The Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde did not think twice about the Constitutional Directive that India was a secular state. He broke the fabric of secularism by directing all states to ensure that no innocent Muslim youth was wrongfully detained in the name of terror. In itself, the directive would have been praiseworthy if all the people of all faith were included in the directive. But these are trivial matters, not good enough to be considered by a Home Minister, whose secular credentials have never been in doubt but it all is over-ridden by vote politics.
What about Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jews? If they are detained, would Shinde’s conscience not get affected? Members of these faiths are not on his radar. They could be detained, harassed and hunted, Shinde cares a damn. The fact that neither the dynasty, nor the Prime Minister, nor the UPA allies have spoken a word against the Shinde’s edict confirms, nor that it was needed one could guess it clearly, that all of them wished to be a beneficiary of the directive.
The dynasty, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati have been pursuing “please the minority community policy” for long. They would help create a split and a pro-Hindu wave more than all efforts of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. But farsightedness has never been a virtue and strong point amongst most political leaders in India. Nitish Kumar following a similar policy in Bihar has already created a Hindu wave, which obliterates the lines of division between different castes.
Shinde’s directive has been condemned by the Opposition as “vote-bank politics” with BJP alleging it was done keeping the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in mind. BJP demanded that Shinde be sacked for attempting to divide the country on communal lines and the directive be withdrawn immediately. But Shinde with his continuing loyalty to all the directives from the Family is irreplaceable. He is ready to march on not caring if his reputation gets shredded. A loyal soldier never questions why, just goes ahead, unmindful of consequences to himself.
In the letter, Shinde said the Central government had been receiving various representations on alleged harassment of innocent Muslim youth by law enforcement agencies.”Some of the minority youth have started feeling that they are deliberately targeted and deprived of their basic rights,” he wrote. Shinde emphasised that the government is committed to its core principle of combating terrorism in every form and manifestation.
“The government has to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to undue harassment,” he told the Chief Ministers. He asked the state governments to constitute special courts in consultation with the high court concerned for trial of terror-related cases, appoint special public prosecutors for trial of these cases and give priority to them over other pending cases.
The Home Minister said law enforcement agencies should be satisfied with regard to communal and social harmony while ensuring zero tolerance for terrorism.”Strict and prompt action should be taken against erring police officers where there is malafide arrests of any member of minority community, wrongfully arrested person should not only be released immediately but they should be suitably compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream,” he said.
The BJP said that if Shinde had issued the letter without associating the religion of the person it would not have been an issue. “Had he used the word Indian instead of any religion then it would have been better. Shinde should be sacked with immediate effect for dividing the country on communal lines,” said BJP General Secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu alleged that Shinde has written this letter for vote bank politics, keeping the forthcoming elections in mind.
He said Shinde’s move is “unconstitutional and questionable” and demanded that the directive should be taken back immediately. CPI’s D Raja accused Congress of seeking political advantage by trying to woo Muslim voters ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and said the law is equal to everybody and should be applied equally to all citizens.
The irony is that according to reports not many Muslims are impressed by terror directive. They are also unimpressed with the Home Ministry advisory sent to states to find out how many terror undertrials are in prison. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had told the media about the advisory, suggesting the setting up of fast-track courts to deal with the cases.
Mufti Mohammed Mukarram, who is the Imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid in Chandni Chowk, told a Sunday weekly that the UPA government has championed the art of announcing empty promises. “Isn’t it ironic that the Centre does not even have a list of all the terror undertrials? The Home Minister has said that the process of getting the list will take time, which proves that it is just a tactic to delay the process. I will not be surprised if the Congress announces during the election campaign next year that it will set up fast-track courts after it is voted to power and then sleep on it for another five years,” he said.
Rihai Manch, an organisation, which has been working for the release of innocent people imprisoned for terrorism, also said to the weekly that it believes that the proposal was a political move. “The Congress has realised that the issue of innocent Muslims languishing in jails will become big in the upcoming elections. As a result, it is playing up the issue,” it said. “There are a lot of cases where state governments have set up commissions to look into the terror accused and then sat on them because the commissions have questioned the handling of the state agencies, “ it added.
Zafarul Islam Khan, author and editor-publisher of The Milli Gazette, rubbished the move as “pure gimmick which will not take us (Muslims) anywhere”. “When there is already the National Investigation Authority (NIA) at the Centre to handle terror cases, then why would anybody send an advisory to the states for the same, especially when we know that several states such as Gujarat, UP and Maharashtra will not act on it properly?”
Minorities Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan said that the decision was taken because his ministry has been receiving complaints, particularly from Muslims, about young undertrials being kept in jail for four-five years. “Somewhere around February, the Minority Affairs Ministry wrote a letter to the Home Ministry asking it to look into the matter. It was suggested that special courts be set up at the state level on the lines of National Investigation Agency to fast-track such cases. The Home Minister assured us he would look into the matter.”
By Vijay Dutt