Social Scientist. v 10, no. 107 (April 1982) p. 37.

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one asks the question: 50 per cent of what? In India, the Hindus are a "majority" since they constitute 82.72 per cent of the total population. But they are not a majority in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Nagaland where Muslims, Sikhs and Christians respectively constitute more than 50 per cent of the total population.2 It is also wrong to believe that, if the Hindus are about 83 per cent only, the remaining 17 per cent constitutes non-Hindu minorities. A bulk of the Scheduled Castes, enumerated as Hindus in the Census, certainly do not share the Hindu identity. The so-called Hindu society is characterized by fragmentation, rigid stratification and hierarchy. The vertical and horizontal divisions of the Indian social structure show that the terms "majority" and "minority" are both imprecise. There is no homogeneous oppressor "majority" which exploits other "minorities".

The problems of the minorities like the Parsis or Jains are different from those of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Muslims, an overwhelming majority of whom are deprived and impoverished. In view of their numbers and economic position, thess minorities (the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and Muslims) cannot be treated on a par with other "minorities" like Parsis and Jains who may be described as "middleman" minorities.

This is not to deny the existence or the validity of the minority groups as the Hindu chauvinists do. Nor does it mean that their particularistic nature should be ignored3. What is stressed here is that neither the "majority" community nor the "minority" communities are well-knit and homogeneous Thsy are divided socially, politically and economically. Thz social and economic divisions in these communities are bound to be expressed in different and conflicting political stands. It is, therefore, exceedingly difficult to generalize the so-called incidence of caste and "communal" conflict and violence. It should be explained in terms of local situational and economic factors rather than Hindu-Muslim or high caste-Dalit conflict. A number of studies conducted on caste and communal violence bear this out.

The Weberian Framework

For the Western tradition of social science, the theoretical framework about Indian politics is more Weberian than Marxist. "It boils down to the simple proposition that people pursue their interests in society by forming groups and selecting identifications that maximize their advantage in the competition for scarce jobs and economic resources and for political power."4

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