Zafarul Islam Khan’s attempt to reach out to the Muslim world is an affront to the core values of our secular Constitution. His comments are detestable and must be contested
Even as India is grappling with the monstrous Coronavirus and every organ of the State is doing its best to contain the spread of the pandemic, the Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan, publicly declared that Muslims are being “persecuted” in the country. He has taken, what one would consider, the most irresponsible step by reaching out to the Muslim world for help. He thanked the Government of Kuwait “for standing with the Indian Muslims.” Khan has since partially retracted his statement but the damage is done because he persists in saying that Muslims are being persecuted in our country.
In his first Facebook post, he had said that Indian Muslims had “opted until now” not to complain to the Arab and Muslim world about the hate campaigns against them. He then warned that “the day they are pushed to that (complaining to the Muslim world), bigots will face an avalanche.” Well, Mr Khan, under our Constitution and the laws, you do not have the “option,” which you imagine you have. Our Constitution and our laws strictly forbid citizens from behaving in this manner. While Article 19(1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech and expression, Article 19(2) imposes “reasonable restrictions,” which pertain to the “sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order… and incitement to an offence.” In other words, the State has the right to make laws to ensure that no individual commits these infringements. Hence the provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with these matters.
Despite holding an important public office — there are lakhs of our fellow citizens who are Muslims and who are holding public offices in this country — Khan has sought to run down the nation he belongs to. This writer is of the view that his attempt to reach out to the Muslim world is an affront to the core values of our secular Constitution; it constitutes denigration of the nation he belongs to; and disturbs the sovereignty and integrity of India because he sought the help of other nations for a section of India’s citizenry. It affects public order because his petition to the Muslim world will offend the senses of 85 per cent of the country’s citizens, who are not Muslims and many Muslims themselves, who will feel that this is an act of betrayal. Consequently, this could result in incitement to an offence. Finally, it is certain to disturb friendly relations with the Arab world — a relationship that is very dear to every Indian from the days of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Yasser Arafat.
The Delhi Police has acted promptly in this case. They have filed an FIR against Khan under Sections 124A and 153 A of the IPC, which deal with sedition and promoting enmity among different groups. So now, the law will take its course. But what Khan has done goes well beyond legal niceties and courtroom dramas. It is a warning bell for every citizen, who wishes to preserve the secular, liberal and democratic Constitution that our founding fathers have given us. Will we keep it or lose it, thanks to the follies of Khans of this world?
His original comments are indeed detestable and must, therefore, be contested vehemently. In that statement, Khan also revealed the kind of company he keeps. He had said Zakir Naik, who is spreading communal venom, is a “respected household name.”
Seeking the interference of another country in India’s internal affairs is an act of treachery. This should never be countenanced because, in a democracy, various groups will always have some grouse or another. India’s Constitution has created an elaborate mechanism to address these grievances and to find solutions. Apart from the two Houses of Parliament and the legislative Assemblies in all States, the nation has a strong, robust and independent judiciary that even has the power to strike down Constitutional amendments enacted by Parliament.
The country also boasts of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Minorities Commission (NMC) and similar institutions in States as also the Central Information Commission (CIC). To top it all, India has a vibrant media that reflects every aspect of the country’s plurality — one look at the abuses and barbs flung at Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Muslim leaders and their flunkies on television debates and on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets will give you an idea of how “persecuted” the Muslims are in our country.
Should they be citizens of the Islamic nations who are being beseeched by Khan and should they try something like this on the leaders of those nations, they would be heading straight to the gallows. Also, some of the highly provocative and distasteful videos circulated by Muslim youth against Hindus in recent months would surely be additional evidence of the “persecution of Muslims” that Khan is talking about. Or, are we to believe that he has not seen any of this?
Now, onto the Tablighi Jamaat. When all the temples and churches in the country were closed, including the temple of Lord Balaji in Tirupati, why did the Tablighi Jamaat flout Government orders? Why did it hold the conference in Delhi in the second half of March with foreign delegates, which resulted in the rapid spread of the virus in the country? Are the Tablighis above the law? And why have they been spitting and abusing doctors and nurses in different parts of the country? Are they devoid of basic manners?
When all this was reported in the media, Khan declares that India is in the grip of Islamophobia. Did you, Khan, advise the Tablighis to behave? Have you no responsibility in this regard?
Annie Besant and BR Ambedkar had the prescience to anticipate this problem — of Indian Muslims seeking Muslim brotherhood and camaraderie outside the nation they belong to. In her book, The Future of Indian Politics, Annie Besant said in 1922 that “the primary allegiance of the musalmans (Muslims) is to Islamic countries, not to our motherland.” She said their attitude was “subversive of civic order and the stability of the State. It makes them bad citizens for their centre of allegiance is outside their nation and … they cannot be trusted by their fellow citizens.”
Annie Besant sounds prophetic when we read the statement of Zafarul Islam Khan but let us not forget that millions of Muslims, who work in every sphere of life including the armed forces, scientific laboratories, academia, entertainment and the crafts, have made us proud. Several of them have achieved the pinnacle of success like former Presidents Abdul Kalam, Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan. All this has been possible because of the rhythm and harmony created by our Constitution to enable each one of us to chase our dreams in an environment that breeds equality and fraternity. We should not allow a few malcontents like Khan to disturb this.
(Writer: A Surya Prakash; Courtesy: The Pioneer)