Essay on Minorities – A Problem in India

As per these treaties, it was decided that the newly formed minority communities should be loyal to their new states and their Governments; and these Governments in turn, would consider these peoples as their new national citizens and not as enemies, and would give them all the needed protection. Dimensions of the Minority Problems

For the past one hundred years, the problems of minorities have been assuming extra-ordinary importance in the day to day politic- of many nations. Many of these problems are still alive. In the Western nations, in Asia and Africa this problem is cropping up every now and then.

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For example, racial conflicts and riots are still taking place in England and America. In Russia, the Armenians and Azerbaizanions have fought bloody wars. The Serbs and Croats in Yugoslavia have fought each other in order to go apart.

Many developing nations in the Third World are also caught by the problems associated with the minorities. In many of these nations, racial tensions, communal riots; ethnic clashes have become almost the daily political news. In Srilanka, conflicts are still going on between the Buddhists and the Tamil ethnic groups. The position of India is also very precarious. The communal riots which have a history of more than 100 years casted India very heavily in 1947, when it was divided into two separate nations purely on communal lines.


1. Assimilation:

Assimilation involves outright elimination of the minority group as a minority. In some cases, a minority group is simply eliminated by being assimilated into the dominant group.

The process of assimilation, may involve cultural assimilation, or both. Cultural assimilation occurs when the minority group gives up its distinctive cultural traits and adopts those of the dominant culture. Racial assimilation takes place when the physical differences between the groups disappear as a result of inbreeding.

Many Latin American societies offer examples of peaceful, long-term assimilation of various racial and ethnic groups. Brazil is a good example of a country following the policy of assimilation. In Brazil, the various racial, ethnic groups within the society, with the exception of some isolated Indian groups, interbreed more or less freely.

There are some places in Brazil in which there is discrimination against Blacks, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Similarly, Portugal attempted a policy of assimilation in the African colonies that it 1 ruled in the mid-seventies. For most ethnic minorities in the United States, assimilation has been both forced and peaceful.

Cultural Pluralism:

The recognition that ethnic groups maintain their own communities and subcultures even while some of their members are assimilated into the larger society, gave support to the concept of cultural pluralism. “A pluralist society is one in which different ethnic and racial groups are able to maintain their own cultures and life-styles even as they gain equality in the institutions of the larger society.”

Pluralism involves a commitment on the part of the dominant group to maintain diversity among minority groups. It also involves a willingness to permit the diversity. Hence, it may encourage cultural variation within the broader confines of national unity.


Switzerland is the most outstanding example of pluralism. In Switzerland four ethnic groups speaking German, French, Italian and Romanche, retain a sense of group identity while living together amicably in the society as a whole, (ii) In Tanzania also Africans, Europeans and middle Eastern peoples participate with relative equality in the public life of their society while retaining distinctive languages and customs. No group dominates the others.

3. Legal Protection of Minorities:

In some societies, significant sections of the dominant group may have hostile attitudes towards the minority groups. But such minorities may enjoy the protection of the government. This is a kind of “official” pluralism in that it involves legal protection of differences and a guarantee of autonomy for minority groups. The government may even take necessary legal measures to protect the interests and rights of the minorities.


(i) The Indian Government has declared in the preamble of the Constitution itself that all its citizens are assured of liberty, equality and justice. Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution protect the religious, educational, linguistic, literary and other interests of the minorities,

(ii) In Britain, the Race Relations Act of 1965 makes it illegal to discriminate against any person on racial grounds in employment or housing, (iii) In America also, the constitution underwent the 13th, 14th and the 15th Amendments in order to empower it to protect the rights of the minorities.

Population Transfer or Relocation:

Population relocation or transfer occurs when the minority group relocates either outside the territory or in a particular part of the territory. In some situations of intense hostility between groups, the problem is “solved” by removing the minority from the scene altogether.

Population relocation can be either forced or voluntary, for example, during 1970s General Idi Amin of Uganda sought to relieve ethnic tensions by ordering all Asians to leave Uganda. He wanted native Ugandans to occupy the business and trade positions vacated by Asians.

Sometimes relocation creates an entirely new nation, as when India was divided into India and Pakistan in order to create separate states for Hindu and Muslim citizens. There are signs that Cyprus is becoming permanently divided into Greek and Turkish territories, and Lebanon into Muslim and Christian Territories. Voluntary and forced population transfers have been taking place in both territories.

Continued Subjugation:

In some cases, the dominant group has every intention of maintaining its privilege over the minority group indefinitely. It may be ready to use force to achieve this objective, and it may even physically segregate the members of the various groups. Historically, continued subjugation has been a very common policy.

Subjugation usually takes the form of racism as we witnessed it in an extreme form in the policy of apartheid. The white minority proposed to keep its power over the Black majority for ever and openly declared this goal.

As a result of the apartheid policy, the Whites controlled the government and owned all farm land, factories and natural resources. Non-Whites, that is, the Blacks and others were concentrated in the lowest-paid, lowest-status jobs and had only limited access to schools, housing, and medical care. Until recently, most attempts by non-Whites to resist this system were violently suppressed by the White government.

Extermination or Genocide:

An extreme form of subjugation is genocide, the murder of a race. This has been attempted and even achieved in several parts of the world. The methods of genocide include systematic slaughter by force of arms and the deliberate spreading of infectious diseases, particularly small pox, to peoples who have no natural immunity to them.


(i) The notorious example is the attempted extermination of Jews by the Nazis during the World War II. More than 6 million Jews were slaughtered by various means;

(ii) Dutch settlers in South Africa entirely exterminated the Hottentots. They almost came to exterminate the San, who in the South African history were actually classified as “vermin”-,

(iii) In the 1890’s and in 1915, the Turks massacred Armenians in thousands,

(iv) The capitalists with vested economic interests in possessing land slaughtered the Indian occupants of the land with the secret support of the Brazilian government. There are many such examples of genocide. The Spanish conquerors exterminated some of the native populations of Central and South America during the 16th and 19th centuries,

(v) The European settlers in North America, aided by the army in many cases exterminated tribes of native Americans,

(vi) Examples of massacres include the slaughter of Protestants in Catholic Countries and of Catholics in Protestant countries during the 16th and 17th centuries;

(vii) A more recent example of attempted genocide occurred in the African state of Burundi in 1972, when the dominant Tutsi tribe massacred nearly one lakh members of the Hutu tribe,

(vii) More recently the Paraguayan Government systematically attempted to destroy the primitive “Ache Indians” [Arens – 1976.]

(ix) Even India is experiencing the pinch of it at the hands of Pakistani infiltrators in Kashmir. Continuous attacks on and the murder of Hindus in Kashmir reveal that Pakistan has the hidden agenda of making Kashmir a totally Muslim inhabited state so that it could grab it one day. As per one estimate as many as 75000 civilians mostly Hindus and army and paramilitary personnel have been killed in Kashmir by the Pakistan terrorists in the past 10 years.

Simpson and Yinger point out that these types of relationships among majority and minority groups are not mutually exclusive. A society can adopt more than one of them at the same time. They can range from official government policies to completely informal, day by day responses of individuals.

The United States at some point in its history made use of every single one of these strategies. Banton (1977) has suggested several typical sequences of racial and ethnic relations. For example, the relations among Europeans and Africans during the colonial and post-colonial period could be described as an initial period of contact, followed by a period of paternalism and domination of the Africans and then, in the post-colonial period, by the integration of two groups.