Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan posted a “thank you" note on his social media accounts where he showed his gratitude to Kuwait for standing with Indian Muslims. He lambasted ‘Hindutva bigots’ and said that Indian Muslims enjoy goodwill in the eyes of Arabs (subtly signalling the subordinate status of the former in front of the latter).
In his post, Khan hailed Islamic Salafi-jihadist preacher Zakir Naik, whose preaching is banned in various countries, who is linked to many terrorism incidents, and is wanted in India for criminal activities.
As if this wasn’t enough, Khan warned that if Indian Muslims are pushed to complain to the Arab world about “hate campaigns, lynchings and riots”, then the Hindutva "bigots will face an avalanche”.
This statement of Khan is also the latest proof of his bigotry and Islamic supremacist attitude.
On the same day he posted this message, he also levelled serious allegations against the government of India for imprisoning thousands of people (he was referring to Covid-19 Tablighi patients) and not providing them with timely, proper food or medicines.
On 11 April, Khan posted a message in support of Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of an online news portal, who wrongly attributed a quote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, whose administration in turn had filed a cases against Varadarajan for this.
Khan, in his Facebook post, had accused the UP CM of running an illegal militia which terrorises people.
Khan and his organisation, funded by Indian taxpayers, also played a partisan role during the communal clashes in New Delhi in February this year by only highlighting Muslims as victims.
Khan also regularly posts messages, as the head of Delhi Minorities Commission, calling on people to boycott 'godi media'.
In his latest post, he threatened that Indians would have to face consequences if the Muslims here complained to the Arab world. In no uncertain terms, he put his Ummah — Muslim brotherhood — over Indian nationhood.
Under Khan’s leadership, the Delhi Minorities Commission has become a farce.
Last year, when the Member of Parliament from West Delhi, Parvesh Verma, brought out a list of 54 graveyards and mosques that had come up on government land in New Delhi, the commission moved quickly to conduct an inquiry and concluded that this wasn’t true.
As pointed out by Verma, “the commission has no power to check who the owner of the land is. This does not fall under their purview. Only the district magistrate concerned, Delhi Development Authority’s vice chairman, and Municipal Officials can tell about the owner of the land properties.”
But no matter what the conduct of Khan is, there can be nothing more harmful than the existence of institutionalised communal ghettoes in the form of minority commissions funded secularly by taxpayers.
These commissions at the state level and at the central level are headed by, and constituted of, members belonging to the six national minorities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.
The National Commission of Minorities (NCM) Act of 1992 established the statutory body at the Centre after which similar bodies were set up in most of the states. This act defined who constituted a religious minority in India and gave the status to five religions. Jains were included later by the Congress party in 2014. The constitution of the NCM was a major step towards unleashing sectarianism in public policy in India.
Refusal to bow down to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s demand for separate electorates was a major reason for partition of the country and the creation of Pakistan. Under this policy, Muslims could vote for only Muslim candidates, Christians for Christians and so on.
In the elections preceding Partition, 88 per cent of Muslim representatives chosen by the Muslim electorate belonged to Jinnah’s Muslim League, which had campaigned on the promise of delivering Pakistan as a new country for the subcontinent’s Muslims.
India dumped this separatist policy obviously after Independence.
But these minority commissions are a newer form of separate electorates where religious minorities running these institutions try to cater to the interests of their co-religionists only. These commissions are for the minorities, of the minorities but funded by all Indians.
In the 1990s, disbanding these communal commissions used to be a key ideological promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and when it formed governments in three states it delivered on this promise and disbanded the state commissions in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
In its 1998 Lok Sabha election manifesto, the BJP had vowed to close down the National Commission for Minorities and transfer its responsibilities to the National Human Rights Commission.
Similar action was expected of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he came to power with a thumping majority in 2014. After all, Narendra Modi as chief minister adamantly stuck to not setting up a commission for minorities in Gujarat despite repeated missives from the Centre. Gujarat continues to be one of the few states which doesn’t have a state minority commission.
But at the Centre, Modi has behaved differently. Even Yogi Adityanath, who is understood to be a hardcore Hindutva icon, has not disbanded the UP State Minority Commission.
Since NCM is only a statutory body, states are not compelled to form state commissions but if NCM were to be given constitutional status, then all the states will have to constitute such bodies.
Soon after coming to power in 2004, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had introduced a legislation to repeal the NCM act and create a new body with a constitutional status. But the UPA failed to pass the bills.
While Congress party moved to implement its ideological agenda within six months of coming to power and with only 142 seats in the Lok Sabha, the BJP has not attempted to even tweak the communal minority commissions let alone disband them even after six years in power and even after getting two back-to-back thumping majorities.
There is no point blaming Zafarul Islam Khan or some other chairperson of some other minority commission. The real problem is these commissions themselves.
The former is a symptom, the latter is the disease.
But if the past is anything to go by, one can trust the BJP to bark at the wrong tree — ie, at the symptoms — rather than doing the hard work of treating the disease itself.
Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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