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Published in the 16-29 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Minorities alienated in Atal raj: Sonia

Protection of the minorities is a sacred task for Congress, Sonia Gandhi tells Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has accused Vajpayee-led NDA government for alienating minorities from the mainstream. She said minorities were never threatened as they are under the present rule. She said Gujarat is the living example of the BJP’s minorities’ policy. 

Sonia Gandhi

On February 7 Sonia Gandhi hosted a lunch for a group of journalists. This correspondent was among them and managed to talk to her separately on minorities issues. 

Sonia said the protection, security, identity and interests of the religious minorities were always a sacred task for Congress entrusted to it by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. "Every Congress prime minister, particularly Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, have striven to be true to this sacred duty," she said.

It may be recalled that Indira Gandhi conceived the 15-point programme for the minorities and Rajiv Gandhi put in place a high-powered mechanism to monitor the progress in achieving that goal. As Congress president, Sonia Gandhi has now given a further fillip to the endeavour through her updated seven-point programme, announced on Martyrdom day, 1999, to prioritise and follow up, particularly under Congress state governments. 

"The Congress Party will translate into reality the guarantees given by the Constitution of India in the educational and other spheres to the minorities" she assured, adding that the Congress Party is committed to give full protection and equal rights to all minorities in every sphere of activity and ensure their safety and well-being in every part of the country.

She said the Congress would amend the Constitution to establish a Commission of Minority Educational Institutions and to provide for direct affiliation of minority professional institutions to central universities. "New middle-level technical institutes in clusters where, for instance, weavers and artisans are concentrated will be started. The spread of modern and technical education among the minorities will help integrate them into the national mainstream" she assured. A Central Madrasa Education Board, says Sonia, will be established to promote modern and scientific education alongside the traditional curriculum in all Madrasas. 

She said the Congress was deeply disturbed at the policies and programmes being pursued by the present NDA government in the fields of education and culture. "Their agenda is sectarian, undemocratic and inequitable".
If Congress comes to power at the centre, she says, "All educational programmes will be carried out in strict conformity with secular values". 
The principle of secular education has been repeatedly eroded and is in danger of obliteration owing to the manner in which the ministry of human resource development and the department of culture have been running during the last five years of BJP-led coalition. 

"All high level appointments to various national level institutions and organisations have been made with little or no regard for merits and solely with a view to converting them into instruments of the Sangh Parivar’s sectarian agenda" she said. 

Sonia said there had been large–scale revision of school texts in BJP-ruled states in keeping with the sectarian–communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar. These texts are filled with negative attitudes towards the minorities and are designed to evoke hatred towards them in young minds. "With the overt encouragement and covert support of the ministry of HRD, the Sangh Parivar has launched a systematic attack on secular academics, artists and organistations. It has promoted attacks on the minorities, allowed its sister organisations to act as cultural policemen intimidating ordinary citizens," she said. 

See also
Lip-service: Congress party’s promises to the minorities in the 1999 manifesto 

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