At a time when the nation is grappling with the Caste Census and ever debatable reservation quota issue, the Ministries of Minority Affairs and HRD are at loggerheads over granting minority status to Jamia Milia Islamia University.
In an exclusive chat with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on Kahiye Janab, Minister of State for Corporate and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid shares his views on matters ranging from the reservation for Muslims to the IPL money laundering controversy.
Swati: Your grandpa founded Jamia Milia Islamia University. Do you think the university should be given minority status? What was the issue between you and Kapil Sibal?
Khurshid: Kapil Sibal is the Union Minister for Human Resource Development and his work is to look after universities. They follow a set of rules and procedures. His (Kapil Sibal) job is to see the procedures. He says that if a university like Jamia wants to be labelled as a minority university, it has to provide some documents. There should be some dialogue. He can’t do it blindly. We must respect his concerns.
According to the Supreme Court, minority institutions are those which are established by minorities. However, all universities are established by the government and Parliament. In such a case, how can we accord the minority status to an institution like Aligarh Muslim University?
Swati: Should Jamia Milia Islamia be given minority status?
Khurshid: It is not a question of ‘granting’ or ‘not granting’ (minority status). A child is either born or not born. If he is born, how was he born? Who was his mother? A DNA test is required to ascertain his identity if the mother is not known. If the DNA says yes, then there should be no issue at all.
Swati: But we know the lineage of…
Khurshid: Yes, we know who the mother (of Jamia) is. So, there is no point of doing any DNA test. In all 90 years of its existence, Jamia has had a Muslim chancellor. Any work starts with a Tilavat there. There is a family and its name is also Jamia Milia Islamia.
Swati: Why is Kapil Sibal opposing it?
Khurshid: We are not fighting. We both are lawyers and we fight with words, not with swords. He has some duties and responsibilities to fulfil. He must be getting some feedback from universities.
In accordance with the Supreme Court judgment, he is saying he can’t accord it minority status. He is asking for some facts and details. I call this a dialogue and not a fight. We will find a consensual solution to this issue soon.
Swati: It was said again and again during UPA-I as well as UPA-II that something will be done for Muslims. A committee, led by Ranganath Mishra, suggested giving reservation to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. Should Muslims be given reservation?
Khurshid: We did not accept it. The affidavit that is to be filed in the Supreme Court is in accordance with it, and we’ve set up a commission. There are many issues in this. The category of Muslims and Christians would have to be termed as Dalits so that they could be given reservation. At present, they are OBCs.
Swati: In Islam there is no caste. Why is your government trying to break the Muslim community on the basis of caste?
Khurshid: We are not trying to break anyone. We have just received a demand. We have not done anything. We have just placed it in Parliament and the government has to take the decision. We have to talk to all the stakeholders on the issue. It’s true that Islam doesn’t have a caste system, but there is also a truth that it (caste divide) does prevail in India. People and society are dividing themselves by saying that we are from the backward section.
Swati: Your Cabinet colleagues have mixed views reactions on the Caste Census issue. Ajay Maken has opposed it while Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has openly favoured it? Why is UPA-II dividing the country?
Salman: We are not dividing the country. Some people have a perception that Caste Census will cause a loss to them (in terms of votebank). At the same time, some people have the perception that this is way of getting accurate data. So, it is a matter of difference in perceptions. Our Prime Minister has given his decision and appointed a Group of Ministers to look into the matter. So, I think we shouldn’t discuss it openly and wait for the final outcome.
Swati: But your Cabinet ministers are…
Khurshid: Our ministers are not vocal about the issue. It’s just like there are many issues and when there is a debate on such a big issue, people tend to join in.
Swati: What’s your stand?
Khurshid: There is nothing in it to join the debate. The Prime Minister has given his decision about the GoM. Let the decision come to the Cabinet; till then we should wait for it.
Swati: Sacchar Committee report has been accepted. Do you think everything has been done as recommended in the report? What’s your say on 60% of funds meant for Muslims that have not been utilized?
Khurshid: It’s not true. First of all, the funds are not meant for Muslims, they are for the minorities. We have accepted 99 percent of the Sacchar Committee report. I am not fully satisfied as it is not comprehensively done. But something has been done and there are things which are yet to be completed. We have started sending funds to 90 districts. Around Rs 1,500 crore has already been sent. The funds will rise to Rs 3,500 crore next year. Of all the 90 districts 62 are Muslim dominated, while others have Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists in large numbers.
Swati: Why there are less Muslims in high profile government jobs such as in the fields of IPS, IAS and IB?
Khurshid: Their number is less. There is no denial to this fact. But a base should be there and we are developing it. If you see the present record, 9.5% posts in civil services and PSUs are with those from the minority communities. Two years back, it was just 6 percent and our target is 15 percent. It will happen and our Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi both are committed to achieve the target.
Swati: Do you find Batla House encounter authentic. You went to the Prime Minister with some Cabinet members and demanded a judicial enquiry. Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s decision?
Khurshid: Everything cannot be said publicly. But the way the Prime Minister and Soniaji helped us, it’s truly commendable.
Just after the Batla incident, Delhi elections followed, 26/11 attacks brazened the country. NHRC, Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court gave some decisions. We should respect them. Then, Digvijay Singh said a speedy trial should be ensured and our Home Minister P Chidambaram agreed to it. We will ensure a speedy trial so that the truth comes out. If we find some lapses we will rectify them.
Swati: Digvijay Singh went to Azamgarh and made a demand of consolidating the cases which has still not been done. Your comments on this.
Khurshid: Digvijay Singhji is a very senior leader and Uttar Pradesh’s in-charge. I think a person of such stature has the right to take some decisions. If we agree to his demand, people say we are indulging in groupism, camps are coming up. Digvijayji just asked for a speedy and fair trial. So what’s wrong in that? Chidambaram said he will discuss what can be done. It is a positive attitude in a difficult situation and we all should respect it.
Swati: On the Afzal Guru issue, Sheila Dikshit delayed the proceedings, then Chidambaram said something. Why are there so many views on a single issue? Why does your party always play votebank politics?
Khurshid: There are 200 people on death row. I don’t have full information about how many mercy petitions are there (with the President). We are not playing any politics. Whatever the case, the government is there and it will do the job. We don’t have any sympathy or hatred towards anybody. Court has given the order and if human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer Nandita Haksar has said there are some issues that have been overlooked, that also will be looked into.
Swati: Why is it that every Indian Muslim has to justify he/she has no connection with Afzal Guru or Ajmal Kasab?
Khurshid: Kasab is not ours, he is from Pakistan and our enemy. But Afzal Guru is ours (from within our own territory). Supreme Court’s order says that he, being from within the country, has betrayed us.
Swati: Should he (Afzal Guru) be hanged or not?
Khurshid: I am nobody to answer that, when the President is there to address the concern.
Swati: You once said BCCI should be tapped. Now that big politicians are involved in its workings, what will you do?
Khurshid: We cannot do anything. BCCI is not a company. My duty is to keep a tab on the companies like the IPL franchises. We have questioned them. We are carrying investigations under Company Law violation. But BCCI is a (registered) society and comes under state. If a society is huge and affects nationwide sentiments, then we should deal with it cautiously. We need to think about it.
Swati: Cricket is a religion in our country. What’s your say on politicians involved in cricket, who don’t know anything about the game?
Khurshid: It’s the job of the Sports Ministry. There should be regulation in big sporting events, especially which come under societies.
Swati: Your comment on the money laundering racket in IPL?
Khurshid: Many allegations are baseless. At some places disclosure and compliance is needed and we are getting it done. Regarding the funds’ source, it is the job of the Enforcement Directorate to take stock. Finance Ministry has categorically said whatever information is needed, we will definitely take it.
Swati: If anything substantial comes out, as politicians are also involved, do you think any action will be taken?
Khurshid: So what if the politicians are involved. BCCI needs to come out clean and clear all the speculations doing the rounds. BCCI should talk to the Sports Ministry and bring in more transparency.
Swati: You had two tenures as Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) chief. Do you think you should have continued and worked with Rahul Gandhi?
Khurshid: I worked with Rahul for 2-3 months when he started taking interest in Uttar Pradesh. It was delightful and he has lots of energy. I would have loved to work with him. My shelf life in UPCC was complete and I have done my job. There’s no question of returning, as I did my job as I was asked to by the Congress president.
Adapted by Biplob Ghosal