Even as the NDA government battles barbs from Opposition parties and a stricture from US President Barack Obama over its handling of minorities, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has been on a quiet and sustained outreach to minorities—especially Muslims and Christians who are perceived to be the most embattled—across the country.
Naqvi has travelled across nine states since the beginning of 2015—he has been to some states twice—and held over 25 meetings in a bid to build confidence among communities. While the government was fending off Opposition attacks over the status of minorities inside and outside the Parliament, Naqvi was meeting representatives of various communities in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Mahrashtra, Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Kerala.
The minister conceded that during the first few trips to Kerala and Telangana in January, he witnessed among people mistrust for the government.
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“There were a lot of misgivings. There were several statements from people in the government and the party and the minorities were upset. They would not open up about their issues and would simply say, ‘Let us see what work you do’. It was clear that there was a lot of insecurity,” Naqvi said.
He added that things changed over the months, dramatically so after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement at a church function in Vigyan Bhawan. At a function to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, Modi had said his government would ensure people can follow the religion of his/her choice “without coercion and undue influence” and not allow any religious group to incite hatred.
Naqvi said the PM’s speech started restoring minorities’ confidence. The subsequent meetings, he said, showed a change in their approach as they began talking about issues beyond security, like education, health etc.
“I could see the difference between my Kerala visits in January and now. People are more confident about flagging their issues now,” Naqvi, speaking about his recent visit to Kerala where he attended a function of Jamiyathul-Ulama, said. The minister visited Karnataka where, besides holding meetings, he visited Seyyidi Madani Dargah at Mangalore, which is known as the Ajmer Dargah of south India.