Former National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chairman Tahir Mahmood has questioned its utility and suggested a “decent burial” for the panel.
In his book “Minorities Commission (1978-2015): Minor Role in Major Affairs”, Mahmood – who headed the NCM between 1996 and 1999 – said the NCM has failed to bring about positive changes in the lives of minorities in India.
The condition of Muslims and Christians remained where it was in 1978 when the Minorities Commission was established – be it the issue of their educational rights, physical insecurity, social harmony, or any other aspect of life, he said questioning the contribution made by the NCM.
A former Dean of Delhi University’s Faculty of Law, Mahmood has raised several questions over the manner the NCM has functioned in the last 37 years.
“Whatever the minorities can expect within the limits of a partial secularity of State under the Constitution they can never secure it through the Commission and so if it is thrown into the dustbin of history it will be worthless for them to shed tears for it,” he counseled the minorities.
“If NCM is to be kept in place as a mere showpiece and treated as a stop gap placement for faithful politicians and a post retirement centre for committed bureaucrats, it will be better to give it a decent burial,” Mahmood said in his book.
He cited how Justice Mohd Shamim who in 1997 quashed a CBI court’s order to frame charges of corruption against BJP leader LK Advani, Congress politician VC Shukla and businessmen Jain Brothers in the Hawala case was made NCM chairperson in January 2000 within a month of his retirement from the Delhi High Court.
Initially established by a non-Congress government in 1978 and given a statutory status in 1992, the NCM has been operative under Congress rule, intermittently, for over 27 years.
Mahmood accused Congress governments of side-stepping the Commission and unnecessarily creating parallel bodies with special terms of reference otherwise very much falling within the NCM’s mandate.
“The constitution of National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education in the HRD Ministry during the Congress rule in 1991 was absolutely unnecessary, since its job was very much within the scope of the Minorities Commission’s functions as stated in the Government Resolution of 1978,” he noted.
Mahmood said: “By doing so they have been providing alibis to the Commission for not properly discharging its major obligations, and also putting avoidable burden on the State exchequer.”
Mahmood blamed the UPA government for not seriously pursuing the proposal to turn the NCM into a constitutional body by amending the Constitution.
He also faulted the UPA government for constituting the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities and setting up a high level committee to study and report on the situation of the Muslim minority, saying “Both these bodies were repetitive and superfluous.”
Terming creation of three more separate bodies to tackle minority-related issues a “thoughtless alternative to turning the NCM into an all-powerful and effective body”, he said.
Mahmood said: “The babel of voices arising from the multiple Commissions and Committees for the minorities has indeed been perplexing and has served no useful purpose.”
Pointing out lacunae in the NCM Act, he expressed surprise over the fact that neither the chairman nor the members were legally required to have any knowledge or experience of minority problems.
“The Commission has the powers of a civil court, but the Chairman and his colleagues are not required to have any knowledge of judicial procedure,” he highlighted.