By Abdul Bari Masoud,
New Delhi: Calling Modi government as ‘majoritarian’ Government, distinguished jurist Fali S Nariman said it did not take any action against rabble-rousers and hate-mongers who belong to the BJP and its affiliate organizations who have been haranguing and spewing venom on daily basis against the Muslim community. He urged National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to take action on its own as it is the statutory body set up by Parliament to safeguards the interest of minorities.
Delivering the seventh annual NCM lecture on “Minorities at cross-roads: Comments on judicial pronouncements”, here on Friday, Nariman said recurrent instances of religious tension fanned by fanaticism and hate-speech have shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain. In his erudite and stimulating lecture, the eminent jurist has warned that a majoritarian Government is elected and exists mainly on the vote of the majority community as it has done nothing to stop this tirade. “We have been hearing… almost on a daily basis the tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens who belong to a religious minority. The criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade. I agree,” Nariman said. In the light of past experience with a majoritarian government in the 1960s and 1970s, he said “the then all-Congress Government had unjustifiably imposed the Internal Emergency on the country and rode roughshod over the liberties of citizens”.
“My apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face because, and only because it is believed and proudly proclaimed by a few (and not contradicted by those at the top): that it is because of their faith and belief that HINDUS have been now put in the driving seat of governance”.
Nariman has suggested that those who indulge in hate speech must be prevented by Court processes initiated at the instance of the Commission because that is the body that represents Minorities in India. Whoever indulges in such hate speech or vilification (whatever community they belong) they must be proceeded against and the proceeding must be widely publicized. It is only then that the confidence of the minorities in the National Commission for the Minorities will get restored.
He asked if NCM does not stand up for the rights of minorities and protest against such hate speeches and diatribes how do we expect the Government to do so? “The NCM should not be a mere mouthpiece of the Government”.
He further said that any government or political party will do or not do whatever it considers “politically expedient to advance its political future” but nothing stops the NCM from issuing press statement or filing criminal complaint against culprits to stop “all these loose talk of hate speech”.
On judicial pronouncements regarding minority rights, Nariman said it was most heartening that the Supreme Court of India functioned as a Super Minorities Commission before advent of NCM. He said when dealing with minority rights, courts in India had invariably conceptualized their role as that of a political party in opposition – until one of the political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP), in the early 1990s characterized the policy of the Congress Party (the ruling party in power at the Centre for more than 40 years) as an “appeasement of the minorities”.
“The label stuck; “minority” became and has become an unpopular word. And after the same political party had included in its Election Manifesto in the general election of May-June 1991 the party’s resolve if and when it came into power to amend Article 30 to the disadvantage of minorities, ‘minority rights’ got less and less protected by Courts (including the Supreme Court of India) than they were before,” he added.
Defending the Modi government, Minorities Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla has tried to correct her image saying her first interaction with the media was deliberately distorted. “My observation that Muslims were the ‘second largest majority’ was taken as a statement of intention of the Government that Muslims did not constitute a minority, whereas what I said was meant to generate a sense of confidence amongst the largest minority and that they should not have a feeling of neglect by the new Government”.
In her presidential remarks, she said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told her that Muslims were “deprived” of their basic rights all these years and he wanted her to fulfill the promises BJP made to minorities in its manifesto.
On the Nariman’s charge that government is not doing to rein in hate-mongers, she claimed that it is doing its best for communal harmony and will continue to do so. “This is our resolve; this is our determination. But the task cannot be completed unless we as individuals and society as a whole appreciate our role in the matter. It should be very clear in our minds that we all have a peaceful solution for our problems and there is no place for violence”.
She said Modi believed in “inclusive development” and that there will be no discrimination against anyone on grounds of religion, language or caste.
Concurring the concerns raised by Fali Nariman, NCM member Farida Abdulla Khan said several instances recently have caused apprehensions among minorities that need to be addressed.