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Published in the 1-15 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gujarat panel to 'target' minorities

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Gujarat recently issued a notification announcing the setting up of a population commission to be headed by chief minister Narendra Modi.

Social activists and Congress leaders have questioned the timing and intention of the decision of the state government. The commission is being setup to look into various aspects of population-related problems and to implement the state’s population policy announced two years ago, the notification said.

The announcement of the panel close on the heels of the controversy over the Muslim growth rate — the census had initially said that the growth rate of the Muslim community was faster than any other community, and that the inclusion of Jammu & Kashmir had caused the inflation in the minority population — has raised eyebrows.

Modi wants to prove that there is a population explosion in the minority community so that he can use it for political gains, said social activist Hanif Lakdawala. Modi had sarcastically remarked "Hum panch, Hamare panchees" referring to the Muslim population during Gaurav Yatra, two years ago.

Health minister and vice chairman of the commission LK Jadeja, however, denied that the government plans to make minority population an issue. “We have no such intention. The timing is just a coincidence,” he added. When the state announced its first population policy two years ago, it was decided that a commission would be set up to implement it. 

Following the United Nations Cairo declaration on population, the policy negates disincentives and forced sterilisation as means of population control.

AICC member and state Congress in-change Manish Tiwari described the decision to set up the panel as ill-conceived, mischievous and an attempt to create social tension and disrupt the social fabric." Questioning the need for such a panel, the Congress leader said that no other state has done so. He said even the "timing is suspect." State Congress vice-president Hasmukh Patel said, "The purpose of the panel is noting but minority bashing." "Does it not look like a political ploy to influence electorate in Maharashtra?", the Congress leader asked.

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