Shri Advani’s speech during Book release “Sachar Committee — Conspiracy to Divide the Nation?”

via published on September 23, 2008

Speech by Shri L.K. Advani

Release of the book
Sachar Committee — Conspiracy to Divide the Nation?

Ahmedabad – 21 September 2008

I am very pleased to be with you at this function. I appreciate the initiative taken by the Bharatiya Vichar Manch to publish this timely and thought-provoking book Sachar Committee — Conspiracy to Divide the Nation? I also thank the Manch for inviting me to release the book.

At the outset, I congratulate all the scholars who have contributed well-researched articles to this book. These articles collectively present a critique of the Sachar Committee which simply cannot be ignored in any debate on the subject. The critique is on four important aspects — the purpose of constituting the committee, the manner of its functioning, the arguments and recommendations in its report and, finally, the use of the report for advancing the politics of minorityism by the Congress party and its allies.

we have assembled here at a time when the UPA Government is spending the last few months of its thoroughly discredited stay in office. Its nearly four-and-a-half years in saddle have been characterized by every conceivable attribute of misgovernance — unprecedented price rise, betrayal of the promises made to the aam aadmi, criminalization, corruption, devaluation of the office of Prime Minister, misuse of democratic institutions, desecration of Parliament through the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal and, above all, endangering the security of the nation and the common man with its unwillingness to fight the scourge of terrorism.

The point that I have mentioned last — the UPA Government’s unwillingness to fight the menace of terrorism firmly — is one that I would like to touch upon first.

I was in Ahmedabad in July after the city had been rocked by serial bomb blasts that left nearly 50 innocent persons dead. The previous day, Bangalore had been hit by serial bomb blasts. Yesterday in Delhi I participated in the funeral of a brave police officer who became a martyr while trying to nab terrorists in their hideout. The Delhi Police have affirmed that these terrorists were actively involved in several terrorist acts, including the one in the national capital on 13th September that killed nearly two dozen innocent people.

Bangalore. Ahmedabad. Delhi. Earlier Jaipur. Earlier still — Malegaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Samjhauta Express, Jammu, Srinagar ….The list of places where terrorists have struck is revoltingly long. And getting longer.

What is revolting is not just that the list is long, but the cavalier attitude which the UPA Government has displayed while dealing with this open war on India.

One of the first acts of this Government after it came into being in May 2004 was to repeal POTA, which had been enacted by the Vajpayee Government. Indeed, the leadership of the Congress party and the Government took pride in having disarmed and disabled India in its fight against terrorism.

Last week, however, it behaved in an even more bizarre manner. A committee on administrative reforms, chaired by the chief spokesman of the Congress party, underscored the need for a POTA-like law to strengthen India’s fight against terror. This sent the Government and the Congress party in a tizzy. After several flip-flops, the Government said ‘No’ to any new anti-terror law.

Why did the Government conduct itself so shockingly? Because it chose once again to be guided by the politics of minorityism. By the fear of losing a vote-bank.

The same fear is at the root of the UPA Government’s willingness to implement the Supreme Court’s verdict of death sentence on Afzal Guru, the prime convict in the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament. The same mindset of minorityism is also at the root of some Cabinet ministers in the UPA Government openly coming to the defense of SIMI, which has been banned as a terrorist organization.

Minorityism does not mean any real concern and love on the part of the Congress and its allies for the minorities. Rather, it means a propensity to use the minority communities purely as vote banks and, for this purpose, adopt any policy, however unreasonable and harmful to national interests. Increasingly, in almost every policy formulation, the Government began to see ‘minority’ and ‘majority’ as two separate communities.

This divisive mindset became manifest when the UPA Government set up the Sachar Committee in March 2005. Many of us wondered: “Why a separate committee to study the developmental issues of a particular religious community?” However, soon it became clear that the committee was not only studying developmental issues. It was up to something sinister.

As the book that I have just released highlights, the Sachar Committee wanted the Armed Forces to conduct a communal census in their ranks. There was nationwide outcry. The three chiefs of the Armed Forces also refused to oblige. The ill-conceived move was dropped.

The inspiration for the Sachar Committee to seek a religion-based census in the Armed Forces had come from a book titled Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India by that Omar Khalidi, an Indian now based in America. The book castigates the security forces in India as having an anti-Muslim bias and alleges that they perpetrate violence against the Muslim minority.

This formed the guiding principle of the Sachar Committee — to show that Muslims in India are victims of discrimination and injustice. A systematic propaganda campaign was unleashed against the security forces in particular, and against the Indian State in general. Never before in independent India had a Government-appointed committee encouraged such anti-India propaganda. The same propaganda has been further intensified by SIMI and the Indian Mujahideen in their propaganda literature.

Inequalities and backwardness in socio-economic development are not specific to any particular community in India. To a greater or lesser extent, they are true about all communities. Indeed, as the Sachar Committee’s own field-level findings reveal, in some parameters of development — such as basic literacy, infant mortality, self-employment, etc — Muslims are ahead of non-Muslims in several states.

One may mention here that the per capita income of Muslims in Gujarat is much higher than that of their counterparts in communist-ruled West Bengal. It can also be shown by empirical evidence that the per-capita income of Muslims in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Rajasthan has increased in the last five years. In other words, there is no basis for the allegation or insinuation of systemic discrimination and injustice against any particular religious community. And yet, the Congress party has tried to use the Sachar Report as a political tool to woo the Muslim community. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh even went to the shocking extent of stating that Muslims should have the first claim on the Government’s resources.

Friends, while criticizing this perverse attitude of the leadership of the Congress party and its Government, the BJP would like to make it clear that we keenly want to see the development, well-being, safety and security of every person belonging to every community, minority or majority. We believe that the poor and the deprived must get the priority attention of the Government, irrespective of whether they belong to the minority or majority community.

This is in keeping with the BJP’s social philosophy: “Justice for All, Appeasement of None.”

I would like to see the day when the categories of “majority” and “minority” will have disappeared from the political lexicon in India. Of course, every community and every citizen must have untrammeled freedom to practice their own faith. This freedom is enshrined in our secular Constitution and is also ensured by the age-old secular ethos of our society. But in the eyes of political parties and the Government, all communities and all citizens should be equal, with no distinction between “majority” and “minority”.

This approach, I believe, is the best guarantor of India’s national unity and integrity. It is also the surest path leading to the welfare and development of all Indians.

I would like to appeal to my Muslim brethren to see through the inadequacies of the Sachar Committee. Indeed, even the genuine instances of the Muslim community’s socio-economic backwardness, as highlighted by the Sachar report, beget the question: “Who is responsible for this backwardness, if not the Congress party which has ruled at the Centre and in states for the longest period since Independence? And if this is how the Congress party has treated its most loyal supporters, one can only imagine how it treats others!”

I also appeal to my Muslim brethren: “Join the mainstream of India’s national development, with equal involvement, equal contribution and equal benefits. By strengthening the common bond of Indianness, let us together create a bright future, shared equally by all Indians.”

With these words, I conclude my remarks. My thanks once again to the Bharatiya Vichar Manch for inviting me to this function.

Thank you.

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