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India Has Changed, Those in Beef Trade Should Quit: Minority Commission Chief

By: Debayan Roy

Edited By: Aditya Nair


Last Updated: July 10, 2017, 18:37 IST

File photo of Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

File photo of Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

Chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi says attacks on minorities can only be prevented if they, along with the majority, start putting their identity as Indians ahead of the religious one

New Delhi: At a time when India is debating questions around minorities’ rights and their place in society, chairman of National Commission for Minorities, Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, tells News18’s Debayan Roy that in a vast country like India, minorities should be identified at state level, and not nationally. Rizvi, an activist from Uttar Pradesh, has a long association with the BJP. Apart from serving in the BJP Minority Morcha, Rizvi also worked for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha election campaign in Varanasi. The commission was earlier headed either by retired bureaucrats or retired judges. Rizvi’s appointment, therefore, came as a departure from the long-held tradition. He came to limelight last month when he said that those who cheer for Pakistan during cricket matches should go and live there. In this interview, Rizvi says attacks on minorities can only be prevented if they, along with the majority, start putting their identity as Indians ahead of the religious one. Edited excerpts:

How do you define minorities in India? What’s your view on the argument to make minorities state-specific?

See Jains were not a minority before. So, in 2014, by way of a Parliament intervention, they were accorded the status of a minority. Presently, we have Muslims, Sikh, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis as minorities. In 1992, after this Commission was set up, the main task was to protect the Constitutional rights and safeguards of the minority population. Our job is not to create a gap between the majority and the minority, but to act as a bridge. Our job is to see that if there are fears among the minorities against the government, then work needs to be done to allay such fears.

Our main work is to act as a bridge to solve the differences that may arise between the government and the minorities of the country. Coming to whether minorities should be state specific or not, I think they should be, and they should be defined according to their state-wise population. This will help in better coverage of the population.

Do you think Kashmiri Pandits should be given minority status? Or, should the minority status for Muslims in UP be reconsidered?

I believe Kashmiri Pandits should be given the status of a minority. It’s my personal demand. But there are a few obstacles to this. According to Article 370 of the Constitution, the Commission cannot work in J&K. Secondly, the Kashmiri Pandits themselves have conveyed to me that they do not want to be a part of the minority and wish to maintain their current status.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently condemned cow vigilantism and said violence in the name of cows can never be justified. Unfortunately, more incidents of have been reported in recent past. How can we tackle this menace?

This is a law and order problem. Serving cows is a noble deed but killing in the name of cow is certainly not acceptable. The people who are working in the beef industry or cow meat have to understand that there is a change in the country now and they should stay away from such a profession. See, in Ballabgarh too, we have issued a notice and even deputed a member to visit the site. Our report says that a compensation amount has been paid, the injured brother will be given the job of a government driver and majority of the accused have been arrested. However, only one accused is still roaming free and for that we have formed a special investigation team (SIT). So, the government is working towards ensuring there is no breach of law and order after an incident and that justice is done.

But what about the growing fear of persecution within the community? How do we allay such fears?

This growing fear among the minorities is directly related to the kind of appeasement politics being adhered to by the politicians. The similar thing is happening is West Bengal and the root is vote bank politics. Once vote bank politics ends, these issues will also come to an end. Next, one need not be scared of the environment. These are only a few incidents. These few attacks cannot portray an image that the entire community is under threat. Society still has people who respect and care for each other. There should be no fear and everyone should remember that they are Indians first and then of any religion. Once we know this, these attacks will not happen. There is a need to move from appeasement to empowerment politics.

Does the Commission have any ideas to deal with mob lynching cases?

We have decided that we will visit different states and conduct seminars and workshops to create awareness. We will try to make the public aware of the schemes being run by the government for the benefit of minorities. We will also inform that these mobs should not take law into their own hands. This project will start from this year itself.

As we speak, communal tension is brewing in Assam. The minority immigrants now fear that if the cutoff line in the Assam Accord is made 1948, instead of the present 1971, then lakhs of them will face an uncertain future. Do you think there is a need to revisit the Assam Accord?

No, we should not revisit the Assam Accord and leave it as it is. But the ones who have landed in India from Bangladesh in the recent times and are creating law and order problems must be strictly dealt with. However, since this matter is sub-judice now, I should keep away from commenting further.

Regarding the Citizenship (amendment) Bill, why have we excluded minority groups like the persecuted Myanmar-based Rohingya Muslims of Bangladesh, Shias of Pakistan, or the battered Sri Lankan Muslims who fear for their life? What made us exclude them from the ambit for ‘persecuted minorities’ to be considered for Indian citizenship?

Yes, they are certainly being persecuted and it must be looked into. This is a case of minority within minority. We are only creating further groups, whereas there should be unity in entire South Asia. This conflict between minorities with minorities has to come to an end. Further, the suppression of minority rights also needs to end. But in this case of citizenship Bill, these minorities cannot be sidelined and have to be brought into the mainstream definition. Hence, the Bill definition will also have to include them.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad recently said the NCM and Minority Affairs Ministry should be scrapped. Does this contention hold any water?

Not at all. They do not matter. Let them do their work and we will do ours. Such a thing can never happen.

How do you see the triple talaq debate? Are personal laws in need of reform?

Triple Talaq is an abhorrent practice. I completely revolt against this practice. Neither is it Islamic, nor is it in accordance with Shariat. It has no mention anywhere in Islam. The people who support it also know that it is a wrong practice. They only do not want the change may be because the government has brought the case or it is in court, but they are willing to modify Nikahnama, advise Muslims against it ans also socially boycott Muslims who resort to triple talaq. That means they agree that the practice is un-Islamic. The correct form of talaq has a total gap of nine months between the first and the final utterances in front of witnesses. This practice only arose once during the time of Caliph Umar who made an exception and allowed this divorce, and people went on to follow this practice. More importantly, Nikah Halala which was also debated, is nothing but rape and has no place in Islam.

Activist Shabnam Hashmi has returned her National Minority Rights Award to protest against the government’s “failure to act against lynch mob attacks”. Is this ‘Award Waapsi 2.0’?

When major events happen, then such stunts are nothing but fashion. When they come to return the awards, they bring the press with them. Hence, it is nothing but a stunt, and Ms Hashmi, who is availing other benefits like a plush government accommodation, should consider returning that too if she has a lot of problem with the government and its schemes. Just because there is an incident, you cannot portray that the government and the judiciary are not doing anything.