Respected Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Mr. P Chidambaram and other Honorable Union Ministers, Honorable Chief Ministers and Colleagues in NIC.
At the outset I wish to thanks the Honb’le Prime Minister for convening the first meeting of the reconstituted NIC. Four days back when I got the Agenda papers, I was little bemused to see the question marks after every item of the agenda circulated. What I tried to understand and speculate was the confusion about the communal harmony, discrimination and civil disturbances in the minds of the government functionaries. Are the officers who had drafted the agenda had done so under duress and are in disagreement of the agenda? I could not reach to any conclusion.
I am also surprised not to find any mention of the discrimination being faced by the SC population at large in the agenda papers. Is that not true that even today there are numerous Mandirs in the country which refuses entry to them in their sanctum. The violence in Mirchpur-Hissar, Kaithal, Bohana-Sonepat, Jhajjar-Dullina, Kherlanji-Maharashtra reminds us about the pressure on them. For months the SC population was forced to live outside the violence affected areas. Their just demand for reservation in Private Sector needs urgent attention of the nation for inclusive development of the population at large.
My colleagues who were part of the previous National Integration Council would recall that in the last meeting I had humbly requested for a two day meeting of the NIC in future because of its large composition. I am delighted with the additions in its strength and strongly think that if that humble request have had been accepted, it would have given ample time for serious discussions on the agenda.
It would be easy to talk goody goody things but would be great injustice if we fails to do analysis of the actions of the political leaders and segregate these actions from the agenda or the discussions being held in the meeting.
There are forces in the country that have a wishful thinking of destroying the pluralistic nature of our nation and fail the constitution when it suits them. These forces unfortunately had been successful in infiltrating in every segment of Indian society and are deadly against the inclusive development and equal opportunities to every segment of our nation.
From time to time attempts are being made to defame and indulge in hate campaigns against minorities in general and Muslim in particular. Question marks are put on their nationalism routinely. I wonder Is there any formula or blood test procedure for proving nationalism? I request the Honorable PM to advise the Ministry of Science & Technology to explore and encourage the Indian scientists to work and research on the same to satisfy neo-nationalists and the forces of hate.
I was amused when the Government had announced and nominated Mr. Udhav Thakrey to NIC and takes this opportunity to personally welcomes him to this august body as a colleague. His nomination to NIC shows the magnanimity of those who took this decision or had recommended to the PM his name because they might have the wisdom to fully believe in the idiom “bell the cat” after his party’s violent and aggressive anti North Indians Campaign in Maharashtra against the poor laborers and migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The only grudge I have is about the non convening of the NIC meeting when the poor migrants were beaten, assaulted and forced to run from Mumbai.
Much water had flown in Narmada (river) in last nine years but the blood stains of the pogrom of Gujarat still reminds the nation about the political patronage to and involvement of the political ‘mohras’ in the genocide of innocents in Gujarat. Blood stains of Martyr Ehsan Jafri, former Member of Rajya Sabha and dozens of his compatriots of Gulbarga Society are still wet and their families including the widow of former Indian law maker, Ehsan Jafri, are anxiously waiting for justice. For more than six years the travesty of Justice was at its blitz because of the indifferent attitude, criminal silence and acts of ignoring the crimes of their protégé in Gujarat by their masters in Delhi.
It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court, a ray of hope for justice emerged for the victims of the genocide when SC’s appointed SIT probed roles and arrested two of the high profile Ministers of Gujarat Government, Ms. Maya Kodyani and Amit Shah for their role in the Gujarat pogrom. I am amused that Ms. Maya Kodyani and Mr. Amit Shah are still members of BJP.
India need a strong and effective Communal violence Bill which can address the protection of religious minorities , SC & ST population to enhance State accountability and check discriminatory exercise of state powers in context of the identity based violence and thus restore equal access to Law to minorities and SC & ST population. The experiences of Nillei Killings of Muslims in Assam in 1983, the Sikh massacre of 1984 and the genocidal pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 are good examples of the failure of the state machinery to protect the numerically weak religious groups from the onslaught of the perpetrators of hate crimes. No doubt people from all communities are affected by the communal violence but studies points that religious minorities suffer greater harm and loss and finds less protection of Law due to institutional bias in the performance of statutory duties. This is a serious lacunae which needs to be addressed by the nation’s law makers.
Today Mr. Lal Krishan Advani ji is present in the NIC meeting. Nation was not only horrified with exposure of Sangh related terror activities and arrests of Sadhvi Pragya Singh and her colleagues Major (Retd.) Ramesh Upadyayay, Col. Srikant Prohit and others in the bomb blasts in several Muslim concentrated cities including Hyderabad, Malegaon and Jaipur but also with the communalisation and politicization of their arrests by Mr. L.K. Advani and his colleagues. If terrorism has no religion, what was the need to organize press conferences, led delegation to the Honb’le President of India, condemn the arrests, lend support to them and jump to early conclusion that these former active members of RSS and members of Sangh parivar at large are being victimised. Is that was not the game of vote bank politics?
It does not end here. The day Mr. Hemant Karkare of Maharashtra SIT died fighting Lashkar e Toiba (LeT) terrorists in Mumbai terror attack, SAAMNA, the mouth piece of Mr. Udhav Thakrey’s party and the alliance partner of BJP wrote an editorial demonising Mr. Hemant Karkare and his colleagues in the SIT for their independent investigation and unearthing of Sangh inspired Pragya Singh and her colleagues terror activities.
People talk about the sanctity of Saffron color in the cultural civilisation of India. Does Sadhvi Pragya have not stained the saffron with blood? No body from Sangh Parivar is ready and forthcoming to respond to the million dollar question. I wonder where is our collective endeavor and commitment to fight militancy and terrorism when we rush to support or demonise because of our religious affiliations.
Right wing majoritarian terrorism is on the rise across the globe. In the recent Norway terror attack, a supposed Muslim group “owned” responsibility through an email, while the Christian Norwegian, inspired by Sangh groups in India had actually committed the heinous crime. It would be unfair to ignore such developments and realities.
The arrests of the innocent Muslims after every terror attacks would create difficulties for the security agencies in the future. An insane mind would only oppose the arrests of the culprits but every citizen has constitutional right to resist and oppose the acts of demonising the entire community or hounding its educated youths for no faults of theirs. Unfortunately we have not learned lessons from the past when innocents were arrested, tortured and forced to sign confessions of their involvement in the bomb blasts in Hyderabad, Ajmer and Malegaon who were later acquitted by the courts. Even in some cases in Mumbai terror attacks the courts had acquitted the arrested youths.
After the acquittal of almost all Muslim youths arrested in the Hyderabad blasts by the AP High Court, justice demands that the government should at least give handsome and suitable compensation to the released youths who had been wrongfully confined in the blast cases. Most of these youths were dreaming to contribute to the progress of the nation and were pursuing higher studies to excel in their lives before their arrests. Who can compensate for the agony and shame, their families had faced because of their wrongful confinement and ruining of their bright academic future. The silver lining of the episode is that almost all released youths have no ill-feeling for the nation but are at sorrow and worried about the their future. Is that not our duty to stand with them and make them feel to be part of India? I would requests the captains of the Indian Industry to demonstrate compassion and mercy to the victims and evolve a process to make them co-workers of their vast business empire to send a message of affection and care to the innocents.
The way the Muslims are targeted and others are ignored would complicate our desire to fight terror. People talks about the presence of Indian terror modules. If it is true that there are Indian modules who have been attracted to terror activities from the Muslim community, it requires an urgent analysis about the reasons behind the same. If the community who had remained indifferent to the developments in Afghanistan and Iraq and had condemned the acts of violence in J&K and refused to get inspired from the terror activities in the state so far, what had made them attracted to such terror acts now? Why there have been no serious actions and discussion on the terror activities on Abhinav Bharat and other Sangh inspired terror outfits. One can claim that Sangh is a nationalist cultural organisation but why every Hindu terrorist arrested so far has root in the Sangh affiliated organisations.
We talk about integration of J&K but refuse to integrate its people in the Indian society. Most recently the activists of ABVP in the state of Madhya Pradesh had violently opposed the admission of the Kashmir’s students in state universities in spite of the fact that these students had got their admission only because of their academic excellence. I have not seen any statement of any nationalist leader in support of these innocent Kashmiri students. These misguided youth have followed the path of hate shown by Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Narnirman Sena in Maharashtra. The only difference was the in Maharashtra the victims were north Indians and in Madhya Pradesh the victims were from Kashmir and Muslims too. During Amarnath Yatra row, one of the Ministers of the BJP in the coalition government of Punjab had organised an economic blockade of J&K state which was lifted only after the intervention of Mr. Advani when it was highlighted and condemned by the civil society and covered by the media. Unfortunately, some people talk about integration only when it suits them politically.
We have different parameters for judging and reacting to the political developments, the moment the identity of Muslims gets involved. It’s easy to condemn Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir for his comment on his hypothetical assumptions of a resolution by the J&K Assembly on Afzal Guru clemency but difficult to condemn the clemency’s proposal for the killers of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the Tamil Nadu Assembly or that of the Khalistan’s propagator by the Punjab Assembly from the same people who had rushed to condemn Omar Abdullah. Is the killing of Rajiv Gandhi was not an assault on the nation? Amusingly the party who had condemned Omar for his wishful thinking is part of the coalition government in Punjab.
Friends, I was horrified to watch a TV debate after debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal. One of the top functionaries of CPI, with whom I have good relations, commented that the Left had lost the elections because of the alliance of the Maoists and the communalist Muslims. The community who had stood like a rock behind Left Front in West Bengal for more than three decades suddenly becomes communal if they votes for a different party because of the failure of the Left alliance to give justice and equitable share in development and empowerment for 35 years. The statement is enough to prove that the malaise to demonise the Muslims is not confined in one single political party. There are forces that are present in every party who consider them as vote banks, unfortunately.
For decades it was propagated that the Muslims are the most pampered community in the country with the sole intention to arouse feeling of hatred and suspicion against them. I must congratulate and express gratitude to you Mr. Prime Minister that in consultation with Madam Sonia Gandhi you took a bold initiative in asking Justice Rajinder Sachar for preparing a report on the Educational, economic and social status of Muslims in the country. The country was aghast to know the actual position of the Muslims after Sachar Committee presented its report. The moment the report was out, the forces who have had falsely propagated the pampering concept of the Muslims were exposed. Incidentally now the leaders of Bhartiya Janta Party had also started quoting the findings of the Sacchar Committee now and I must thank Mr. Nitin Gadkari for writing a letter to the PM on the issue of Waqf lands and Shri Narendra Modi for selectively quoting its findings about the percentage of Muslims in Gujarat state services. The credit goes to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh indeed because lately even those who were deadly opposed to the Sacchar Committee had started realizing futility to ignore the truth compiled by the Sacchar team.
After the Sacchar report the Muslim community had expected a fair inclusive development plan for their empowerment. I Knows that UPA has expressed its strong desire to initiate schemes for the educational empowerment of the Muslim community but what all had been done needs an in-depth analysis. Nothing concrete would emerge unless there is a separate sub plan for Muslims in the ensuing Five Year Plan.
Who can deny that there is an undeclared bias in our system against the Muslims? If that had not been the case the sanctions for the scholarships for the meritorious students would have not been siphoned and diverted to other schemes by various State Governments.
I must congratulate Sangh parivar for successfully brainwashing large segment of Indian middle class to oppose the entry of the Muslim families in their immediate neighborhood and opposing construction of Mosques. Most recently the nation’s capital had witnessed three unfortunate incidents. In the radius of four kilometers of Indian Parliament, the residents of Jorbagh opposed the repair of a mosque in the historical karbala complex and the extension of a Masjid on the Waqf land in Bhogal. In both the cases Sangh dominated RWA’s went to the court and got orders to restrict the repairs in karbala and demolish the mosque in Bhogal with the restriction of 10 faithful to perform namaz on an open ground with no roof over them. In the third case and within the radius of around 12 kms from Indian Parliament, in Rohini, the State Government was forced to cancel the allotment of land for mosque to the Muslims of the area under the pressure of the Sangh dominated RWA of the locality. If this had been the case in Delhi, one can easily imagine the situation in other far
flung areas of the country. On the occasion of Eid 10 days back, the Naurangsar Panchayat in Churu District of Rajasthan had not allowed the small local Muslim population to perform Edi prayers on the unused government land and the strong police force had harassed the population of 300 Muslims throughout the Eid day.
The acquisition of land and forceful eviction of the Schedule Tribe population is another major area of concern which had threatened the harmony and peace across the nation. I take this privilege to congratulate the government for tabling historical Land Acquisition Bill in the just concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament. It must be ensured that the local population evicted from the area must get a share in fruits of profits because of the simple reason that the land belongs to them for centuries.
The continuous decline of the Muslims in Parliament and State Legislatures needs an urgent attention. Sacchar had pointed that there are 80 reserved Parliamentary constituencies where the population of the Muslims is larger than that of the Scheduled Castes. In the delimitation process, constituencies are crafted in such maverick and unconventional way that the Muslims are finding it difficult to reach to the House of Legislatures. If the present version of Women Reservation Bill is passed, it is feared that the strength of the Muslims would come down to single digit within ten years of its implementation. If that happens, that would be the saddest day for the pluralistic character of the nation state. I humbly request all political parties to seriously consider on the dangers of restricting their participation in electoral process in nations’ interest.
There is a fine distinction between the concepts of integration and assimilation. A successful democracy is one which integrates all segments of its society and discourages all those who desire assimilation of its minorities.
Before I conclude I do hope that NIC would frequently meet to discuss the issues of harmony and integration. I thanks all for a patience hearing.
(Navaid Hamid is Secretary, Peoples’ Integration Council & Member, National Integration Council and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: http://twitter.com/navaidhamid)