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Time has come for ‘Team Modi’ to pack its bags and go home: Delhi Minorities’ Chief

Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan

In a detailed interview with South Asian Monitor, the Chief of the Delhi State Minority Commission, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, highlights how the dangerous game of creating new fault lines in India has miserably failed due to the ongoing country-wide protests against the new Citizenship law.  Khan says that the current wave of protests has made the very survival of the Hindutva project doubtful. Excerpts from the Interview:

South Asia Monitor (SAM): What is the present state of minorities, particularly Muslims, in India?

Khan: Minorities in India have been slowly pushed to the margins. The Sachar Committee report of 2006 had said that Muslims were behind the Dalits in some aspects while they were on the top at the time of independence in 1947. Muslim representation in government services now is barely 2 to 3 percent. And yet, the Hindutva propagandists do not tire of spreading lies about “appeasement” of the Muslim minority by previous Congress governments.

SAM: Where is India heading towards under the present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government?

Khan: The present government has pushed India to the abyss on all fronts. Following the current anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests, it has lost even foreign sympathy which has been so crucial for our development and progress, as India and Indians enjoyed welcome and preferential treatment everywhere, being from the “largest democracy in the world”. But this is now doubtful. We (Indians) will have to work hard to reclaim our previous position in the comity of nations.

Hindutva Project

SAM: What are the agendas you think are waiting in the wings to be implemented by the BJP-led government?

Khan: If the BJP government of Modi–Shah–Doval (Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and National Security Advisor AjitDoval) succeeds in implementing CAA and NRC, which is doubtful now, it will take the country towards a Uniform Civil Code which is opposed by many, especially Muslims who have their own well-defined and time-tested personal law which is protected under the Shariat Act 1937. Hindutvic actions have been underway all the time. Examples of this are: changing “Muslim” names of cities and places, saffronization of history and textbooks, marginalization of Muslims, Christians and Dalits in all walks of life, especially their banishment from the political arena.

SAM: Was the 2019 elections the last chance for Indian democracy and constitution to survive?

Khan: This was the feeling of many observers and political scientists. But the election results gave the BJP more seats than in 2014. However, the current protests by all segments, especially Muslims, against CAA/NRC, have ushered in a new reality where the BJP’s Hindutvicagenda will no longer be possible. In fact, the very survival of the Hindutva project is doubtful now. Hindutva forces are fast losing in States Assembly elections and should be wiped out in the next general elections in 2024. People have now seen through the barren nature of Hindutva which purveys hate, divides people, and works only for the interest of the upper caste Hindus. With the exception of some pockets, all segments have now realized that this is a dumb, deaf and blind government which has no solutions for the country’s real problems. It has been deceiving people by using attractive slogans but offering nothing in return except the Hindutva pill. They have destroyed the economy, education and health sectors while strengthening crony capitalism and welcoming foreign companies to invade Indian markets.

Students’ Revolt

SAM: How do you rate the present students’ revolt in the country?

Khan: Students and youth are usually the only segment in society which has the time and aptitude to come out on vital national causes when other segments are afraid or are too busy. This has been seen in Europe and the Middle East where students and youth came out to change the political game. Our students and youth too took the plunge when they saw that their country was being systematically misled, robbed and destroyed. They came out and did a marvelous job, especially girls. Their role and courage will be remembered for long by a grateful nation which was not far behind in supporting these protests. Now all segments, especially our women, are up in arms challenging the ideologically misguided rulers who never enjoyed the support of the majority of Indian voters. Let us not forget that in the 2014 elections, BJP received only 31 percent of the votes while its tally in the 2019 elections did not cross 40 percent, while most votes went to a plethora of political parties. The situation would have been different if we had the system of proportional representation. With such a dubious “majority,” the BJP has no moral right to bludgeon us to accept the kind of fundamental changes it is trying to thrust on the country seeking to put the Indian polity upside down -- from a secular and inclusive polity to a Hindu Rashtra where upper caste Hindus will be first class citizens, while all others, especially the Muslim and Christian minorities, Dalits and Adivasis, will be second class citizens at the beck and call of the upper caste Hindus.

The government has largely implemented the Hindutvic agenda on the ground during the last five and a half years, using its majority in parliament. But it badly miscalculated the mood of the people. After the current anti-CAA/NRC protests, its Hinduvic project is doomed. And it is doubtful if the BJP will come back to power in 2024.

CAA, NPR and NRC

SAM: The Government claims that through the Citizenship Amendment act (CAA) it is going to provide shelter to persecuted minorities from three specific Muslim-majority countries. Why do you think this is dangerous for the country?

Khan: Persecuted minorities do not exist in only the three neighboring “Muslim” countries. They exist also in Sri Lanka (Tamil Hindus) and in Myanmar (Rohingyas, Chins and others). And they were not persecuted only upto 31 December, 2014 which is the cut-off date under the CAA. The Modi government has made the amendment basically to give citizenship through the back-door to millions of Indian Hindus who will not be able to present documents while Muslims Indians similarly unable to produce documents will be left out to be marginalized, disenfranchised and used as bonded labor.

SAM: Do you think that the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are two faces of the same coin?

Khan: If the government wants data about the population, the Census is enough and its next round will be conducted next year (2021). But census data cannot be legally used to confer or withdraw citizenship. This is why NPR has been introduced to weed out people whose citizenship is “doubtful.” NPR data will be solely used to update the NRC by undertaking more investigations about citizens thought to be “doubtful”. Very junior government officers will decide the fate of millions. Millions across the country are already running around to dig or rig documents, paying in the process through their nose as charges or bribes.

Police Brutality

SAM: You have asked the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to take action I regard to police brutality against agitating students. Were the police selective in their action against the protesting students?

Khan: The kind of police brutality against protesting Muslims seen during the current wave of protests and demonstrations since 15 December was never seen in cases of protests by others like the Jats and Gujjars (who are Hindus). Police have not only clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code inmany areas and for very long periods but closed down internet and mobile services.. They also barged into people’s houses smashing whatever they found there; stolen cash and jewelry and broken the bones of even elderly people and dragged people to the police stations at mid-night. Much of this is recorded by CCTV cameras and videos made on mobile phones. Police were not content with this but they also sent notices for the recovery of “losses” to hundreds of people and attached their properties across Uttar Pradesh (UP). This was never done in the case of other agitations during which much more property was damaged. Moreover, this practice is illegal as only courts of law can do this and that too after due process. The UP police are perpetrating this illegal act using the helplessness of the poor and the semi-literate who do not know the law or do not have recourse to lawyers.

SAM: Do you see any ray of hope?

Khan: The common men and women of India, especially the youth, have stood up, spoken and taken a stand. No government, however powerful and arrogant, can face such a force. The Modi-Shah-Doval team will have to pack its bags and go.