The problem of minority or minorities came to the forefront after the World War I when a number of new states were carved out of the wreckage of the Central European Empires and quite a few major communities found themselves turned overnight into minorities in these states. The Germans were reduced to a minority in Poland and the Austrians in Czechoslovakia. Lest the peace of the world be disturbed on account of ill treatment of minorities treaties called the Project Guarantee Treaties had been entered into to instill a sense of loyality among the new states under which they were placed and to enjoin upon the governments to own the citizens of the enemy countries as their new nationals and citizens.
In last 100 years the minority problems have occupied a very important place in the politics of countries the world over. Many issues remained unsolved. Even today minority problems in different forms appear very frequently in the west. The position of the developing societies or the Third World is the same. Ethnic and communal riots are chronic part of their politics. The Indian society is also besieged with the minority issues and communal riots have become recurring phenomenon in the country.
When a group of people is divided on any issue or approach or characteristics of the difference usually produces a bigger sub group and a smaller sub-group the smaller sub group is called minority whereas the bigger sub group is called the majority. It is believed that population size is not the only feature of minority status. If a group is discriminated against on the basis of religion, race or culture it can be considered a minority group. The sub commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of minorities set up under the Human Rights Commission which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has defined minority as only those non –dominant groups in a population which possess or wish to preserve stable, ethnic, religious or linguistic traditions or characteristics markedly different from those of the most of the population.
Arnold Rose defines minority without any quantitive connotations as a group of people differentiated from others in the same society by race, nationality, religion or language who think of themselves as differentiated group and are thought of by others as differentiated group with negative connotations. Further they are relatively lacking in power and hence are subjected to certain exclusions, discrimination and other differential treatments.
The wish to preserve distinctive features of one's social and cultural life is an essential feature of minority community. As a consequence there are always groups that are different from other group in terms of language, religion etc. The dominant group tries to assimilate the minority groups. The non-conformist is likely to be persecuted. This attitude of the majority group generates a greater consciousness among the members of the minority community for preserving their separate identity. The wish to have separate identity often gives rise to political demands. The demands are either special treatment, recognition of need for preserving minority identity or in extreme cases for autonomy or secession from the area.
A minority group very often organizes into a coherent group drawing on the shared values, culture, language or religion. For example Muslims in India are a minority group on the basis of their religion in comparison to the majority of Hindus. Besides having an identity on the basis of religion, a group may also identify itself on the ethnic basis. Thus a Muslim may identify not only on the religious basis but also on the ethnic basis. Many minority groups are all ethnic groups for they group around shared values and culture.