KASHMIRI PANDITS should be accorded minority status “if the definition of minorities” needs a relook, according to Gayorul Hasan Rizvi, who was appointed chairman of the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) on May 26. Rizvi said he will raise the issue with the Centre.
“If the definition of minorities has to be relooked at, it is my opinion that Kashmiri Pandits should be the first people to be accorded that status,” he told The Indian Express. “When minorities in the entire country have that status, and privileges and opportunities that come with it, why should Kashmiri Pandits, who are a minority in their home state, be left out? It is something that Parliament will have to decide, but I will definitely raise the matter in the appropriate forum.”
Rizvi, a former national general-secretary of the BJP’s minority morcha, said he was conscious of the fact that Article 370 keeps Jammu and Kashmir outside the purview of the NCM. “Leh has the maximum number of Buddhists, and yet the Commission can do nothing about Kashmir. There is no point trying to change that,” he said. “But as far as Pandits are concerned, at least by giving minority status, we can ensure their rights here, in Delhi.”
Rizvi’s appointment last month came nearly three months after the last NCM member had retired in January. In its first meeting last week, the Commission spoke to the district administration about the Jewar gangrape incident, sought reports from the district magistrate and the superintendent of police, and is waiting for the final forensic report to take a position on the matter, he said.
Following multiple attacks by self-proclaimed cow vigilantes on cattle traders or beef eaters in his home state, Uttar Pradesh, Rizvi said he has raised the issue with both UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Governor Ram Naik. “There is no insecurity (among minorities) but a few sporadic incidents have affected people’s perception,” he said. “In case there is a lack of security perceived by minorities in any state, the commission will raise the issue with the CM and administration concerned. That is why I met the UP CM on June 2. I told him that there is a need to crack down on criminals who, in the garb of gaurakshaks (cow vigilantes), are spreading terror and giving the government a bad name.” Adityanath, Rizvi said, “is already at it”.
While stating that “gaurakshaks have no political backing”, Rizvi also said, “It is possible some of them (vigilantes) are playing into the Opposition’s hands and trying to fan discontent among minorities against the government.” Referring to the demand by former Maharashtra minister Sulekha Kumbhare after she took charge as NCM member, Rizvi said the commission needs more teeth. “The commissions for SC/ST or women have the rights to punish. We do not. We can at the most make suggestions to the government,” he said.