Testing times in India: TS has not renewed working of Minorities Commission, other such bodies

When the recent Dharam Sansad was in session, and seers or saints from the Hindu right wing ecosystem delivered hate-speeches from its saffron stages, causing an uproar largely by Muslims, the National Commission for Minorities only sought a report from the Uttarakhand government. This is telling of the state of affairs of the country. While no such hate-sansad was organised in Telangana, it is pertinent to note there does not exist in Telangana a State Minorities Commission – a body which ensures that rights of religious minorities are protected.

According to Section 12 of the Telangana State Minorities Act, 1998, the Commission, akin to a civil court, is ‘to evaluate the working of various safeguards provided in the Constitution for the protection of minorities and in laws passed by the Union and State Governments’. It has the power to make recommendations so that safeguards for minorities can be implemented, and to look into complaints in connection with violation of rights of minority communities.

The above powers enable the State Commission to protect the constitutional and human rights which the minorities are entitled to.

While Mohammed Qamaruddin, a retired Engineer-in-Chief, was appointed as Chairman of the seven-member Telangana State Minorities Commission in January 2018, his term, and that of the members, ended three years later. There has been no commission since.

To be fair, the Commission heard several cases and petitions, and dealt with them appropriately, as it should. It could not, however, do much to instill confidence in Muslims during a crucial time – the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in 2020. It only forwarded a representation it received to the State government for ‘necessary action’. It is likely on the representation was forwarded on account of political considerations.

Cut to 2021, a time when calls for genocide of Muslims, and their removal from the country, are made, it becomes crucial, more than ever, to have a State Minorities Commission, to uphold constitutional rights of the minority communities.

While such is the State of affairs of the State Minorities Commission, other bodies which are entrusted with the socio-economic development of the minorities share a similar fate.

For instance, the Telangana State Minorities Finance Corporation continues to remain headless. To make matters worse, one of its key functions – to provide linkages to bankable schemes – has not happened in at least three years. According to officials, no new loan applications have been called for since 2015, and the corporation is yet to clear over a lakh loan applications.

With its term set to expire in February the State government is yet to set wheels in motion for election of the Telangana State Wakf Board, a panel which manages over 38,000 institutions. The Telangana State Haj Committee is without a Chairman, members and a full time Executive Officer.