With the Apex Court likely to hear a petition regarding the minority status of Sikh institutions in Punjab, a debate has commenced in the political circles on whether the minority status of a community should be determined taking into consideration its national population or it should be in accordance with the population in states. Former Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh in a recent interview has urged the Prime Minister to instruct relevant ministries to defend the minority status of the Sikh institutions. He said that while the Sikhs were in a majority in Punjab, it did not mean that the government should change its established view on classifying communities as per their national population. The minority status should be determined nationally and not state wise, he has reiterated. The Captain who is an ally of the BJP has cautioned the Centre that any proposal to deprive Sikh minority Institutions could have wide ranging ramifications that could lead to both social and political unrest. Therefore, the government must not do anything to disturb the current arrangement as it would provide mischievous elements an opportunity to create unnecessary trouble.
Similar sentiments have also been expressed by Tarlochan Singh, former Rajya Sabha MP and media adviser to the late President Zail Singh. He has referred to a petition filed in the Supreme Court wherein minority status has been demanded for DAV institutions on the ground that the Hindus were in a minority in Punjab thereby implying that the Sikh minority institutions should not be there.
As per the current arrangement, at least 50 percent of students in a minority institution should be from that community which should also have an overall administrative control over the Institution. Tarlochan Singh has appealed to Iqbal Singh Lalpura, Chairman, National Minorities Commission and several top Sikh leaders to take up this issue with the Central government. Even in Delhi, minority institutions have enjoyed a very privileged status both at the school and College level. The Khalsa College and the Mata Sundari College of Delhi University as also St. Stephen’s College and Jesus and Mary College, have often been accused by many in the University community of not adhering to the laid down policy and instead following their own norms for admissions as well as for recruitment of teachers. These protests have not altered the attitude of the authorities in these institutions.
However, there is a point in what Captain Amarinder Singh has stated. It is true that the DAV institutions have done exceptional work and contributed in a very big way to our education system. The DAV management is supported by many in the BJP and Sangh Parivar who would also need to be convinced to leave the Sikh minority institutions alone. The Centre should consolidate the efforts of the DAV institutions but not at anyone else’s cost. Punjab is a border state and has gone through a very prolonged troubled period. Nothing should be done so that our neighbours in Pakistan as well as anti-National elements based abroad can get a handle to whip up emotional issues. The matter must be fully examined at the highest level before the Centre takes up a stand in the Apex Court. The objective should be to maintain peace, unity and cohesiveness of society.