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IOS celebrates silver jubilee - Minority Rights and Identities

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New Delhi: A three-day function to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) was held during 13-15 April at the Constitution Club here. Speakers from different walks of life expressed their views about different themes related to “Minority Rights and Identities”.

On the first day, activities and problems faced by IOS were discussed. Speaking on the second day, Justice Rajinder Sachar said that if minorities in any country or society think that they will not be treated properly, equally and justly, that country or society cannot progress and consider itself civilised because protection of minorities’ rights is an essential part of any country’s secularism. At the same time it is the responsibility of minorities also that they should be aware of their rights, he said. Supreme Court’s retired judge Justice Markandey Katju sounded views which were more or less on the same lines. Former Chief Justice of India A.M. Ahmadi said with reference to communal harmony among followers of different religions of India that now instead of tolerance, preference should be given to capability and if this principle is promoted, minorities also will be satisfied and they will move forward on the road to progress.

Executive Director of the Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, Ravi Nair said that illegal arrests of members of the Muslim minority are their biggest problem today because of which there is a feeling of fear and terror prevailing in the community. He demanded that ‘action taken reports’ (ATR) prepared on the basis of reports of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) should be brought to the notice of common people by the media and other sources.

Wajahat Habibullah, chairman of NCM, regretted the arrests of innocent Muslim youth and said that in their cases chargesheets also are not prepared properly. He said that these facts came to light when the reports of the committee constituted by NCM to find out facts about Makkah Masjid bomb blasts were made public. He raised the question of the arrests of 53 innocent Muslim youth and their “confessions” under duress by the police and said that their illegal arrest is a serious problem. He demanded that criminal and legal action should be taken against those who make illegal arrests and file false chargesheets creating an impression that all Muslims are terrorists.

Former judge of Supreme Court, Justice Roma Paul while emphasising the point that under true secularism everyone should live freely with his identity, hoped that institutional prejudices in Police and other departments will come to an end.

Minister of state for agriculture and food processing industries Harish Rawat said that there is no doubt that the condition of Muslims collectively is really very bad in almost all fields, hence special attention should be paid to improve their overall condition. He said that people who do not know Urdu, even without reading a single book, describe any Urdu book as “jehadi literature”. He proposed that people who are arrested and face trial should be tried by special and fast-track courts so that their cases should be disposed off without delay and their ordeal is brought to an end at the earliest.

Noted social activist Teesta Setalvad said that civil society and media play a very important role in the protection of rights of minorities but when media’s role becomes partial, it has negative and adverse effect on society. She said that even after truth being revealed in the bomb blasts cases of Malegaon, Ajmer, Samjhauta Express etc., it is not at all justified to keep on arresting minority youth and keeping them in jails indefinitely. She said that one of the reasons for the oppression of and injustice to Muslim minority is that their representation in government departments and agencies is negligible and even their important issues and problems are ignored by media.

P. Guha Thakurta said that media gives prominence to issues which are associated with the rich and influential but does not give any importance to even important issues of Muslims and poor people even if their rights are blatantly violated or suppressed.

On the third and final day, Union minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid, while speaking on the implementation of Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission’s reports and the promised Equal Opportunity Commission, said that there is no uniform opinion among Muslims and hence it is very essential that first of all there should be unanimity of views among them. Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Rahman Khan, said that it is a pity that even 60 years after independence we have to talk about the rights of minorities inspite of the fact that everything is clearly laid down in the Constitution.

Chairman of IOS, Dr. Muhammad Manzoor Alam said that today an atmosphere of organised partiality is found collectively against Muslims in the country and as long as this continues, they will continue to be deprived of justice. He said that anti-Muslim organisations on some pretext or the other either directly or through secret organisations and agencies are bent upon harming Muslims. He added that today we are living in an atmosphere of fear which must stop if our dreams of an ideal society are not to be shattered. Addressing K. Rahman Khan and Zafaryab Jilani, he asked them to use their influence in government to free innocent Muslim youth who are falsely implicated in terrorism and jailed.

Dr. Abu Saleh Sharif, noted economist, said that Sachar Committee’s report was presented to government five years ago which is quite a long time but even now many of its 14 chapters have not been properly considered and analysed. Zafaryab Jilani, the new Additional Solicitor General of U.P. said that fathers of our Constitution especially added in clause 4 section 16 or 16 (4) that reservation in employment to citizens of backward classes can in no case be denied but, sadly, this is not being done in actual practice. He said that though ‘backward class of citizens’ have not been defined in the Constitution, many verdicts of Supreme Court clarify that social, educational, economic, political and even physical backwardness of citizens is covered under section 16 (4). He said that Muslims need to get reservation not as a minority but as Muslim community even if central government has to amend the Constitution for this purpose.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2012 on page no. 7

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