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No big communal riot in India in last four years, says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Mukhtar Abban Naqvi says in the last four years, the Modi government has done development without discrimination and empowerment without appeasement.

india Updated: Jul 02, 2018 07:49 IST
Prashant Jha and Kumar Uttam
Prashant Jha and Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi,minority affairs minister,communal riot
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi. (PTI File Photo)

Union minister for minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is the BJP’s senior most Muslim leader in the Rajya Sabha. He spoke to Hindustan Times about the central government’s track record on minorities, the perception of his party as anti-minority, on elections, and the working of Parliament. Edited excerpts:

The BJP has been perceived as anti-minority. Has this deepened in the last four years in power?

The BJP did not create that perception. It was made by our political opponents for vested political interest. This perception will not change in their mind. They will not let it change. In the last four years, the Modi government has done development without discrimination and empowerment without appeasement. So far, the minority communities were given “lollipop” without any honest effort for their socio-economic empowerment. Consider this. Scholarship has been distributed to 2 crore 66 lakh students from minority communities in 48 months of Modi government. 60% of them are girls and drop-out rate has dropped from 73-74% to 43-42%. Only 3 crore students got such scholarship in 48 years preceding the Modi government. Employment opportunities for minorities, too, have grown from 20,164 in 48 years before 2014 to 5,43,594 in the 48 years of Modi government. We didn’t seek credit. We have performed and also did reform. We allowed women to go for Haj without a male companion. More than 1400 women are going this time. 1.75 lakh persons are performing haj, without subsidy. 48% of them are women. This is a record in independent India.

Let us then examine the specific reasons why the perception exists. Would you agree the BJP does not give political representation to the Muslims?

Giving poll tickets alone cannot be the parameter for political representation. Several factors, such as winnability, are considered while giving election ticket. But, we have given them representation even when we did not have elected representatives. UP has two Muslims in the legislative council, one of them is a minister. MJ Akbar and I are in the government in Delhi. Our effort is to give them representation in government. It is more important than representation in tickets.

But even in government, isn’t there under-representation?

We must think about political empowerment. Those who were in power on the basis of Muslim votes were miserly in terms of empowering Muslims politically.

But there was at least some symbolic representation in the past; the BJP is now accused of political repression.

Symbolism will not work now. The BJP does not believe in symbolism. Modi has changed one thing. He hasn’t bracketed the problems of SCs, Muslims, farmers and deprived communities. He has treated them as the country’s problem. 37-38% of MUDRA yojna benefits have gone to minorities.

But have these measures brought the minority community any closer to the BJP?

The gap has narrowed. The poor and minorities know that only Modi can do their honest upliftment and empowerment; 162 candidates from minority communities got selected in UPSC last year, 52 were Muslims. About 170 of them got selected this year, and 58 or 59 of them are Muslims. We have ended discrimination. Muslims had 4.8% share in central government services when we came to power (in 2014). Today, their share is 10.9%.

Another reason perception exists is because of provocative statements, incidents like cow lynching, open expression of prejudice. Isn’t this leading to insecurity among minorities?

The BJP or the government is not doing it. These are done by the fringe and criminal elements. The day Modi became PM, there was a cry that Arab countries and Christian countries will end relationship with India. What happened? From the US to Arab countries and Australia to Africa, they all trust the leadership of this country. There was award wapsi (returning of awards) on charges of intolerance. Has there been one big communal riot in last four years? But Modi government’s commitment is towards peace and prosperity. Even if there is a small incident, the centre sends a strong and clear advisory to the state governments. Whether it is Rajasthan, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh – FIR was lodged within 24 hours, and accused persons were arrested. Many have not got bail yet. But remember, this is the social media era. There were no social media in Maliana and Bhagalpur (when the riots happened there in the past). There is a need to be cautious. Those who do this, they want that hate message to reach people and become viral.

Do you think the anti-Muslim prejudice in society has increased?

No. Did a common Hindu ever ask to make this country a Hindu Rashtra ? Did the majority community ever demand to end secularism in this country? This country is secular because the majority community of this country wants it to be secular. There was a dangerous situation during the Partition. There were murders, riots and arson. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic nation. But, majority of this country said no and that India will remain a secular nation. No one ever questioned that concept of secularism.

So has the expression of prejudice become more public?

It is because of technological advancement. Our mentality has not changed or degenerated. There are only a handful of such people.

Are these people encouraged because of the perception that this government encourages this prejudice?

They are discouraged. They know that government agenda is clear - to deal with them strongly. PM Modi said it in Parliament and outside. BJP chief Amit Shah has spoken on this. All have one message. Violence and hate activities are unacceptable. The fringe elements are getting isolated. When they are isolated then they try to magnify their conduct, they will make fake videos, edit some portion and do such things.

Is there fringe within the RSS too?

No. There can never be a fringe in the Sangh parivar. They have focused work. They believe in uniting – and not breaking – the society.

Let us move to elections. Your rivals believe that polarising society on religious lines and garner the maximum vote of Hindus is a conscious strategy.

2014 election was an exceptional election. After the election was over, we sat down to analyse voting patterns. There were cases where we polled 15-20% votes in polling station with less than 2% non-Muslim voters. This was despite the kind of campaign that was unleashed against Modi in the run up to election. Despite this, Muslims voted for Modi. I am sure, more than 30% of Muslims will vote for the BJP (in 2019). There are more than two dozen prime ministerial candidates roaming in the country. They know there is no vacancy for the PM’s post in 2019.

But the results of the bypoll in recent months have shown that a united Opposition can spring a surprise on the BJP...

Before 2014 general election, Congress and allies won most of the bypolls. Let us not predict general elections on the basis of bypoll. There are several local factors that come into play during a bypoll.

Won’t the coming together of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh make a solid social combination against you?

Have we lost the bypoll with a 4-5 lakh margin? We lost by a few thousand votes. It becomes easier to fight if you know the strategy of the rival. The by-poll results are in a way good for the BJP. It will help us formulate our strategy better.

Why are then issues such as Ram Temple and Jinnah portraits in Aligarh Muslim University being highlighted? Is it an exercise to polarise votes?

We want polarisation on development and Modi’s work.

Then why is there talk of Ayodhya and AMU?

Ayodhya issue is an ideological issue for us. It is in court. Everybody wants that matter to be decided at the earliest. Development and good governance will be our political agenda.

The Ayodhya judgment may come soon. Do you think it will have a bearing on the communal situation in the country?

People have made up their mind. Each community will accept whatever judgment is delivered. When there was a high court judgment, people accepted it. Please remember, outfits such as Al-Qaeda and the IS have not been able to develop roots in India, except for some small portion in Kashmir. If there has been some such isolated activities, the Muslim community itself has isolated them. Unity and harmony is in our DNA.

How do you respond to demands for SC/ST reservation in minority institutions such as AMU?

AMU and other minority institutions must think over it. SCs are weaker sections, and door should not be shut on them.

Will your government bring the required legislative changes?

It will be better if these institutions come forward and consider these suggestions positively.

Your government brought a bill banning triple talaq. It is stuck in Parliament. Do you expect its passage in this session?

There have been several reforms in this country. When it was the matter of Sati, there was a section which claimed it was interference in matter of faith. Triple talaq is not a religious matter but a social ill that demolishes the concept of gender equality. The Lok Sabha has passed a bill. The Congress, which supported it in the LS, got a different view on it in the Rajya Sabha. We request them to make suggestion for changes, if any...Doing politics outside will serve no purpose.

The Opposition alleges that government hardly reaches out to it for smooth conduct of Parliament.

We talk to every political party. Their grudge would be considered genuine only when the government is not ready to debate any issue. When we are saying “yes” - without delay - to any issue of the Opposition, even then there is disturbance.

Give that you admit that this is election year, how legitimate is your expectation about Parliament functioning in monsoon session?

Debate is the only solution. When there is no issue, you disturb the House.

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 07:45 IST