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Weekly Pullouts » Haryana Tribune

Posted at: May 12, 2018, 12:50 AM; last updated: May 12, 2018, 12:50 AM (IST)THOUGHTFULLY YOURS

Vote bank politics must not override Constitution

Naveen S Garewal

Some politicians have an uncanny knack of saying something foolish only to retract later once they realise that they have done themselves more harm than good. This is exactly what has happened in Haryana where some right wing groups, with the tacit support of some elements in the government, first encouraged people to take law into their own hands by preventing free citizens of the country from performing namaz and later issued a “farmaan” that namaz should be offered only in mosques and eidgahs. 

Once the damage was done by the utterances of the Chief Minister, the government went into a huddle for course correction and bestowed the rank of Minister of State on Punhana legislator Raheesh Khan with a clear objective to please the Muslims of Southern Haryana. As if the Chief Minister’s blunder was not enough, Health Minister Anil Vij fired another loose cannon saying namaz was only an excuse to usurp the land where it was being offered. So, this should not be allowed at any cost.

Before assuming charge as a minister, everyone is administered an oath to uphold the Constitution of India. But it seems that not many take out time to read the Constitution. To begin with 42nd Amendment to the Constitution added the word secular to the Preamble that reads, “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens……..” and ensure for every citizen justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Further, right to freedom of religion is a fundamental right and is elaborated in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 that allows anyone to practise any religion in any manner. Even non-citizens residing in India have the right to follow any religion. It would perhaps be prudent to hold an exam on the Constitution for every aspirant legislator and only those who pass it be allowed to take oath.

 The utterances of the BJP leaders and right wing activists have vitiated the atmosphere on communal lines at a time when the state is limping back to normalcy after large scale violence on caste divide. Perhaps the ruling party would like to respond to former Congress minister Aftab Ahmed, who argues that if offering namaz on public land is to be prohibited, why not ban Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakhas that are held in public parks. Another opposition leader questions why “jagrans” held on public property, including roads, should not be treated in the same manner as namaz.

There seems to be a well-orchestrated move to polarise the state on one issue or the other ahead of the Parliamentary and Assembly elections scheduled for next year. First Haryana saw the Jat and non-Jat divide following the February 2016 violence and then the sporadic beef episodes and now the namaz controversy. 

While the state has objection to offering of namaz at public places, Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar has announced that the government is going ahead with allowing the use of state-run gymnasiums as RSS shakhas. He has announced that the government has planned to set up gymnasiums on two acres of panchayati land in every village where youth can practise yoga, wrestling and other sports. Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma has also echoed his sentiments by pleading for gyms to be used as RSS shakhas. Food and Supply Minister Karan Dev Kamboj has also supported his Cabinet colleagues. On the polling day, Muslim minority voters in southern Haryana are certainly going to question these double standards of the government.

Resentment among the Muslims of Gurugram over restriction on offering of namaz has been building for some time, but the issue flared up last week when members of the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti threatened to take to the streets if the district administration did not announce an official ban on offering of namaz on vacant plots and parks. The Samiti comprises the Shiv Sena, Hindu Sena, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Kranti Dal and the Bajrang Dal. In his own wisdom the Chief Minister first supported the Samiti’s demand, alienating Haryana’s Muslim voters, only to appease them by bestowing a Minister of State  rank on Independent MLA Raheesh Khan. However, this government decision has been challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Besides, Khattar also issued a clarification, retracting his earlier statement still available on video, saying he had not spoken about stopping anyone from offering namaz at public places. 

Earlier too, soon after taking over as Chief Minister, Khattar had created a controversy over beef by saying, “Muslims can continue to live in this country but they will have to give up eating beef. Muslims do not have to eat beef as it is not written anywhere that they have to do so”. Following this, in August 2016, there was a biryani row in Haryana and police and Animal Husbandry Department officials collected biryani samples from meat-sellers across Mewat to check the possible use of beef. Haryana has a stringent law that provides for five-year rigorous imprisonment for selling beef and a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

To keep his independent stature among the Muslims of Haryana, Khan, who is also Chairman of the Wakf Board, has shot off a letter to the state government alleging encroachments on 19 mosques in Gurugram that had been lying unused or were illegally occupied, forcing Muslims to pray in the open. The Board has demanded immediate intervention, putting the state government in a spot as any action in this direction is likely to annoy BJP's vote bank. 

Now, the Waqf Board has identified 326 new Waqf properties in Sonepat, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Sirsa and Yamunanagar districts. Many of these under illegal occupation were mosques, idgahs, burial grounds or land attached with them. It now proposes to assert itself to regain possession of its lost properties.

Those demanding a ban on namaz in public places have now asked the district administration that there should not more than five places in Gurugram where Friday namaz be allowed and each should be at least 2 km from each other. Such absurdities are bound to increase when the protectors of the Constitution themselves overlook this source from which the nation drives its strength. Things will improve once people remind politicians that they are not elected to watch the interests of a particular caste or community, but to uphold all that the Constitution promises every citizen of the country. For Haryanvis that opportunity is sometime next year.

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