15:21 GMT +320 September 2019
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    Arabian Sea coast in Mumbai, Maharashtra state, India

    Minority Status: Jews Recognized as 'Religious Minority' in India's State

    © AP Photo / Rajanish Kakade
    Asia & Pacific
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    India's central state of Maharashtra has recognized Jews as a minority community within the state, empowering them to avail welfare benefits at par with other religious minorities such as Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, and Jains.

    According to the official note of the Maharashtra Government, “The decision is based on the Maharashtra State Minority Commission Act 2004.”

    Being recognized as a minority community will empower Jews to improve the status of their educational institutions, better protection for their community spaces and a greater and more official recognition of their many contributions to Indian society.

    Up until now, Jews were not listed as a separate category in India's official demographic divide based on religion. However, with Maharashtra granting them “minority status,” in the next census an actual picture of their presence will be gained. According to an estimate, approximately 2200-2500 Jews reside in Maharashtra and an equal number reside elsewhere in the country. Sources have revealed that the Central Government is also planning to grant “minority status” to Jews, tentatively before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Isreal.

    Rumel Dahiya, West Asia expert at Institute of Defense Studies & Analyses, said, “this is  a good step taken by the state government. We can’t say that this has larger impact on Indo-Israel relations but these small gestures can add strength to the relationship.”

    There are various accounts of how and when the Jews came to India. The community at present is divided into three main groups — the Bene Israel group settled mainly in Mumbai and Pune; the Baghdadis, or Jews from West Asia who came as traders and refugees and settled in Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata and the Cochin Jews residing in the south.


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