Thiruvananthapuram

Minorities panel refuses to leave the ‘veil’

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Commission under fire for being too eager to seek an explanation from Fazal Gafoor for his comments on the veil.

Kerala State Minorities Commission Chairman M. Veerankutty seems to have bitten off more than he can chew. The commission’s issuance of a notice to Muslim Education Society (MES) president P.A. Fazal Gafoor for the latter’s comment that ‘niqab’ (veil), used by some Muslim women to cover their faces, is un-Islamic has landed him in a fix.

For, Mr. Veerankutty is not just somebody. He is a former District Congress Committee (DCC) president. Now, the question being asked by many in the party is how Mr. Veerankutty could issue notice against a person who had merely exercised his freedom of expression and who is widely seen as a progressive Muslim opinion leader. The commission had, at his initiative, served a notice on Dr. Gafoor asking him to tender an explanation within seven days about his reported statement. Faced with criticism, Mr. Veerankutty took cover under the argument that he had done so on receipt of a complaint alleging that Dr. Gafoor’s comments were against the interests of the Muslim community. The reference to ‘a complaint,’ according to commission sources, is an afterthought, part of a bid to ward off the charge that the Commission was a little overenthusiastic in its action. Mr. Veerankutty’s embarrassment is understandable, political circles point out, because the commission appeared eager to silence people exercising their democratic freedom to air their views on sensitive issues pertaining to minority communities, especially when not many Muslim outfits or leaders have come out to oppose Dr. Gafoor’s views on the issue openly.

Transport Ministers get their biggest headache from private bus operators who seek higher fares every time there is a rise in the prices of petroleum products. This time, however, the roles appear to have reversed. For a change, Transport Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan has thrown a challenge at private bus operators by making bus travel free for some 1.30 lakh students up to the higher secondary level. The private bus operators have not responded to his challenge, but it has caused a flutter in his backyard. Employees of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) have been incensed by the Minister’s sudden announcement, and for some valid reasons. The employees and retirees have not been getting their salaries and pensions on time. The employees, cutting across the political divide, had announced a day’s token strike in Thiruvananthapuram to highlight their woes. Everybody in the Corporation had thought that the Minister would use the daily saving of Rs.16.50 lakh, thanks to the sharp fall in diesel price, to ensure prompt salary and pension payments. Many in the top rungs of the KSRTC are also asking each other from where the Minister got the idea that has, for the moment, put the private bus operators on the mat.

A lorry load of lemon that arrived from Andhra Pradesh at the Thrissur market has kept the officials of the Thrissur municipal corporation, the police, and the public on tenterhooks for the past one week. As much as nine tonnes of the load, declared ‘hazardous’ by the Regional Analysts’ Laboratory, Kochi, has been rotting at the Sakthan Market with none to take responsibility for the stench and possible contamination.

The authorities detained the load when workers engaged in unloading the consignment fell sick because of the presence of a high amount of calcium carbide packed into the consignment for speeding up the ripening process. The subsequent tests proved the excessive presence of calcium carbide and the consignment was not allowed to be taken out. For the authorities, the matter seemed to rest there. But for the local population that has proved to be just the beginning of a major worry. The rotting lemon has not only created a stink, but raised the possibility of the highly toxic calcium carbide posing a grave threat to the local population.

(With inputs from Mohamed Nazeer, S. Anil Radhakrishnan, Mini Muringatheri)



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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:15:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/minorities-panel-refuses-to-leave-the-veil/article6693200.ece

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