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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

One year of UPA and minorities: promises unfulfilled

By Andalib Akhter

The Milli Gazette Online 

Even as minorities, particularly the Muslims, zealously supported Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) come to power in May 2004, one year after the formation of the government they seem to be skeptical of its performance. Feeling of betrayal is writ large on their faces, as the present government has not even touched the issues it promised to tackle.

The UPA had promised a lot to ameliorate the social, economic, and educational backwardness of the community, but nothing substantial has been initiated in this direction. In fact, the official report on the one-year of performance vis-a-vis minorities also failed to pinpoint any specific and tangible achievement except the constitution of a few customary commissions and committees for them, the like of which we have seen again and again under Congress rule. If we compare the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the UPA and its one-year report card regarding the minorities, a couplet hits the mind: Tammanaon mein uljhaya gaya hoon/ Khilaone de ke bahlaya gaya hoon ( We have been bemused in big promises/ And have been pacified with toys).

One of the major promises in the CMP was to enact a model and comprehensive law to deal with communal violence and encourage each state to adopt that law to generate faith and confidence among minority communities; but so far nothing has been done in this direction. Every time the home minister addresses some conference or seminar about minorities, he never forgets to remind the audience that a bill to that effect would soon be brought to Parliament. But no one knows what kind of bill is this and when will it take the shape of law? 

It is not a secret that Modi factor played an important role in bringing the UPA to power, yet the man is still ruling Gujarat as arrogantly as he used to do under the NDA regime. Even though Congress governors in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states are playing a proactive role in their respective states, yet the veteran Congressman in Gujarat Rajbhawan, despite the unending revelations about the Gujarat riots and Modi government’s role in instigating them and protecting the criminals, the governor keeps silent. An admiring certificate from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) to Narendra Modi has further emboldened the man who is now waving at us from full-page advertisements in national dailies quoting the RGF citations. A general opinion is emerging that UPA wants to protect Modi more than the NDA did, as this man would help the former in the coming elections and serve it as a scare-crow to frighten minorities with.

It is good that the draconian law of POTA has been scrapped but what about people who were charged under POTA by the previous government? Hundreds are still facing charges under POTA and languishing in various jails of Gujarat. They may face death sentence. If POTA was wrong then how can the charges be right, especially that Modi’s theory of a deliberate fire in Godhra train has been rubbished by an enquiry committee. 

At the time of election, the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi used to invite all Muslim leaders who matter in the community to her residence and sought their support but just after the elections we found her surrounded by those very leaders who have lost credibility in the community. In fact the UPA has not yet been able to identify the real representatives of the community.

Even after one year of the formation of UPA government, the institutions concerning minorities, such as National Commission For Minorities (NCM) Minority Financial Development Corporation, National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language, Haj Committee and other bodies are still controlled by those who were part of Sangh team and members of Vajpayee Himayat Committee. Recently the NCM has released a report on minority population growth which echoes Sangh Parivar's viewpoint.

HRD Minister Arjun Singh has done some commendable job in desaffronisation of textbooks, yet there is a feeling that he takes more mileage than what actually takes place. The hue and cry over the grant of 50 percent reservation to Muslims in Aligarh Muslim University points in this direction. The previous NDA government, despite having the communal label, had granted similar provision to the Jamia Hamdard two years back but no hangama was heard at that time. Unfortunately Singh is also being accused of weakening secular forces in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Minorities have seen the fate of the findings of umpteen commissions and committees, it is high time government takes some concrete steps to ameliorate their suffering as the time is running fast and UPA may not be around after the next elections or even before them..

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