Dignity for minorities

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Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has kicked off a lot of schemes for the Muslims. His good work resulted in his promotion to the Cabinet rank. In conversation with Senior Editor, Sharad Gupta at the Parliamentarian Patna Conclave, Naqvi shared his views on minority appeasement...

We shouldn’t look at development through the prism of minorities and majorities. Today the biggest challenges before the country are illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. Since my mandate is minority affairs, I started to tackle these challenges with three Es – Education, Employment and Empowerment. We have already demonstrated during past three years how empowerment can be done without appeasement.

Vote bank is the biggest hurdle in the path of development. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ushered in major reforms in every field – economic, social, education and political. We feel that the foremost requirement today is for electoral reforms by introducing one nation, one election. There should be simultaneous elections for both Assembly and Parliament. This will avoid the current scenario where elections keep taking place in some part of the country or the other. All developmental works in that area are halted due to model code of conduct. All political parties indulge in vote bank politics. Real issues take a back seat. This will help people focus on development and not vote bank politics.

Won’t it create a discrepancy in case of political instability in some state?

Before 1975, all state and parliament elections used to take place simultaneously. In case of exceptions, some arrangement will be made. This will be a big step in electoral reforms. We are also trying to make electoral funding transparent. State funding too is a must.

A major social reform has been brought in by Supreme Court through its order on triple talaq. Now, will your government start working towards having a Common Civil Code too?

Triple talaq was a social evil. I am happy that majority of the Muslim community has welcomed the step.

Isn’t this Muslim appeasement too?

No, how can you say that? We have been making many such reforms. A major economic reform was introduced by the PM through demonetisation. People appreciate this and voted for us wholeheartedly in UP Assembly elections. This makes it amply clear that if you make people-centric policies and your intentions are clear, people are going to vote for you.

When is your government fulfilling its promise of bringing in the Common Civil Code?

The Constitution is very clear on that. The architects of our Constitution like Dr BR Ambedkar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Hasrat Mohani had already pointed out that the country needs Common Civil Code. The Law Commission is already seeking people’s opinion on this. We are of the view that the government will introduce the Code through consensus. It won’t be imposed on the people.

There are other big issues like hate speech and cow vigilantism...

There can be no justification for incidents that create rift in the society. Those indulging in such acts should be dealt with strongly under suitable legal provisions. But we feel concerned when a crime is being given a communal shade. When you label a criminal as cow vigilante, you are helping him out by giving the incident a communal colour.

What about people who support such criminals? We just saw how journalist Gauri Lankesh’s killing was being ‘celebrated’ on the social media?

I would like to make it clear that we can counter any ideology. But I condemn her killing in strongest possible words. It is improper to celebrate somebody’s murder.

The Union Government has banned beef. Still some BJP leaders from Goa and Kerala have favoured beef consumption.

Where it is banned there is a law to deal with it. Sitaron ke age jahan aur bhi hai. (There is universe beyond the stars as well). Let’s move forward and discuss something else.

What are the new schemes started by your government for minorities?

We are trying to preserve the glorious heritage of our handicrafts. We are creating markets for them with the hunar haat. Sadbhavna Mandaps are being constructed in almost all corners of the country. There will be education, skill development and sports activity. Two hundred and eighty-one mandaps have already been constructed.

The drinking water problem of 13,624 hamlets inhabited by poorest of the poor has been resolved. Twenty-seven gurukul-type schools have been set up, as well as 9,500 aanganwadis, 730 girls’ hostels, 1,840 PHCs and so on. Madrasas are being brought into the mainstream. We are working on three Ts – Teacher, Tiffin and Toilet.

I have already requested Dr Pathak to help us construct toilets in madrasas to maintain a basic level of hygiene. There are skeptics too who see it as government interference in madrasas. I tell such people, if they don’t want, we won’t construct toilets for them. We will provide them mid-day meal and if they want, we are ready to make subject-specific teachers too available for them.

We want madarsas to provide quality education to the wards in hygienic conditions so that their students can compete with the best in the country. For the first time since Independence, more than 50 children of minority community have been selected in the Civil Services. We had provided them free IAS coaching, besides boarding and lodging for them.

If some other party had recounted such long list, won’t you have accused them of minority appeasement?

No. Because we are not doling out promises. We are not giving them reservation. We are empowering minorities by providing them education, skills and employment. We want welfare of the minorities not through appeasement but through dignity. We have even changed the name of our ministry building too. It is now called Antyodaya Bhawan. Benefits of development should reach the last person in the society.

Should Rohingyas be deported?

We have a record of sheltering legal refugees. But, illegal immigrants aren’t welcome. Why should we allow illegal immigrants to further complicate issues for us, especially if some of them have dubious credentials, having been involved in terrorist activities. The matter anyway, is in the court. It doesn’t seem we will accommodate them. When their own country is not ready to host them, how can we shelter them?

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