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Fresh onslaught on minorities’ religious identity

Slowly, but steadily, the screw turns on the minorities’ constitutionally sanctioned freedom of faith and worship, cultural distinction and discernible identity. There is a concerted, relentless attack from the Sangh, within and outside the government to destroy the very basis of Indian minorities’ identity. All manifestations of Islam -- its teaching (symbolised by madrasahs) and its religious practice (symbolised by mosques) -- are under attack. Christians fare no better. 

A relentless campaign is on against madrasahs and mosques under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani. The prime minister who, in any case, is only a shadow PM now, has gone on record saying madrasahs are not doing anything illegal or anti-national. But to no avail.

Over the years the Sangh has (with the help of like-minded people in media and administration) virtually convinced the vocal sections of the majority community that mosques and madrasahs are dens of anti-national activity. This despite the fact that no mosque was ever found to have harboured any anti-national and no madrasah has so far been identified which indulges in subversive activity.

Despite all this, a relentless campaign is on against madrasahs and mosques under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani. The prime minister who, in any case, is only a shadow PM now, has gone on record saying madrasahs are not doing anything illegal or anti-national. But to no avail.

As if taking a cue from government, some media organisations are busy churning Muslim conspiracy stories that are remarkably imaginative. One small example is the Pioneer story we discuss in this issue. As a result of this vicious campaign, maulvis have been humiliated, and virtually all major madrasahs have been raided by police and intelligence officials over the last few years. The raids have yielded nothing. Still these people are not prepared to keep their mouths shut.

Fantastic nonsense is still peddled as investigative journalism. (See our review of an Organiser article in our last issue, titled "Tedious argument of a hideous intent."

The UP Public Buildings and Religious Places Bill was introduced by a hostile BJP government in 2000, with the sole intent of suppressing Muslim religious and cultural aspirations guaranteed by Constitution. All these pieces fall in a larger Sangh-designed pattern. They are part of a grand strategy to destroy the distinct Muslim identity, a cultural genocide of sorts.

The latest Central government move to dilute the constitutional rights of minorities to establish and run their own educational institutions is a cause of concern for the Muslim community wary of repeated attacks by Hindutva-driven politicians against their vital institutions. Although it is premature to comment on the eventual turn of events, Solicitor-General, Harsh Salve’s submission before an 11-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on July 16 falls within the broader Sangh agenda of suppressing minorities’ cultural and religious aspirations.

The Solicitor-General said the minorities’ rights under Article 30 to establish educational institutions and administer them were not absolute, and were subject to the application of other laws.

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with the Solicitor-General’s contention per se, but there is every possibility that the breach created by this argument (if it is accepted by the court) would be used by persons of ill-will to make it difficult for the minorities to establish and run their institutions.

These fears are not unfounded. Given the Sangh’s anti-Muslim zeal, there is every possibility of their coming true. We have the POTA before us. Fears of its misuse were shrugged off by BJP-led NDA. However, we have the sad spectacle of Mr Vaiko himself cooling his heels thanks to this law. There could not possibly be a more brazen example of its misuse.

An interesting point to note here is that the BJP itself is not impervious to fears of misuse of legal and administrative provisions where its own interests are involved. It was the first to raise fears of misuse of their powers by electoral returning officers under the new Election Commission rules, mandated by a Supreme Court order to introduce poll reforms for a better polity.

The NDA government at Centre has not wasted any time in countering the Supreme Court-Election Commission move. The Union Law Ministry has issued a six-page draft bill that stands the SC judgment and EC rules on their head.
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