Updated: October 19, 2015 9:43:09 am
In an interview to this newspaper, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said Muslims can continue to live in India only if they give up eating beef. He also said the Constitution supported his view, while adding the cow, the Gita and Saraswati (river) were “articles of faith for the majority”. Khattar’s appalling views raise grave doubts about his commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution. A former RSS pracharak, Khattar seems to think Indian citizenship is conditional to following a particular diet and the majority has the right to dictate the terms and conditions of residence by the mere virtue of their numbers, especially to a religious minority. The Constitution states otherwise. As CM, Khattar’s job is to ensure no citizen is discriminated on the basis of his religion. If a person consumes a banned substance, the state can proceed against him on the basis of the relevant law. Khattar’s comment is an implicit endorsement of the communal mindset that wants to universalise the personal habits and beliefs of one section by law or force and penalise those who refuse to conform. It is not surprising that the CM, who counts the law banning cow slaughter among the major achievements of his government, found the Dadri lynching “the result of a misunderstanding” and nothing more.
As he completes a year in office, Khattar ought to rethink the priorities of his government. Haryana voted the BJP to office because it was tired of the inefficiencies and corruption of previous governments, run by the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal. The BJP, which had a mere four seats in the outgoing assembly, won 47 of the 90 seats promising a clean and development-oriented government. Khattar, an organisation man with no experience in office, was a surprise choice as CM but welcomed as a departure from tainted politicians. His primary concern as an administrator ought to have been reconciling the disparity between Haryana’s economic advantages and its social backwardness, reflected in indices, including female literacy, sex ratio, child sex ratio etc. Cities like Gurgaon, engines of the state’s economic growth, are home to a large young and cosmopolitan population. An intrusive government that wants to micro-manage the lives of citizens, including their diet, instead of focusing on civic infrastructure, is unlikely to attract talent or capital.
With a clear mandate and the full-backing of his party, Khattar is well-placed to direct the state’s transition from a feudal unit structured on patriarchal values and caste hierarchy to a modern society with egalitarian values. He must leave the management of the state’s bovine population to enterprising farmers and not bother about the fare on people’s plates. There are more pressing concerns in Haryana that demand his attention.
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