Mumbai: Maharashtra has become the first state to accord minority status to Jews. The state cabinet meet , chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, on Tuesday approved the proposal ending a decade long demand by one of the smallest community in India.
"Maharashtra Cabinet approves minority status to Jew community. This decision will benefit students from these communities to avail scholarships from the state government and setting up of educational institutions," Fadnavis said.
The decision is based on the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission Act, 2004, which empowers the government to declare a community minority.
In October 2006, the State government declared Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains as religious minorities.
The move, which was announced by then Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Eknath Khadse, is expected to make life easier for members of the community in the state.
After being officially recognised as a minority community, the Jews would enjoy several privileges like other minority communities.
It would become easier for them to register their marriages. They would also be able to set up their own educational institutes and practice and promote their culture.
Jews have been a part of the Indian society for over 2,300 years now.
According to 2001 Census, the number of Jews living in India was 4,650 with 2,466 of them residing in Maharashtra.
However, Principal Secretary of Minority department, Jayashree Mukherjee said the state government has no official record of the number of people from the community in Maharashtra.
She also said that there will not be an additional burden on the state exchequer with their inclusion in minorities.
"The Jews should have been given (minority status) long back, but somehow they werent given. The government has no official records of the number of people in the community as their population is too less. But, according to them (community members), their population in the state is 2,466," she told PTI.
When asked why the community was given the minority status now, she said, "They asked for it now so we gave it."
"As far as financial aspects are concerned, their inclusion will not have any effect on the state exchequer and the burden will borne from the existing budget itself," Mukherjee said.
The Jews of Manipur and Mizoram identify themselves as Beni Menashe. There are also some in Andhra Pradesh who call themselves Bene Ephraim Jews.
India is one of the few countries in the world where Jews have never faced any harassment or persecution.