Rajnath Singh interview: ‘Opposition parties need each other’s support… we are not scared’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/rajnath-singh-interview-kashmir-maoists-pakistan-ceasefire-5193621/

Rajnath Singh interview: ‘Opposition parties need each other’s support… we are not scared’

Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the government’s achievements, Kashmir, Maoists and the 2019 challenge.

Rajnath Singh interview
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during an interview with the Indian Express at his residence in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Q: You have entered the fifth year of your government. How are you looking at it?

A: There are too many achievements to talk about. The government has worked for the poor, youth, women and the downtrodden. Bharat is sabse badi uplabdhi uski aarthik takat ka badhna hai (The country’s most significant achievement is the increase of its economic power) According to the Economic and Business Research, India will be among the five top economic powers by later this year or next year.

India’s total FDI has touched $156 billion, we have become a major investment destination, our fiscal deficit is controlled and the current account deficit has been widened. For the poor and the deprived class, this government has taken so many initiatives. Farmers have been given loans of Rs 11 lakh crore, the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance and Suraksha Bima Yojana is also for the common people. The government’s new health scheme, Ayushman Bharat, will be a unique scheme — nowhere in the world is there such a government-sponsored programme. Obamacare se bhi aage hai yeh yojana. Overall, this government has taken measures to ensure that no section of the society has a sense of insecurity. We have tried to touch everyone’s life. There may be some more left.we will do it in the coming year.

Read | If Pakistan ready for talks, shows initiative, India won’t say no: Rajnath Singh

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Q: But there have been allegations against your government, from critics and the opposition, that sections of people feel insecure. There are multiple reports of atrocities against Dalits and minorities.

A: You may have seen there is an increase in such incidents and criticism in the election year. In the last three-and-a-half years, these things were not there. My view is that politics should be on the basis of issues. You cannot do politics by breaking the society into pieces or creating hatred. We are not doing politics of hatred. Those who are doing it should think about it. Even the Opposition should introspect. Politics should be done by earning love and affection and by winning the hearts.

Read | Politics is not about hatred; BJP not afraid of Opposition unity, says Rajnath Singh

Q : This has been an allegation against your government from the beginning. Do you think the government has brought about “sabka saat, sabka vikas”

A: Since the Opposition cannot say that this government does not do anything for the poor, women or the downtrodden, they are raising such allegations. They want to create fear among the people. We are actively allaying those fears.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his residence in New Delhi on Saturday. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Q : So, are you saying the reports of attacks and atrocities on Dalits and minorities are not true? Many times such communities have also approached you for your intervention.

A: Tell me any such incident where the government has not taken any action. Incidents can happen to anyone — be it Hindu, Christian or Muslim or Parsi. But why do you want to show it as an incident against a particular community. We have not let injustice to be done to anyone. We have been following the policy of “justice to all, appeasement to none”. Whenever there was some incident, we have addressed it.

Q : In some incidents like in Kathua, BJP leaders were involved in an agitation to protect the accused?

A: Whether BJP or Congress leaders, the government’s stand has been clear in all these incidents. And anywhere it happens, we will take action. I want to say that my government stands for justice to all and appeasement to none.

Q . Those who are involved with the Kashmir issue say the government has taken a rigid stand that it will not talk to separatists?

A: When did I say that? Since the beginning, I have been saying I would talk to everyone who wants to talk. If someone has hesitation for direct talks, we have appointed an interlocutor. Tell me what else we should do. We are ready.

Q : Pakistan is one of the biggest factors in Jammu and Kashmir. So how do you bring them on board to talk? Will you talk to Pakistan?

A: What else we can do? Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the step of sitting in a bus and going to Lahore. Our Prime Minister (Modi) took a flight and went straight to Nawaz Sharif. What else is the way? Does Pakistan not understand it? What more steps can we take? I myself have gone there.

Rajnath Singh with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in Srinagar during a visit to the state. File/Express Photo

Q : But there were no steps after your visit to Pakistan for the SAARC meeting.

A: If we have to keep good relations with the neighbour, the neighbour should also do something. See how Pakistan has been promoting terrorism. How it has been violating ceasefire. It tried to push in militants. Pakistan has never backed out of its activities.

Q : You said you have been trying to talk to them?

A: I have said we had broken all the barriers and went there. What else we can do? No Prime Minister from Pakistan came here. Did any premier of Pakistan take steps like Vajpayee had done?

Q : For Kashmir, do you want to talk to Pakistan?

A: Kashmir is part of India and will remain so. No force in the world can do anything to change it. It’s not anyone’s mercy.

Q: We have taken all the steps, but Pakistan did not fall in line. What is the government’s view to deal with Pakistan?

A: We will handle it. We will keep repeating that ‘you are our neighbour, stay away from such activities’. There should not be any ceasefire violation and don’t try to destabilise the other country. Now you tell me, we have suspended operations during Ramzan. But they have increased shelling, violating the ceasefire. Don’t you want our Muslim brothers in Kashmir to have a peaceful Ramzan? Do they think Kashmiris are tools in their hands? They are Kashmiris, they are Indians.

Q: Pakistan is very close to China. Are we looking at putting any pressure on Pakistan through China as far as terrorism is concerned?

A: No. If Pakistan wants to talk to us, we will talk directly. There is no need for a third party intervention.

Q: Will you initiate dialogue with Pakistan in the last year of your government?

A: If Pakistan is ready to talk, why won’t we talk? Tell Pakistan to stop pushing in terrorists across the border. Make a public statement (for talks). They keep saying we do not promote terrorism, we do not infiltrate terrorists. If it is so, let’s come together and jointly launch an action against these terrorists. If they have the intent and honesty, they should do this. It shouldn’t happen that we are worried about the Ramzan celebrations of our Kashmiri brothers and sisters and are announcing suspension of operations during Ramzan, and you are indulging in more ceasefire violations. It means your intentions are clear. Pakistan cannot have any sympathy for Kashmiris. If they had any sympathy, they would have welcomed our move. This is something even people of Kashmir should understand.

Q: The NIA action against separatists, you had said, had brought down stone-pelting in the Valley. But this year, in the first four months, we have seen a spike of 55 per cent (in stone-pelting incidents). It has come down after the suspension of operation was announced. Do you think your tough approach did not have the desired results and so you had to resort to a soft approach?

A: We have no hesitation in taking action against terrorists. But it pains when lives of civilians are lost in such operations.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with ITBP personnel during his visit to the 12th Battalion of Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Uttarakhand. File/Express Photo.

Q: Will the Ramzan ceasefire continue after Ramzan?

A: There is no problem. We can extend it. But let’s watch for a month. If the situation remains peaceful in the Valley, we will extend it. But if terrorists try to destabilise it, the operations will resume.

Q : If you extend ceasefire beyond Ramzan, do you think you will have less burden of security for Amarnath Yatra?

A: Well, proper security arrangements will have to be made for Amarnath Yatra. We can’t trust terrorists. I am amazed that Pakistan does not want Muslims in India to have a peaceful Ramzan. Can there be worse intentions? They are enemies of Kashmiri Muslims.

Q : Inside BJP, some say there should be a muscular policy on Kashmir, others want a soft approach? What do you support?

A: We will talk to those who want to talk. Those who attack will be eliminated. I have full sympathy (with people of Kashmir). But people are not understanding.

Q : Has the initiative of last year (on Kashmir) brought desired results? Has the response been up to your expectations?

A: No. But things are improving. The improvement was not as expected but it will happen.

Q: Most Kashmiris complain about demonising of Kashmiris on TV news channels. They complain that every Kashmiri is touted as “anti-national” and “terrorist”. What are you doing about this?

A: We have put brakes on that to a large extent. You will see, it is not happening so much anymore. Kashmiris are highly talented. So many become IPS and IAS officers. Kashmiris have the potential to lead the nation. But Pakistan is playing with the lives of Kashmiri youth. They are arming them with stones and guns. They have played a cruel joke with the people. Kashmir’s history will not forgive them.

Q: The 2016 citizenship amendment Bill brought by your government to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan has run into trouble in Northeast. What is being done?

A: There is some confusion over it. We will talk to all concerned and solve it. The Bill is talking about persecuted minorities in other countries, but it has created some confusion.

Q: But is it true that this is a ploy to give citizenship based on religion?

A: It is only for minorities who are in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. It is every state’s responsibility to protect the minorities. They can be Christians, Parsis, Jews. They need to be a religious minority. But if some people have some misconception about it, we are ready to find a solution together.

A delegation of Christian religious leaders led by the Archbishop of Bombay and President of Asian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Oswald Gracias with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi. File/2015

Q: But what about Muslims coming from these countries?

A: They are not minorities. They are a majority in those countries. They are not coming here because of religious persecution. This Bill is for people who are facing religious persecution.

Q : Ahead of 2019, you (BJP) are in governments in 20 states. You are going to be facing a lot of anti-incumbency. There are issues like fuel price rise, unemployment. How are you preparing for that?

A: There will be pro-incumbency. We will find a way around the issue of fuel price rise.

Q: When you won in 2014, the Opposition was disintegrated. In 2018, what we saw in Karnataka, there is a united Opposition. Are you scared about 2019?

A: At this time, Opposition parties need each other’s support. If they are standing together, we don’t mind. A strong opposition is a good thing. We are not scared. In fact, our seats might also increase. People will say how will so many people come together and run a government. Caste coalitions will disintegrate in front of good governance.

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Q : It’s not the old BJP, when there were a lot of leaders. Today there is only one leader. Is it going to remain so in 2019?

A: Leader is always one. Only one leader is very popular. Once Atalji was popular. Now Modiji is. No one can deny that.

Q : You always said your party was a party with a difference. But it appears you have caught the Congress disease: of snatching political power where it’s not your right. Manipur, Meghalaya, Goa and even Karnataka are examples.

A: Now if you are not going to stake claim to form the government, are we going to just leave it like that? Who staked claim in Manipur. They did not have the numbers, they didn’t go. Same happened in Goa.

Q: There has been lot of criticism of your government over the misuse of office of the Governor. Isn’t the BJP following the same path which Congress did in 2004 by appointing their own Governors after they came to power?

A: (Laughs) Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that a person who has been in active politics cannot become the governor. I want to ask, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir is from which party, Sikkim governor is from where? We did not remove J&K Governor after we came to power. See, this is a healthy tradition. [J&K Governor N N Vohra was appointed in 2008 and will complete his second term next month].

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh during a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi. File/Express Photo By Amit Mehra

Q: Dignity is very important in politics. Why has BJP become so uncharitable and bitter these days, particularly towards those who hold a view opposite to yours?

A: BJP has never been uncharitable and if the party was uncharitable, it would not have risen to become the largest political party in the country today. It (BJP) would have collapsed in the beginning if that was the case. Despite the Opposition trying to spread hatred, there has not been a major terror incident, no major communal clashes. If we were uncharitable and bitter, the government would not have run smoothly for four years. Without my Prime Minister’s support, it would have not been possible for me as a home minister to deliver on so many things. I can assure you that there is no bitterness and I talk to all parties.

Q: What are the reasons for so much of confrontation between your government and higher judiciary. Your government did not allow a particular judge to be elevated because he did not give a judgment in your favour. Is your government trying to have a committed judiciary?

A: It is wrong to suggest that there is any confrontation with the judiciary. For a healthy democracy, an independent judiciary is a must. Judiciary should be committed towards sovereignty, unity, integrity and harmony. We cannot imagine a judiciary committed towards a political party. There are many issues (as far as appointment in higher judiciary is concerned). Government and collegium is involved and everyone is consulted.

Q: There are allegations against your government of going soft against right-wing extremists involved in cases like 2007 Samjhauta train blast, Ajmer Dargah blast, Mecca Masjid blast and 2008 Malegaon blasts?

A: I cannot comment on this. I do not have much information. I do not interfere with NIA investigations. NIA must have done its work judiciously. On challenging the acquittals, NIA will take the decision. They will do in cases where they feel it has to be challenged and will not do if they do not find merit. All sort of allegations are levelled by people and it was done during the tenure of the previous government too.

Q: The way your party is after Nehru, it appears that you are going to fight next elections against Nehru?

A: It is not like that. He is the first Prime minister of India and we have a lot of respect for him.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh at Parliament House in New Delhi. File/Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey

Q: China is getting an upper hand in the neighbourhood and India is losing out on its allies like Nepal, Maldives.

A: I do not agree with your observation. Recently, our Prime Minister visited China and held an informal dialogue with the Chinese President. This is a new chapter in India’s diplomacy. This won’t have been possible if the relationship was not good. We have very good relationship with all our neighbours, like Sri Lanka, Nepal, except one.

Q: But people of Nepal have very strong dislike for India. Similarly, Maldives which used to be a friendly neighbour now seems to have slipped out of India’s influence.

A: I agree with you that there is a feeling like that but it is not very strong. But except Pakistan, we have very good relationships with all SAARC countries, BRICS nations. Both Nepal and Maldives are our good neighbours.

Q: Despite your government’s success in tackling Left Wing Extremism (LWE), there have been attacks on security forces by Maoists

A: There are not been many attacks, but IED blasts. Naxals are fighting a lost battle. They are on the backfoot and desperate. We cannot rule out one or two big incidents and I have told our forces to be alert. For the first time in the history of India, the number of incidents of (Maoist) violence has come down below 1,000. The killings of security personnel have come down drastically. Development is on fast track in these areas and people are coming with us. 2,000 mobile towers have been set up, 4,000 more have been approved. Schools, colleges, AIIMS and coming up in LWE areas and it is just matter of time when Naxalism will be wiped out completely. Many of their big leaders have been killed. Naxals want these areas remain underdeveloped so that they can exploit the locals. In the last 7 months, we have set up 16 new security camps in Maoist-dominated areas.

Q: After TDP left your alliance, are you trying to find new allies before 2019?

A: We will have new allies. We are always ready to welcome new friends. We are always open for new allies.

Q: It has been more than three years that your government signed the Naga framework agreement. What is its status?

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A: We are soon going to finalise it. I cannot give you the exact details but it is a matter of time before the peace accord is signed. A lot of progress has been made and we are trying our best to complete the process before next year.