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Khursheed says Sachar report not Quran,sparks off war of words

Govt is biased... we were diplomatic,didn’t use these words: Sachar Secy.

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi |
June 28, 2011 3:01:02 am

Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed’s remarks in Chennai last week questioning the Sachar report’s recommendations and urging Muslims to think of national issues,not just their narrow interests,has set off a raging debate in the community.

Delivering a lecture,‘Minorities of India: Issues and Challenges,’ at the Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College for Women last Saturday,Khursheed said that the Sachar Committee Report was not the Quran which cannot be questioned. “The recommendations of Sachar Committee Report are not divine like (the) Quran; they can be wrong also and that’s why one must approach them critically,” he reportedly said.

In 2006,the PM’s High Level Committee,led by Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachar,had highlighted how Muslims trailed the rest of the country in almost all social indicators — from education to employment — and had recommended a set of reform measures. Sources said this is now being used as a benchmark by many Muslim advocacy groups and any questioning provokes a barrage of criticism.

No wonder then that the Minister’s remarks in Chennai have led Abu Saleh Shariff,economist and the high-profile Secretary of the Sachar Committee,to write an open letter to Khursheed — posted in an online discussion group,USIPI — ticking off the Congress at the Centre.

He criticizes the Minister for his comments urging Muslims to “mainstream” in an environment where they are discriminated against. He writes: “The Minister has a lot to answer as to how will he eliminate large deficit in achievement levels which Muslims have encountered during the last 60 years or so. This has occurred mostly due to discriminatory practices followed by successive governments including the Congress governments both at the Centre and the many states. Sachar recommendations are sensitive to mainstreaming and…points to the areas in which discrimination has occurred and Muslims have suffered.”

Shariff,who has been critical of the BJP and even Left-ruled states in the past,has written that “reservation” policy in India is discriminatory and keeps Muslims out of its ambit at the national level and in most states. “So are access to higher education and even primary schools. (On) public employment,the Centre is the most discriminatory. The banking sector has almost removed the Muslims from its programs.”

In something which may embarrass the government,he adds: “Pl(ease) note I am using the word discriminatory too frequently in this note but the Sachar report …consciously avoided using this word,just to save the face of the government in power and we used some diplomacy; otherwise this report very clearly highlight the discriminatory practices. My new research is strong in highlighting how mainstreaming is not pursued by governments themselves and how public spaces are denied to minorities. Let the Minister come out with a strategy to bring diversity in public spaces (Schools,Universities,Urban Living spaces,government employment …) which this ministry is silent about (for the) past five years.”

Shariff endorses the Minority Ministry’s view on the setting up of the Equal Opportunities Commission and says that it’s an idea based on Sachar’s recommendations.

Speaking to The Indian Express from Ranchi,Khursheed said that “several Sachar recommendations were being followed.” He said the debate is about how to approach the issue of helping Muslims. He underlined that he was against looking at just Muslims as the minority and not others.

“Exclusive delivery to Muslims as against ensuring equitable share amongst all citizens,” was not something he supported,he said. “In that context,I have requested a critical appraisal to ensure these are not used for ghettoization. It’s in this context that I said,for Muslims only the Quran cannot be questioned. All other books and documents are subject to critical scrutiny.”

When contacted,Sachar said: “As a matter of judicial propriety,I don’t comment on my report but Abu Saleh Shariff was a very learned and valued member of the committee.”

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