The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), a quasi-judicial body, wants linguistic minorities to be treated on a par with religious minorities.
So far the commission has lacked jurisdiction to protect educational institutions set up by linguistic minorities, even as Article 30 of the Constitution grants equal right to religious and linguistic minorities to establish educational institutions of their choice.
While Sindhi is a minority across the country, regional languages are in minority outside their own states. For instance, Tamil is a minority in Gujarat, while Gujarati is minority in Tamil Nadu.
Currently, the commission can only entertain religious minorities while deciding on the issues related to their educational institutions and adjudicate on granting ‘minority status’ to institutions to enable them to take host of benefits available in the statute book. The recommendation has been made in the annual report for the year 2010-2011, recently presented in Parliament. “Since Article 30(1) confers fundamental right on religious as well as linguistic minorities, interest of equity and justice require that linguistic minorities may also be brought within the domain of the NCMEI Act by incorporating suitable amendments therein,” the commission said.
The commission is flooded with complaints from owners of linguistic minority educational institutions. In a communication to the union human resources development minister, Justice M S A Siddiqui has expressed is helplessness in addressing the petitions of these institutions. “All such references are being disposed of by the commission by informing the petitioners that linguistic minorities do not fall within the ambit of the provisions of the NCMEI Act,” he said.
Pointing out the lacunae in the definition of ‘minorities’, the commission said that while the Constitution confers rights on both religious and linguistic minorities, the NCMEI Act covers only five religious minority communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.
Earlier, a parliamentary panel had also asked the central government to include linguistic minorities within the ambit of the NCMEI.
Former vice-president of the National Council for the Promotion of Sindhi language Srikant Bhatia told DNA that their community had been seeking protection to their language and educational institutions over a decade now.
“Since Sindhis do not command political strength like religious minorities, their educational institutions are suffering in silence,” he said. His views were echoed by Nandlala Jotwani, commissioner of the Allahabad-based National Linguistic Minority Commission.
Other recommendations of the commission included setting up of proper mechanism at state levels to grant ‘minority status certificate’. It has asked governments to modify the relevant statutes, rules and regulations to bring them in line with Article 30 of the Constitution.
It has also asked the central government to direct the central regulatory bodies such as the University Grants Commission, the All India Council for Technical Education, the Dental Council of India, the Medical Council of India, etc. to draft their rules and regulations in line with the Supreme Court judgments on minority educational institutions.