Why did the Ramakrishna Mission say they are not Hindus?
Compiled by Sanjeev Nayyar August 2002
A couple of months ago I had a very interesting discussion on Karma Yoga with a friend Anil. Somewhere along I spoke of the super Karmas of Swami Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Mission. That’s when Anil asked me a question. ‘Do you know that the Mission had declared themselves to be non-Hindus and asked for Minority status’? I was shocked! How could the followers of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa say they were not Hindus! There is no effect without a cause! Why did they say so?
I kept on posing this question to a number of friends but none could help with an answer. I had put the issue on the backburner when in the midst of discussions on the legal status of Jammu and Kashmir Arvind told me of constitutional provisions that grant special rights to minorities in managing educational institutions. I remember having read an article in the Times of India on how the West Bengal government was trying to exercise control over the Mission schools. Therefore I guessed that these provisions must favor minorities to the extent that forced the Ramakrishna Mission to apply for Minority Status.
What are these provisions?Article 30 of the Indian Constitution is the main article on this topic. However, one needs to read and understand articles 25 to 29 for a complete understanding of the subject. The article is a combination of law, history and philosophy. Since the premise for availing benefits under art 30 are key I have discussed them in detail i.e. What is Religion/Secularism/Minority? Referred to five books namely Indian Constitutional Law by Shri M P Jain, Introducing the Constitution of India by Dr Durga Das Basu, Minority Educational Institutions and Law by Shri Mihir Desai, The Constitution of India by Shri P M Bakshi & Secularism Revisited by R.A. Jahagirdar. Legal aspects are borrowed verbatim from these books with my analysis / comments.
I would like to thank Sandhya for sending me the relevant case laws, Madhuji, Arvindji for going through the manuscript and guiding me thereafter, Sucheta for pushing me to compile this piece earlier than planned, Parag and Sasha from Germany for providing information on tax paid by the Germans to the Church and Jayant from London for his insights. This article is dedicated to Veda Vyasa – the Guru of all times, Chanakya for his Arthathasastra, Swami Dayanand Saraswati for awakening India in the 1870’s and starting the Arya Samaj, Sardar Patel – the one who unified India as none other, Sri Aurobindo for helping me understand Bharat and the much respected Dr B R Ambedakar.
While I have tried my best to be as accurate am willing to stand corrected. The article is divided into twelve chapters.
Background to Case - This chapter briefly tells you about the facts of the case involving the Ramakrishna Mission and the State of West Bengal that led to this matter being referred to the Supreme Court. Does there exist a Ramakrishna religion? Are they are a Minority under article 30?
Bare Act - This chapter gives you Articles 19 and 25-30 as they appear in the Constitution. The intent is to enable a simple reading of these provisions.
Historical Background - The object of this chapter is to give you pre-Independence events that forced the makers of the Constitution to provide for minority rights like art 30. The chapter starts with the various Acts passed by the Brits from 1858 to 1947. Next it tells you why/how the Brits encouraged separatist tendencies amongst Muslims, creation of separate electorates that eventually led to the Partition of India & the Minority problem thereafter.
Meaning of Secular - It starts with the Preamble of the Constitution as written in 1950 and amendments of 1976. Next it attempts to define Secularism by referring to Supreme Court judgments and compares with U.SA. Britain, Germany, France, Turkey and Islam. It ends with an analysis on the subject.
What is Religion? - Have quoted Sri Aurobindo on religion. What is the Indian equivalent of religion? Dharma! Have defined the term thereafter. Ended with a Supreme Court judgment on the subject.
Who is a Minority? - The chapter answers four questions namely, who is Minority & a linguistic minority? Issues arising out of denominations and sects? Are Jains, Buddhist and Sikhs minorities for the purposes of article 30 (1)? Have referred to various Court judgments on the subject. Inputs from Germany too.
Establish and Administer - The chapter covers the meaning of ‘ right to establish and administer educational institutions’. Examined the relationship between articles 29 & 30. Then there is the Benefit Debate. Must the majority of students in a minority institution be from the minority community or! Have quoted various Supreme Court judgments that are contrary to each other. It ends with an analysis of the issues involved.
Hindu Schools - have listed down various legal provisions and showed how they are applicable or not applicable to Hindu and minority schools. Next, Do Non-minorities have a fundamental right to establish and administer an educational institutional that is secular in nature?
Legal View - have quoted Shri M P Jain and Dr Durga Das Basu on various aspects of articles 26 to 30, their implications on the nation.
Summary - have summarized chapters one to ten with analysis.
Way Forward - suggestions on where do we go from here.