Hindus drop religious reform

November 6, 1998

New Delhi. The Indian government has dropped a proposal that would have diluted the constitutional right of religious minorities to run education institutions after its allies joined the opposition protest, calling it an attempt to impose a "Hindu" agenda.

India's coalition government is headed by Hindu fundamentalist party Bharatiya Janata Party, which opposes special privileges for minorities.

The proposal wrecked an education ministers' conference last month as ministers from the opposition-run states walked out protesting at the "saffronisation" of education, an allusion to the "saffron" colour of the BJP flag.

They were joined by government allies the Sikh party, Akali Dal, and the Telugu Desam party, which has a strong base among minorities in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The idea was to rephrase Articles 29 and 30 of the constitution, which give religious minorities the right to set up and manage schools, colleges and universities. It was intended to replace the word "minorities" with "citizens" on the plea that all citizens should have equal rights.

Critics said citizens already have the right to run private education institutions.

A reference to minorities was in the constitution to give them a sense of security in the communally tense climate following partition into Muslim Pakistan and "Hindu-majority" India.

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