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Minorities Commission should be disbanded
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Do we need a minority commission like the one we have? Is it serving any purpose? Has it done anything for the minority communities in the country? These and a host of other questions haunt the minority communities in the country when they are being persecuted like never before.

Twenty-four years after the formation of the National Minorities Commission in the country, there has been little or no justification of formation of a full-fledged commission for the minorities. It is not that there is no business for this body or there is any dearth of people who could do something from this platform. At a time when the minorities in the country are facing the greatest turmoil in the post independence era, the people who are sitting in the minorities commission are doing no more than whiling away the precious time and the taxpayers money. They have no idea as to what to do in such a taxing time and are devoid of the least will to accomplish anything either for the minority communities in the country or for the country itself. 

When Minorities Commission was set up in 1978 amid high expectations it was meant to be a high profile think tank devoted to the welfare of minorities and was meant to look into the specific complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities; to make recommendations with a view to ensuring effective implementation and enforcement of all the safeguards and the law; to serve as a national clearing house for information in respect of the condition of minorities. With the commission's objectives of giving the minorities a better deal remaining a pipedream, a number of disgruntled people are now distressed to see the functioning in such a pathetic way.

‘Minorities Commission has always remained a lame duck. There were aberrations but that happened for a short while, otherwise it has remained the same ever since it came into existence’ says Maulana Asrarul Haq. He says there is need for such a commission, but that has to deliver for the people it has been created. 

It is not that the Commission suffers from in-built handicaps. It will be absurd to believe that the Commission has no powers. When the Commission was created it was a non-statutory body. But in 1993 under immense pressure from several quarters the commission was granted a constitutional status. It was first statutory body in the country. Other commissions like National Human Rights Commission of India and National SC&ST Commission as well as National Women Commission were granted statutory status only after the NCM. But even after being given the status nothing changed during the 24-years long history of the commission. When the NHRC and other such commissions are busy discharging their duties more or less efficiently this commission seems to suffer from inbuilt inefficiencies compounded by ineffectiveness of the people who are at the helm. It has been the same since its inception and nothing seems to have changed in it in such a long period though the commission has parliamentary mandate and there are judicial powers given to the commission. 

When Gujarat is burning for the last two months, the Commission not only failed in doing anything for the people who are trapped in the burning communal fire, but has also failed to condemn the government’s apparent siding with the marauders. Commission has done nothing for the Muslims who have faced the worst planned genocide after partition. The standing and the courage of the people who now fill the posts in the commission can be gauged by the fact that when host of human rights organizations, peace missions and fact finding teams are visiting Ahmadabad and other affected areas of the state, this commission stopped from undertaking a journey to the ravaged state when the state government said that the security condition is not good in the state. The National Human Rights Commission visited the state in far worse condition than the proposed sojourn of the NMC, it investigated the one sided killing and destruction of Muslims, asked for state and central government’s report, and rejected state government’s report and asked for another report. In the meantime it came with a report of its own severely rebuking state government and directly indicting the people who were behind the genocide.

In a stark contrast the Minorities Commission that was born precisely for the same reason is sitting idle without any job and has done nothing during the last two years of its duration. The commission’s chairman who was handed over the apple-cart for reasons well known to him and people around has not taken any issue with the government during the last two years. Not only the chairman has been eclipsed by other members of the commission, he has been relegated to third spot after deputy chairman and a Christian member of the commission. And it has become a body that recommends dialogues between RSS and Christians and RSS and Muslims forgetting its actual reason d’etre. What is the use of this farce, people have started questioning. 

Even a few days ago when the Gujarat pogrom was at its height, the commission was trying, though in vain, to rope in some disgruntled self styled Muslim leader to sit with the RSS and talk what they want. Fortunately for the community and the country and unfortunately for people in the Commission no one came forward to sleep with such an open enemy. 

Is there any need to continue with this farce and why should it continue? A senior Delhi Minorities Commission member Rev Valson Thampu says that the people who have been brought in the minorities commission have no vision of minorities issues in the country and have no standing of their own. He says that though the disbanding of the minorities commission is of no use what is needed is a strong team and an effective chairman who can use his powers enjoined to him by the Parliament. 

Valson Thampu says that with merely bringing in a strong chairman who has not been done a favour by being appointed in such a position things will improve a lot. He is severely critical of the functioning of the present dispensation in the commission. 

‘What is the use of Minorities Commission if it can not work for the welfare of the minorities in the country’, asks Udit Raj of All India SC&ST Federation. He says that the Commission has just remained a toothless body and has done nothing for the 25 crore strong minority communities in the country. Udit Raj adds that the people in power deliberately bring corrupt people about whom they are sure that they wouldn’t give them any headache. He goes on to say that at the time when the minorities are persecuted in Gujarat and there is open government connivance with the rioters the Minorities Commission could have done some work and could have at least wiped the tears of sufferers. But it looks as if it is merely a puppet following the orders of its masters. He says that as long as people of commitment are in the Commission it will do some work but hastily adds that he doesn’t expect the people in power to bring any man of vision, commitment and substance in the commission. 

It is not the case of the National Commission for Minorities alone, similar Commissions in different states are also suffering from similar maladies. Delhi's minority commission is a case in point. It is said that its chairman Zafar Naqvi is not interested in seeing members of the commission doing anything. There are hardly any meetings of the commission and there is no effort to make the commission effective. Other states too do not present any better picture. The fate of the minorities finance and development corporation is similarly abysmal. This writer was appalled to know in Ahmadabad that the state chairman of the minorities finance and development corporation Ghani Bhai forwards requests for financial assistance to other community organizations active in Ahmadabad. It is notwithstanding the fact that this corporation has a large budget of its own for precisely the same reason.

So why to carry a burden that neither works for minorities nor makes any effort for their development? Instead of doing anything it asks them to sleep with their bitterest enemy. Now it is time to disband this farce and tell the world that we don’t care for minorities and we will not be bogged down by your criticism.

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