THE GOVERNMENT on Wednesday appointed former national general secretary of BJP Minority Morcha Gairul Hasan Rizvi as chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM). Two of the four panel members are affiliated to the BJP: Sunil Sanghi was convener of Anya Bhasha Bhashi Cell of Gujarat BJP, while George Kurian is vice-president of Kerala BJP. All members of the previous Commission had retired in February.
Two others appointed members of the panel are Maharashtra social activist Sulekha Kumbhare (nominated as Buddhist member), and Vada Dasturji Khurshed Kaikobad Dastoor (Parsi member). Kumbhare is a former MLA from Bahujan Republican Ekta Morcha and had supported BJP in 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Dastoor is head priest of the Zoroastrian community and president of Udvada Athorman Anjuman.
Stating that he has been “associated with BJP”, Rizvi told The Indian Express, “Since I am associated with the party I had also worked for Narendra Modi’s (Lok Sabha election) campaign in Varanasi. But my main interest is social work.” Rizvi replaces Naseem Ahmed, a former bureaucrat. Ahmed was preceded by another retired bureaucrat, Wajahat Habibullah. Habibullah had famously attempted to summon then Gujarat CM Modi to NCM over a complaint on Gujarat riots but legal opinion was sought and the NCM was told that elected representatives cannot be summoned. Among other members of the last commission are Farida Abdullah Khan (a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia who had also taught in JNU), Ajaib Singh (former professor, Panjab University), and former IPS officer T N Shanoo.
The Hindu member of the previous Commission — Captain Praveen Dawar — was associated with the Congress, as was the Christian member, Mabel Rebello, who had been a Rajya Sabha member. While the government notification mentions Sunil Sanghi as a Hindu member, he said he is from the Jain community. He said the notification calls him Hindu perhaps because Jains were counted among Hindus. “I am associated with Bhilwara temple trust and I am chairman of the All-india Jain Sanstha. I am associated with Gujarat BJP but my main work is as a social activist.”
Kurian, an advocate, said he fights cases in both Kerala and in Supreme Court. “As a politician, I am a BJP man — the party’s state vice-president. I learnt about my appointment this evening, so I will contact NCM tomorrow to ask when I can join.” Minority Affairs Minister Naqvi told The Indian Express that a deliberate decision has been taken to keep away from the earlier trend of appointing retired judges or retired bureaucrats. “There is nothing in the Constitution about appointing (in the NCM) retired judges or bureaucrats. We decided to stick to social activists this time,” he said.