Background information: –
The Jain community in the Indian capital is raising the pitch for minority status on par with the Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Parsis, listed as notified minority groups under the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999.
Members of the community say they want minority status primarily because they want to incorporate Jainism, the religion of the community, as a subject in Jain schools. The capital and its adjoining areas have eight Jain schools. They are not being able teach Jainism to their children because most of the Jain schools in Delhi are partially funded by the government, which doesn’t allow the teaching of any particular religion at schools unless it is a minority
“The government is ignoring the community. We want minority status as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, which empowers the government to accord minority status to six marginal ethno-religious groups, so that we can teach Jainism to our children in schools run by us. We don’t want reservations in jobs or in education,” Chakresh Jain, head of the Delhi Jain Samaj, told IANS.
The community, comprising mostly businessmen, trace their lineage to Lord Adinath, a seer-king who preached non-violence, tolerance, vegetarianism and the importance of karma and literacy during the Vedic Age (2nd-6th century B.C.). The members of the Jain community in the Indian capital are traditionally jewellers by profession with the highest literacy rate. Till the middle of the last century, the community lived in the old walled city of the capital. According to official estimates, there are 480,000 Jains in Delhi.
The Jain community is known for its social work and service in the sphere of education. According to 2001 Census, the Jain community forms .45 percent of the Indian population. “Delhi is one of the few states where the Jain community has nor been granted minority status,” he said.
According to Jaipur-based Jain scholar Hukam Chand Bharill, “Jainism as a religion is older than Buddhists, Sikhism and Islam”. Bharill has authored 66 books on Jain spirituality and way of life. “Sikhism, the dominant religion of Punjab, is barely 500-years-old whereas you will find mention of the Jain community in the Vedas.
The ancient Indian scriptures acknowledge Rishab Dev, hailed as the first Jain guru,” the scholar told IANS, arguing in favour of minority status for the community in Delhi. The Jain community, who don’t like to be clubbed with Hindus, have their own temples, texts, religious mores, food habits and deities.
New Delhi, June 10 The Sheila Dikshit government on Tuesday accorded minority status to the Jain community in Delhi — a move being seen as timed for the Assembly elections, just five months away.
The decision was taken today at a meeting of the council of ministers headed by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
The Jains, primarily a business and traders’ community, have been demanding the status for the past several years. In Delhi, the community is known to have largely backed the Bharatiya Janata Party till date.
The community has an estimated population of between 4 lakh and 5 lakh in the Capital. They comprise about 0.45 per cent of Delhi’s population. Post-status, the city’s Jains will now be at par with other minority communities — such as Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Parsis — listed as notified minority groups under the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999.
Diskhit said this would help the Jain community to effectively manage their educational institutions as per parameters specified for minority institutions.
“We have been demanding the minority status for the past several years but the government had been ignoring our demands,” Chakresh Jain, head of the Delhi Jain Samaj, told Newsline. “We wanted the minority status as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, which empowers the government to accord minority status to six marginal ethno-religious groups, so that we can teach Jainism to our children in schools and institutions run by us and preserve our cultural identity.”
Congress MLA Rajesh Jain, the community’s sole representative in Delhi Assembly, said, “This is not a political move.” The MLA from Sadar Bazaar, which has a sizeable number of Jains, said it was part of the party’s manifesto in the last elections. With today’s decision, “we have fulfilled one of our promises”.
But Delhi BJP president Harsh Vardhan questioned the timing of the decision — just before the Assembly elections, scheduled for November. “What was the Sheila Dikshit government doing for the past 10 years?” he asked.
* The Jain community, traditionally jewellers in Old Delhi till about a century ago, traces its lineage to Lord Adinath, a seer-king who preached non-violence, tolerance, vegetarianism and the importance of karma and literacy during the Vedic Age (2nd-6th century BC)
* So far, Jains have been accorded minority status in: Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh
* 0.45% of Delhi population (4-5 lakh) is Jain