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'Narasimha Rao Told Me It's Not Cong's Duty to Reform Muslims': Rajiv Gandhi Minister Quoted by Modi

Arif Mohammad Khan is a staunch supporter of reforms in the Muslim personal laws. (File photo)

Arif Mohammad Khan is a staunch supporter of reforms in the Muslim personal laws. (File photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Tuesday quoted a former Congress leader as having said that it was not the duty of their party to uplift Muslims and 'if they want to lie in the gutter let them be'.

New Delhi: During his speech in Lok Sabha Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted former Congress leader Arif Mohammad Khan as having said that it was not the duty of their party to uplift Muslims and “if they want to lie in the gutter, let them be”.

Modi, who offered to share YouTube links of the interview, called the Congress's alleged attitude shameful. The reference was most likely to a television interview given by Khan while he was talking about the Shah Bano case.

Speaking to News 18 about the Prime Minister’s accusation, Khan said that the then Congress government believed Muslims only had a penchant for sloganeering and had no interest in substance and that is why the Rajiv Gandhi government even banned Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel, ‘Satanic Verses’.

The Prime Minister recounted what you said in an interview: “It is not Congress' responsibility to reform Muslims”. As a national party, what has been Congress’s approach towards Muslims?

I don’t want to say much here, but you can make out from this one point what am going to tell. The ruling Congress government banned ‘Satanic Verses’ (Salman Rushdie's novel published in 1988) only because they thought Muslims have a penchant for sloganeering and have no interest in substance. Ask any bookseller of that time, they will tell you that before the ban the novel had sold only 10 copies and after the ban 10,000 copies were sold.

Interestingly, after three months of the imposition of the ban, I asked in the Parliament regarding the sale of the book. I was told that no copy of the book was confiscated. What does that mean? That means the government was aware that the community is only interested in slogans and not in substance. They understood that jo yeh kahein woh kar do, ailan ho jayein chahe karo kuch mat. (Just make lofty declarations as per what they want, even if you don’t implement them).

Every time you speak about Muslims, you do it from the prism of the 1986 events. You’ve been criticised for being stuck in 1986.

The year 1986 took us back to 1947. The two important phenomenon of that time were Shah Bano maintenance case and Ram Mandir, and they are resonating in 2019. The hatred these two events created has not subsided. So we have gone back to '47 and not ‘86. These issues have not been resolved and the entire country is living in the aftereffects of 1986.

You have named those ministers in Rajiv Gandhi's cabinet who thought it is not the responsibility of the Congress to push reforms. But what do you have to say about Rajiv Gandhi himself?

I don’t want to say anything, but this can be of help in understanding the role of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The law minister in his cabinet, Ashoke Kumar Sen, himself told me regarding the reversal of a section in the Act that Muslims can only be dealt by deception. What else can I say? His advisers enjoyed his confidence. My last interaction was with former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao who said that it is not Congress's responsibility to reform the Muslims. Also, at that time mullahs and obscurantists were giving their consent... actually, I don't want to blame others.

We cannot forget that the main problem the socio-economic condition of Muslims. How can that be improved?

What can be done, tell me, please? They do not allow Muslim women to go for prayers to mosques but they have got them on streets to demand and sloganeer in favour of triple talaq. Can there be a bigger enormity than this? A woman cannot go to the mosques but has been brought on the streets to demand that they want instant triple talaq. I’m not blaming anyone, but we need to take care of ourselves.