Sweta Ranjan | May 5, 2015
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, for long one of the few Muslim leaders in the BJP, is minister of state for two crucial portfolios: minority affairs and parliamentary affairs. The first will be watched for the party’s own definition of secularism beyond appeasement, while the second will remain crucial till the government gets sufficient numbers in the Rajya Sabha. In an interview with Sweta Ranjan, Naqvi responded to a series of criticisms and clarified the government’s stance. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Minorities are increasingly feeling insecure due to the ‘pro-majority’ stance of the government. Your comments.
It is true that politics relies on perception. Our political opponents have created a perception that we are anti-minority, anti-Muslim. Now is the time when our actions will speak louder than words. We are for inclusive growth, for development for all. If you have noticed, the Modi government has always shown zero tolerance towards any negative agenda. All negative agendas have to be condemned by us and we also take action if such things happen. Of course, issues under the jurisdiction of the states are handled by the state governments.
We believe that in the last 10 months there has been a confidence-boost among minorities. We are directly assisting people through various schemes, whereas earlier lakhs and lakhs of rupees were given to the state governments but powerbrokers used to siphon off the money. We are telling state governments that the money which is coming to them should reach the needy, should be spent on their education and infrastructure.
But, it seems Muslims are more concerned about their security these days than education.
Why do you limit it only to Muslims? Security is important for all sections of society. It is true that a sense of insecurity has been created among them for political reasons. This can be countered only when they see our concern and our work for them. They have started to realise our concern and our work. Modiji has talked about inclusive growth. For us a poor man, whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, is needy, he should come out of poverty. A person in need of a job should be provided a job. If we talk about removing poverty, the most to benefit would be the Muslims. More than 50 percent of them live below the poverty line. There is no discrimination.
What do you think of the Sachar committee report?
The Sachar committee findings are the outcomes of the Congress rule for decades. The Congress got this document prepared on their failures: there is no question of us agreeing with the report or not. Many issues in the report are correct, some issues can be imaginary, many would be irrelevant and not in agreement with the ground reality.
Will your government implement the Sachar committee recommendations?
In the interest of the nation, the good and positive recommendations are picked up and the government works in that direction. There are many issues like education, employment and security which have been suggested by many committees; and we have already been working in that direction. Our main priority is to take benefits of developmental schemes to the common man, to the poor and the minorities. These schemes should be implemented to empower them.
The government has faced a lot of flak after attacks on churches.
We believe there should be zero tolerance in such matters. Elements behind these attacks are being isolated by people. They are never given acceptance in society. Crimes like the attacks on churches and the rape of a nun can never be justified in any context. The mentality of people involved in such crimes is not linked to any ideology, they are not with any party, and they are not from any organisation.
But don’t you agree that such incidents have damaged the image of your party?
No, not at all. This is not damaging the image of our party as the party is not involved in these incidents. Unfortunately, our political opponents try to link everything to us. It will not work for long. It is true that such happenings hurt us too. That is why, inside and outside parliament, [PM] Narendra Modi has strongly condemned these incidents and has said that strongest action should be taken against the guilty.
Earlier, ‘Ghar Wapsi’ or re-conversion programmes created a controversy.
Such things are not welcome in the country. This country is the biggest secular democracy – not because of minorities but because of the
majority. When Pakistan declared itself an Islamic nation, the majority of our country expressed its
desire to be a secular democracy. They did not want it to be called a Hindu Rashtra.
What are your views on ‘Ghar Wapsi’?
Those who do such things, do only for a few days. Then they get isolated, people reject them.
What are your personal views?
I believe such things are nonsense, meaningless. In today’s India, 70 percent people are below 40 years
of age. People are interested in employment and education.
Are there any plans to bring in an anti-conversion bill?
I am ready. Our party is ready for the anti-conversion bill. If all parties agree then we are ready to bring the bill in parliament. If people feel the need, we should respond.
Then there was beef ban.
We have to understand one thing: we don’t relate this ban with religion. The issue of beef, or the cow, is also related to the economy of the country. It is also related to the culture of the country – not only India, many countries across the globe worship cows and treat them as a big economic resource. A large segment of society is against cow slaughter. Then some people say this ban goes against their fundamental rights. I feel, if sentiments of a large section of society are attached to something, then why hurt them?
If that is the case, how come your party has two different decisions in Maharashtra and Goa?
There was no whip issued on this subject. State governments take decisions according to the situation in their own states. It is not as if we asked them to do this. We have a federal system.
Are there any plans for a new policy to empower minorities?
We believe there are plenty of policies already. There is a long list of schemes but they are not implemented to the fullest. My view is that instead of adding a few more schemes, it is better to implement the existing schemes effectively and honestly.
(The interview appears in the May 1-15, 2015 issue)
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