chapter  7
18 Pages

Between inequality and identity

The Indian Constituent Assembly Debates and religious difference, 1946–50
ByShabnum Tejani

Shabnum Tejani argues that it remained unclear what recognition of “minority” status was meant to achieve in postcolonial India and what it signified. In failing to recognise the claims of religious minorities for their equality, the Constituent Assembly reified their position as permanently unequal communities in the newly independent state. This failure resulted from a conceptualisation of “religious minorities” as fixed entities, antithetical to integration with the new nation, and a misrecognition of their claims for social and educational improvement. She contrasts this with reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and the so-called “other backward classes”, which were seen as instrumental in integrating beneficiaries into the new nations, creating equality of opportunity in politically and educationally nascent populations.