A delegation of Muslim leaders led by Mahmood Madani, president, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind met the Home Minister Amit Shah at his residence on Tuesday night. In a wide-ranging interaction, the Muslim leaders drew the Home Minister’s attention to growing incidents of violence against the minorities, in particular the riots during the Ram Navami celebrations, frequent cases of mob lynching and cancellation of reservation for Muslims in Karnataka.
They expressed their apprehensions too about the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and attacks on madrasas by some BJP leaders. The Home Minister gave them a patient hearing, and assured prompt action in case “specific grievances” were brought to his notice.
The Muslim leadership sought strict action against the lynching accused and possibly a new law to tackle the menace. The Home Minister, however, denied the need for a new law, stating, “Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code entails death. Nothing more is required”. Told about the police often not being ready to charge the accused under Section 302, Mr. Shah “assured action within three days if a specific case was brought up”, as Jamiat’s senior leader Niyaz Farooqui, who was a member of the delegation, told The Hindu.
Mr. Shah was forthright when talking of cancellation of reservation for Muslims in Karnataka. “We do not grant reservation on the basis of religion. That’s our policy. You can check the record of 17 States under the BJP. No one gives reservation on the lines of religion. This was done by the earlier Congress government. However, we give reservation on the basis of backwardness. I assure no person will suffer because of religion. I am ready to give a public statement on this.”
He also urged the Muslim delegates not to see the annulment of Article 370 in Kashmir from a religious perspective. “Article 370 is not a religious issue. It concerns Centre-State relations. If there is a case of Muslims suffering since [370 was repealed], we are ready to look into it,” Mr. Shah told the delegates who also sought his intervention into ongoing attacks on madrasas in different parts of the country. A mob attacked a 1,000-year-old madrasa in Bihar where some 4,500 books were burned recently.
Assuring action in the case, the Home Minister urged the Muslim community to give holistic education in madrasas. “Teach the Quran and Hadith but modern education is necessary,” Mr. Shah stated. The Minister, however, remained tight-lipped when the Muslim delegation raised the issue of withdrawal of Maulana Azad scholarship for students besides the contentious subject of UCC where the delegation submitted, “The UCC is not an issue for Muslims only. Our country is the best example of unity in diversity or being a truly pluralist one. Thus whichever laws are framed ignoring our pluralism will have a direct impact on the unity, diversity and integrity of the country. This is the main reason for opposing the UCC.” The delegation requested “no tampering should be done with the personal laws of India”.
The delegation, which also included All India Muslim Personal Law Board members Kamal Faruqui and Professor Akhtarul Wasey, was of the opinion that the leaders saw “a different Amit Shah from the one we see delivering political speeches”. “This is the first time a relationship has been established with the government. The process of dialogue has now been initiated. How successful it will be remains to be seen, but it is a positive first step. The honourable Minister was not in a denial mode,” Mr. Farooqui summed up.