The decision by the Union Cabinet to accord minority status to Jains has been welcomed as the move would enable poorer members of the community get special financial and educational benefits.
But there are some who are unhappy to separate from the broader Hindu community of which they have been a traditional part so far.
“The move will help many Jains who are below poverty line. They have often to look for help and now they can get this from the central government,” said Dhanpal Solakni, who was in the forefront of a campaign to have Jains counted as a separate community during the census.
Some states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Delhi have already granted minority benefits for Jains, but the decision of the Centre will now extend the schemes for Jains to all states. These include central government loan and equity schemes, fellowship schemes, training for candidates for Union Public Service Commission exams.
“In Maharashtra, Jains have been a minority since 2003-04. The only difference is that the decision makes this mandatory for all states. Jains will also be able to avail the benefits from the central government in addition to those available in the state,” said Munaf Hakim, chairperson, Maharasthra State Minorities Commission.
But there are some who are not celebrating. “I am against this. We are part of the Hindu community. It is in the interest of the Jains to be part of the larger community as most of our customs and rituals are nearly the same,” said Sanjay Vora, a prominent columnist.