criteria for its chairperson as well as members. The chairperson must have been a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It further requires one member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court, one member who is or has been the Chief Justice of a High Court, and two members who have “knowledge of or practical experience in matters relating to human rights.” The reason for this change is to ensure that a knowledgeable body of individuals is in charge of the Commission.

 

Report of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (Union Ministry of Minority Affairs)

more
Debate:

Should India Allow Islamic Banking?

Introducing the Islamic Banking (IB) system is contentious. Based on Shariah (the comprehensive Islamic law, which addresses political, social, and economic facets of individuals and society), IB bans the collection or payment of interest. Interest, according to Islam, widens the gap between the rich and the poor. The system “operates on the theory that the return on investment is a compensation for the risk taken by the investor by providing a fund for commercial activity. As per this, the money can be lent on a profit-sharing or a fee-based model.” Proponents contend that IB's benefits outweigh its costs and the system can benefit a traditionally poor community. Critics complain about IB's religious orientation and the regulatory challenges posed by its enforcement.

 

Allow Islamic Banking

Proponents argue that India’s large (and disproportionately poor) Muslim population would benefit greatly from IB's introduction. Supporters point out “growing demands from various sections of the Indian society, especially the economists and businessmen for the introduction of Islamic banking services in India for the past few years.” Reports indicate that India needs upward of half a trillion U.S. dollars for infrastructure construction and other economic development programs. Supporters say that capital could come from oil-rich Gulf countries. Additionally, by embracing a key tenet of Shariah, India can engender goodwill with Muslim countries.

 

While the IB has gone on for years, the NCM only recently stated its position. In mid 2012, Habibullah met with senior Ministry of Finance officials to push for IB. In an interview Habibullah observed:

 

“The conventional form of banking is not stable as is evident from the collapse of the banking systems across the world,” Habibullah said. “Implementation of interest-free model will provide that stability. This will also help the country to channelize more funds from the Muslim business community abroad.”

 

Addressing the religious nature of the system and India’s desire to be a secular nation, Habibullah noted “Interest-free banking should not be associated with the religion. It is not in violations of any rules…” Another advocate of the system states that IB is “good development towards opening the doors for much-needed investment in India, and promoting an equitable banking structure that will benefit all, irrespective of the religious beliefs of the customers.” Habibullah has also called for the amendment of various banking regulations to facilitate interest free banking.

 

Joining Habibullah is Union Minister of Law Salman Khurshid who, in June 2012, wrote to the Indian Planning Commission as well as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank, to explore the possibility of utilizing IB. At a news event during the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIFE) in India, Mr. Khurshid stated “Let me say at this point of time that Islamic banking is an interesting idea…It’s an attractive idea.”

 

In light of this advocacy, the Finance Ministry has asked the RBI to re-examine IB.

 

Islamic Banking In India: Will It Open A Pandora's Box? (NDTV Video)

Will India Accept Islamic Banking? (by Mahendra Ved, New Strait Times)

Banking on the Muslims: Interest Payments Rejected under Islamic Law Could Be Used to Help the Poor of India (by Maneesh Pandey, Daily Mail)

Minority Commission Backs Islamic Banking (by Dinesh Unnikrishnan, LiveMint)

RBI Should Look At Islamic Banking Afresh: Khurshid (by K.R. Srivats, The Hindu Business Line)

 

Don't Allow Islamic Banking

For the time being, the RBI and Indian government remain opposed to IB. IB's also faces an image problem. Critics also believe a religious-based financial system is at odds with a secular republic and its introduction further distances Muslims from Hindus. In an NDTV piece titled “Islamic Banking in India: Will it open a Pandora’s box?,” Dr. Subramaniam Swami, IB's most vocal critic, maintained that India needs a secular banking structure and IB's inclusion may cause India's banking system “tremendous chaos” through its potential to germinate similar demands by other religious groups. He also believes that Islamic religious obligations will mean cutting off credit to certain categories of business. Concern also remain that IB may be used as a wedge issue in India's increasing communal politics.

 

In spite of Khurshid's support, he has acknowledged that major roadblocks remain to adopting interest-free banking. “It was difficult to fit in Islamic banking with the existing regulations, as the very concept of debt and equity was very different in Islamic banking,” he told the TK.

 

In response to a Rajya Sabha question, Union Minister of State for Finance TK Meena stated that “that RBI has informed that in the current statutory and regulatory framework, ‘it is not legally feasible for banks in India to undertake Islamic banking activities in India or for branches of Indian banks abroad to undertake Islamic banking outside India.’” The Indian Banking Regulation Act’s (1949) Section 5(b) and 5(c) prohibit a bank’s investment on profit and loss sharing, “the very basis of Islamic banking.” Section 21 explicitly requires the payment of interest. Further, Section 8 states “No banking company shall directly or indirectly deal in buying or selling or bartering of goods…” This prohibits an Islamic bank from generating profit.

 

Islamic Banking Is Not For Muslims Alone (by Faizy Syed, Daily News & Analysis)

'Islamic Banking Not Feasible In India' (The Indian Express)

Islamic Banking in India: What More Needed? (by Imanul Haque, Fayaz Lone, and Ghulam Hassan Thakur, Journal of Islamic Economics, Banking, and Finance)

Islamic Banking Not Legally Feasible For Indian System: Central Govt. (TwoCircles.net)

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Former Directors:

Mohammed Shafi Qureshi (March 2007 - February 2010)

Mohammed Shafi Qureshi served as the chairperson of the 5th NCM from March 2007 to February 2010. Born in 1929, Qureshi holds a B.A. from Sri Amar Singh College, Srinagar and an M.A. and LLB from the Aligarh Muslim University.

 

A Congress Party loyalist, he has been involved in public service for almost five decades. He is the founder and former president of Congress Party in Jammu and Kashmir. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1965 and to the Lok Sabha in 1971.

 

His central government appointments include Union Deputy Minister for Commerce; Union Deputy Minister for Steel and Heavy Engineering; Union Deputy Minister for Railways; and the Union Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation. During different times from 1991 to 1996, he served as the Governor of Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.

Along with Habibullah, the UPA also reportedly considers Qureshi a viable Muslim Vice Presidential.

 

Official Biography

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Founded: 1978
Annual Budget: Rs. 6.36 crore ($1.16 million USD) (2012-2013)
Employees: 85
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