Amnah Khalid and M Reyaz, BeyondHeadlines
New Delhi: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid is not shying away from his oppositions to some of the specific points in the Sachar Committee report that the government does “not feel was acceptable.”
Khurshid told BeyondHeadlines, “The Sachar Committee report speaks repeatedly of mainstreaming, but I prefer integration and bonding.”
BH had sent a set of questions to the minister via e-mail. Replying to these, the minister said, “There is very little to say and a lot to do.”
He appreciated though that Justice Sachar’s report has “established the deprivation of Muslims” and reiterated that the government is “committed and determined to address it.”
However, he added that “the debate about strategies and efficacy of plans will and must continue” and that this should not be “used as a camouflage for narrow politics by some vested interests.”
Khurshid reiterated his reservations “particularly relating to a separate cadre of Muslim officers” and said, “We believe Muslim officers must occupy the common space and seek best opportunities, they should not just be confined to Muslim subjects.”
Welfare of Muslims, he said, can be done through Muslim-specific programmes (equity with separation) or through improved general programmes that ensure their equal participation and share (equality with integration).
In his response to BH Khurshid wrote, “Justice Sachar speaks repeatedly of mainstreaming but I prefer integration and bonding. The mainstreaming idea is often misused to suggest cultural assimilation with the majority culture at the cost of minority culture.”
Sounding philosophical, the minister added, “Identity politics in a democracy has a legitimate space and also a potential for mischievous exploitation.”
Explaining his concept of “integration” Khurshid went on to say, “Integration means Muslims have a duty as well as right to speak about and contribute to the entire range of issues in a democracy.” Citing examples, he added, “They (Muslims) must speak up on issues of human rights and freedom of expression of all citizens and not of other Muslims alone. People in a ghetto speak only about it whilst a citizen must speak about the entire city.”
He, however, did not absolve the state from its duties. The minister said, “Equally the State must concern itself with ensuring similar living conditions in all areas and encourage citizens of a ghetto to aspire to live in the best parts of the city.”
He agreed with Justice Sachar’s recommendations for Equal Opportunity Commission, but said that he has been “struggling to achieve it, but some people want to restrict it to minorities.”
He understands the ground reality though and says, “Of course, equal opportunity is sometimes practically not possible because of historical conditions. So affirmative action is necessary.”
On Justice Sachar’s recommendations for reservations for SEBCs (socially and educationally backward citizens such as many Muslim groups) Khurshid said, “We are working on this and will follow the models used in TN (Tamil Nadu), AP (Andhra Pradesh), Kerala and Karnataka.”
This is also one of the approaches recommended by the Rangnath Mishra Commission.
Khurshid also clarified that he was only making “contextual mention” of Quran.