Dr. L.M. Singhvi - A Tribute

Posted: 17.10.2007
Updated on: 02.12.2010

Dear Editors HN4U,

With the passing away of Dr.L.M. Singhvi India has lost a stalwart constitutional expert and an unflinching supporter of the secular tradition in the Indian Constitution.

I shall always cherish his support to the Jain religious minority right under the Indian Constitution commenting on the Supreme Court Judgment in my case.

In Dr.Singhvi’s letter dated June 3, 2006 to Shri A.R. Antulay, the Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Govt. of India there is a detailed discussion of the issue of the recognition of Jain religion as a religious minority in consonance with the secular faith of the Indian Constitution. Particularly he has stressed how the Jain Sramana and the Vedic traditions “differed substantially and sharply, even though both the traditions flourished among the same people living together in Bharat” and that the “Jains did not accept the authority and the orthodoxy of the absolute adherents of Vedas” just as the Jains also did not “accept the concept of Creator God and Created Universe.”

Dr.Singhvi also has referred to the Supreme Court decision in the case (Bal Patil vs.Union of India) which he considers to be “an example of utter superficiality.”

What he has further noted is that the “judgment was also per curiam,” and that “the Court simply said that a mandamus cannot be issued to command a recommendation be implemented. What it said was that it was for the Central and State Government to decide on the question. Earlier, larger Benches had recognized Jains as a distinct and separate. The judgment in Bal Patil case is a judgment of three Judges which goes against the judgment of 11 Judges and many previous judgments of larger Benches on the basis of which Jains must be recognized as a religious minority, distinct and separate from the Hindus. Indeed, inclusive references to Jain and Sikhs in Article 25 of the Constitution clearly indicates that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists despite being separate and distinct were accepted as minority religion.”

Dr.Singhvi has also referred to the detailed note with documents given to Shri Antulay by his junior colleague, Shri S.K. Jain. In conclusion he notes his “locus” as the Founder President of the World Jain Confederation commanding the support of all sects and denominations of Jains in India and throughout the world, and requests Shri Antulay to notify “Jains as a religious minority and to provide the much needed assurance to reinforce our Rainbow Pluralism and Unity in Diversity implicit in Indian Secularism.”

I am quoting below the letter verbatim because it is a document of lasting significance in its enunciation of "Rainbow Pluralism" under the Indian Constitution:


 


DR L.M Singhvi’s Letter To Shri A.R. Antulay, Union Minority Affairs Minister, On Jain Minority Status

 


June 3, 2006

My dear Janab Antulay Saheb,

/photo.cms?msid=2435665To meet you and to speak to you always brings me the fragrance of our old friendship. The other day I mentioned to you at the Supreme Court that I would like to meet you at an early date to discuss in particular matter of great national importance. While I look forward to the probability of meeting you again either at my house or at yours, I think I would meanwhile write to you about the issue I wanted to discuss with you.

The issue relates to recognition of Jain religion as a religious minority. Personally I subscribe in full measure to the secular faith and creed of Indian Constitution and have often ascribed to our cultural heritage the quality and beauty of Rainbow Pluralism. The foundation of that Rainbow Pluralism was laid in Vedic or Pre-Vedic antiquity was forged in the smithy of rational and tolerant dialogue. It is well known that Sramana and Vedic traditions differed substantially and sharply, even though both traditions flourished among the same people living together in Bharat. The Jaina tradition is the original and older Sramana tradition. Buddhism too belongs to the Sramana tradition. Both the Jains did not accept the authority and orthodoxy of the absolute adherents of Vedas. They also did not acdept the concept of Creator God and Created Universe.

The Vedic orthodoxy adhered to the absolute authority of Vedas. Jains did not. The Vedic adherents claimed that hymns were composed by humans but they are divine and were revealed. The Jains did not accept Vedas as received by divine revelation. The vedic adherents believed in an anthropomorphic Creator God and in the Universe created by such a God. Jains argued that the universe was without a beginning and without an end. They believed in the indestructibility of matter and in the evolution of universe. In that respect they differed radically from the creationist concept of cosmogony and cosmology. They were the earliest exponents of the Evolutionism Theory long before the scinetists in the West came up with evolutionary ideas. since Jains did not accept the absolute authority and the finality of the Vedas and the theory of a Creator God and a Created Universe, they were dubbed in the ancient discourse of india as Ved-Virodhi as well as Nastikas and were often treated as antagonists. The Jain tradition was however, deeply rational, scientific, and ethical. They stood their ground even though they faced a measure of violence and hostile persecution. By and large, however, the disputatious Dialogue was amicable, literary and intellectual. They were the challengers of the domination and the hegemony of Vedic Priestocracy and successfully opposed the inhumanity of the caste structure, the practice of animan sacrifice and denial of scriptural access to women and shudras. It is noteworthy that Mohenjodaro Bulls have generally been identified as symbols of the first Tirthankara i.e. Lord rishabh deb. The symbol of sacred Bull is also identified with Lord Shiva and like rishbh dev lived at Mount Kailash. Hindu Puranas came to accept the first Tirthankar and Lord Buddha as incarnations of Vishnu in the present cycle of time in a bid to assimilate the Jains, but the Jains and Buddhists stood their ground and maintained their own religious identity. There was, however, great mobility and freedom. Chandragupta Maurya became a Jain monk; his son Ashoka became a buddhist and Ashoka’s grandson Emperor Samprati was a dedicated Jain.

According to Jain tradition, the first Tirthankar gave to the world the triple concept of Asi (Sword of Defence), Masi (Ink, Arts and Culture) and Krishi (representing settled agricultural way of life). The first, Tirthankara’s son and successor was Bharat after whom ‘Bharat’ is named. His second son was the great Bahubali who represented the tradition of absolute renunciation and is celebrated in one of the tallest statues at Sravana Belagola in Karnataka. as you know, Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were contemporaries. Lord Mahavira was considerably older in age. Lord Buddha, I believe, was born in a family which subscribed to the teachings of Lord Parsvanath, the Twentythird Tirthankara of the Jain Tradition. Often enough a grievous mistake is made when the 24th and the last Tirthankara, Lord Mahavira is described as the founder of Jain religion. I am giving this background in order to show the hoary antiquity and the separate identity of the Jain religion. I may also add that Prof. Herman Jacobi conclusively established the date of Lord Parsvanath and proved that he lived and died in the 9th century B.C. This has now been universally accepted. The 22nd Tirthankara, Lord Neminath was the first cousin of Lord Krishna and is often cited in many Hindu books as Arishtanemi. In antiquity, the Jain tradition of religion is very old, if not older than the Vedic and Post-Vedic period. Their distinctive identity of Jain religion is demonstrated by the radically different concept of the origin of the universe and in respect of many basic perspectives. There were many violent attacks against Jains who also had mighty empires. Indeed Jain temples were also extensively destroyed. The Vedic tradition revelled in rituals; the Jains rejected the ritual part and insisted that it is for every human being to make himself ‘Paramatma’ and exemplar of the highest virtue. Hindus subscribed to the tradition of Avatara Vada; Jains rejected Avatar Vada, but they subscribed to the doctrine of individual sublimation to the status of Tirthankara.

I have recently seen a news item, which bears a reference to the decision of the Supreme Court (in the case of BalPatil vs. Union of India). It suggests that there would be difficulty if Jains notified as a religious minority in view of that judgment. That report is an example of utter superficiality. My junior colleague, Shri S.K. Jain, Advocate, has already handed over a detailed note with documents to you to show that the recent judgment of the Court was in an altogether different context. That judgment was also per curium. That judgment was in the context of a prayer for mandamus on the basis of a recommendation made by the Minorities Commission that Jains should be declared a minority. The court simply said that a mandamus cannot be issued to command a recommendation be implemented. What it said was that it was for the Central and State Government to decide on the question. Earlier, larger Benches had recognized Jains as distinct separate. The judgment in BalPatil case is a judgment of three judges which goes against the judgment of 11 judges and many previous judgments of larger benches on the basis of which Jains must be recognised as a distinct religious minority, distinct and reparate from the Hindus. Indeed, inclusive reference to Jain and Sikhs in Article 25 of the constitution clearly indicates that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists despite being separate and distinct were accepted as minority religion. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru himself clarified many a times that Jains are an ancient minority. They have been recognized as a minority by notifications in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

I may add as to my locus: I am the Founder President of the World Jain Confederation, which commands the support of all sects and denominations of Jains in India and throughout the world. The purpose of my writing this letter to you is to request you to notify Jains as a religious minority and to provide the much needed assurance to reinforce our Rainbow Pluralism and Unity in Diversity implicit in Indian Secularism.

With my warm personal regards


yours sincerely,
The Hon’ble Shri A.R. Antulay,
Ministry of Minority Affairs,
Govt. of India, New Delhi (L.M. Singhvi)


With best regards,
Yours sincerely,
Bal Patil

Secretary-General, All India Jain Minority Forum, New Delhi,
Ex-Member, Media Expert Committee, Govt. of India,
Ex- Member, Maharashtra State Minority Commission, Govt.of Maharashtra, Mumbai.
Co-Author: JAINISM (Macmillan Co 1974). with Colette Caillat, (Member Institut de France, Paris,) & A.N.Upadhye, (ex-President, All-India Oriental Conference,)
Author: Supreme Court's volte face On Constitutional Amendment (Published by Govt. of Maharashtra, 1980) ,
Author: Jaya Gommatesa. Foreword by C.Caillat (Publisher: Hindi Granth Karyalay, 2006, Mumbai) Dr. Alsdorf's French Les Etudes Jaina, Etat Present et Taches Futures is published by Hindi granth Karyalay, (2005) Mumbai. as The Jaina Studies Present State and Future Tasks, Translated by Bal Patil and edited by Dr.Willem Bollee.

My translation of Dr.L. Alsdorf’s German Beitraege zur Geschichte von Vegetarismus und Rinderverehrung in Indien is presently being edited for publication by Dr. Bollee, Indologist. Participant and speaker in the 7th Jaina Studies Workshop on Jaina Law and Jaina Community, Centre for Jaina Studies, SOAS, University of London, & Dept of Indic Religion, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, University of Lund. Participated and presented a paper on the Evolution of Sramanic Jain Tradition and Its Impact on Indic Civilisation & Religious Fundamentalism in the XIXth World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religion, Tokyo, Japan, 2005.

Patil Estate, 278, Tardeo Road, Mumbai-400007,
Tel:91 22 2386 1068, Fax: 91 22 23893030, Cell: 98692 55533
Website: jaina.in
Email: balpatil@globaljains.com

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