Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi talks to ET about the ministry’s plans for Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, mob lynching of Muslims, and the PM’s appeal for population control. Edited excerpts:
A team from the Ministry of Minority Affairs went to Kashmir last week. What was the objective?
After the abrogation of Article 370, a way has been cleared to solve some 370 problems of J&K, Leh and Kargil. Over 100 central laws on education, employment, human rights, minority or child rights were not applicable there. Now different ministries are identifying the gaps. As far as our ministry is concerned, Waqf Board, which was missing there, will be formed and Haj committee will be constituted in both the Union territories. Employment-oriented programmes were missing but now largescale induction has started in the armed and paramilitary forces. Of course, separatist forces with vested interests are hassled, looking at the peace prevailing there. Woh wahan ke logon ke chain se bechain hain (They are disturbed by the peace prevailing there).
But there are reports of stone-pelting. Home Minister Amit Shah said it would take 20-25 days for normalcy to return.
The situation is absolutely normal in Leh, Kargil, Jammu and even in large parts of Kashmir valley. At the same time there are areas that have been under a big influence of separatists. Those opposing the government’s withdrawal of J&K’s special status due to their political prejudice will also come around and support the move.
How do you see Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan’s comments exhorting Pakistanis to show solidarity with Kashmiris?
Imran Khan has become a laughing stock. He has not just become isolated but is also exposed globally. His own countrymen are not taking him seriously. Rather than solving his problems, he is using Kashmir as a cover and harming the interests of his own people. He is talking about the minorities in Kashmir. The fact is Pakistan is jahannam (hell) for minorities while India is jannat (heaven) for them. No social, economic, education or constitutional rights are available to Pakistani minorities. After Partition, Pakistan had some 22% minorities; now they have been decimated to just 2% — a result of either mass murder or mass conversion. The situation (of minorities) is the reverse in India where they are safe and secure.
You said India is a heaven for minorities. What about incidents of mob lynching of Muslims where they are also forced to chant Jai Shri Ram?
To give these criminal incidents a communal colour is as wrong as the crime itself. It is the result of a dangerous mindset. Giving it a communal colour helps the perpetrators of such crime. Lynching as well as giving it a communal flavour must be stopped. No criminal incident should be allowed; if it happens, due action must be taken. In the last five years, very few such incidents have happened. State governments have been swift in booking the culprits.
But all the six accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case were acquitted.
We are not the court. Law and order is a state subject. We can’t prove anyone is guilty. We are not an authoritarian state. Surely the government can’t become a court and put criminals behind bars. Courts do their duty and we do ours.
How is the connect between minority communities and the government?
We work with the agenda of development without discrimination and empowerment without appeasement. Not a single incident of discrimination can be found against us; the result is that about 3.15 crore minority students were given scholarship and more than 8 lakh jobs were provided through ministry schemes like Hunar Haat and Seekho aur Kamao in the last five years. Also, we have filled the gaps in schools, colleges, hostels, community centres and hospitals in minority-dominated areas. In 100 days, we have set up 100 common service centres in areas that have been so far neglected. More importantly, Waqf Board properties (there are more than 6 lakh registered waqf properties across the country, according to the ministry) have been digitised and now we are going for 100% geotagging. Madrasas have been mainstreamed —teachers are being trained in all mainstream subjects. These madrasas are acting as pivot for reforms.
Still, there is under representation of Muslims in armed forces and civil services.
This was done by the secular syndicate. We are giving free coaching to create a levelplaying field for all students, the result of which is that the share of minorities getting selected in civil services and banking services has been the highest in the last two years.
PM Narendra Modi has talked about the need for population control which, some say, is targeted at Muslims.
Anyone who is interpreting PM’s pitch as being targeted at Muslims is ignorant. In the last 25-30 years, the population of Muslims in India has declined, thanks to education and awareness. But no country that wants to develop can ignore the problem posed by population explosion. The need for population control is applicable to all sections of the society — even as this trend is more visible in one section of the society than others.
Will there be a law to cap the number of children a couple can have?
No, I think awareness is the biggest factor in controlling population. We are not talking about any Emergency-like moves but affirmative actions like awareness and information.
Are there schemes aimed at the development of other five notified minority communities: Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists.
First of all, we have changed the perception that ‘minority’ means Muslims. Jains, Parsis, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs are equally important. We give scholarships in proportion to the population. In the past five years, 25,17,167 Sikh students (12.08% of the community’s total population), 2,40,72,287 Muslim students (13.98% of their population), 3,79,444 Jain students (8.52% of their population), 36,84,636 Christian students (13.24% of their population), 7,82,139 Buddhist students (9.26% of their population) and 3,793 Parsi students (6.62% of their population) received scholarships.”
The final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is out. Some BJP leaders complain about the exclusion of Hindus. Do you think the exercise was flawed?
Nothing is final in NRC right now. All options are open, including the option of going to the tribunal. There is no need to panic. Genuine Indians whose names are not in the final NRC should not be afraid. The exercise is being done in a democratic and open way. Even if there is a flaw or a gap, due action will be taken in a timebound way.
Why was ‘Sabka Vishwas’ added to the ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ slogan? Was there a feeling that trust was missing?
No. One must understand that when Modi was Gujarat CM, he introduced the slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas in Gujarat and implemented it there over his three terms. When he came to Delhi and became the PM, that trust was very much there. If trust was missing, he would not have managed to more than double the share of minority votes he got from 2014 (10%) to 2019 (20.6%). It was after gaining that trust that this phrase was added. Modi has become a credible brand of development. Earlier, development was given according to caste or religion, or region. Today priority is being given to the poor, the needy and the ignored sections of the society.