VHP defends calls to scrap minorities ministry & panel, BJP non-committal
The spate of lynchings in the name of cow protection and beef under the Narendra Modi administration have instilled fear among Indian minorities. Amid all this, the self-proclaimed vanguard of Hindutva, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), wants the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to be scrapped – interestingly enough, 'for the sake of equality'.
While the ruling BJP has remained non-committal to VHP's demand, political observers feel scrapping the ministry and commission may be a dangerously real possibility.
The VHP has taken strong umbrage to the NCM asking people to call its helpline number when in distress, saying such steps were fostering division and separatism in the country.
To defend the scrapping call, VHP leader Surendra Jain cited the Constitution, disregarding the fact that it mandates safeguarding linguistic and religious minorities.
“When the Constitution says that all citizens are equal, then why do we need a ministry or a commission for minorities? Such a ministry is a basis for division in society. They should be abolished,” Jain said.’
Jain didn't just defend cow vigilantes – he even claimed Muslims were the “actual attackers” and blamed the NCM for strengthening them.
“The word 'minority', be it in the ministry or the commission, fosters 'minoritism', which eventually fosters separatism. The helpline means Muslims are under attack, when the fact is, it's them who are attacking,” said Jain.
He cited reports of alleged vandalism of temples in Bengal, attacks on Hindu religious processions, and chanting of pro-Pakistan slogans in several parts of the country to buttress his claims.
The VHP is planning to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking the scrapping of the ministry and the NCM, saying their existence will lead to the demand for specific ministries for different religions, eventually dividing the country.
No need to react
On its part, the BJP refused to read much into the matter.
“There is no need to react to everything that is happening. This is not a new demand by the VHP,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
NCM chairperson Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, meanwhile, preferred to laugh it off.
“The VHP has the freedom of expression, and they may adopt whatever resolution they want to. That doesn't mean the commission will be abolished. One can at best laugh at the resolution,” said Rizvi.
Attempts to reach out to Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi were unsuccessful.
Modi has remained silent on the issue, even as the brazenness of gau rakshaks has risen.
Academic Purushottam Agrawal, known for his crusade against communalism, fears the day is not far when Hindutva forces will have the last laugh.
“It won't be surprising if such a day actually arrives. The way to do that is to turn these bodies redundant. In fact, under Modi, the commission is already redundant. Under this government, most of the constitutional bodies are becoming helpless, powerless,” said Agrawal.
Jamia professor M Mujtaba Khan, too, says the signs are ominous.
“The Prime Minister does yoga, advises and wishes people on Twitter, and does Mann Ki Baat on the radio, but has no time to spare a single word on lynching. Minorities are increasingly getting cornered, and so will the ministry and the commission,” said Khan. “One can hope the government realises its constitutional duties.”
However, Manjari Katju, professor at the University of Hyderabad, sees this only as a pressure tactic by the VHP to stay relevant.
“The Modi government, so far, has kept the VHP at a distance, so this can be seen as an attempt to assert its relevance,” she said. “But at the same time, the Sangh Parivar's agenda is to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra, and this government is functioning towards that end.”