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If people try to denigrate the Hindus just because they are in a majority, I would not call it secul - The Sunday Observer

Shivani Singh ()
February 8-14, 1998

Title: If people try to denigrate the Hindus just because they are in a majority, I would not call it secularism
Author: Shivani Singh
Publication: The Sunday Observer
Date: February 8-14, 1998

Faced with a resurgent Congress following the arrival of Sonia
Gandhi on the electioneering scene, the BJP has gone back to its
old and time-tested formula Hindutva. Ayodhya, the Uniform Civil
Code and Article 370 are back on its national agenda. "We cannot
duck these vital issues for a mere votebank," asserts Sikander
Bakht, the party's vice-president and leader of the Opposition in
the Rajya Sabha.

Called Pandit Bakht by his detractors, he is quite at ease
justifying the BJP's Hindutva a. k. a Bhartiyata poll plank. In
a candid interview to Shivani Singh, Bakht defines his party's
concept of secularism with its unmistakable hues of saffron.

What is the Bharatiya Janata Party's package for the Muslims?

Why should we (the Muslims) be insulted and made to carry the tag
of a minority? Why can't we be treated on an equal platform with
the rest of the communities? There are political parties which
have held on to the walls of division between the Hindus and the
Muslims, solely to keep the Muslim votebank intact. To them, we
are a mere votebank.

But the BJP is not one of them. They treat Muslims and all
minorities alike, not confirming a special status to anyone. The
yardstick of secularism applies evenly to all communities and not
just the Hindus. The BJP wants to remove the abstrusities. the
insecurities this community has been suffering since the

Hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment are problems common
to all communities. BJP wants to remove them all.

Do Ayodhya, Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 also fall in this
package, for they very much figure in your manifesto?

By sheer sloganism, these three issues have been made problems of
the Muslims. It is most unfortunate as these are no problems at

What has Article 370 got to do with the Muslims? This provision
separates the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of the
nation. When it was introduced in the Constitution, Jawaharlal
Nehru and Gopal Swami Iyengar stated it was temporary. And it's
high time it went. If you go on giving autonomy to each state in
this fashion, the country will fall into pieces. What has it got
to do with the Muslims?

But aren't Ayodhya and the Uniform Civil Code directly connected
to the Muslim community?

As for the Uniform Civil Code. is the Muslim personal lam,
confined to only five aspects of' Muslim life - marriage,
divorce, inheritance, adoption and succession? The Muslim
personal law is a very comprehensive code and encompasses all
aspects of life. Have they any objection to the Common Criminal
Code as it stands? If this does not overlap the personal law,
then how would the Uniform Civil Code? There is a provision in
Islamic jurisprudence called ijtehaad which nobody talks about.
By common consensus of the Islamic scholars, amendments can be
made in this code. Why aren't the Muslims told that this is what
Islam says?

If Ayodhya were a Muslim issue, then why did it become
controversial only after 1986? Why did it not become a national
controversy right after independence? It was a non-issue from the
word go. Since 1949 Ram puja was being held in the structure. No
objection was raised till 1986. It is no issue at all. It is
definitely not a Muslim issue.

Do you mean to say the Babri Masjid demolition is no issue for
the Muslims?

What is a mosque? A place where ba jamat namaz is held five
times a day. This structure has no such history. Then why call it
a mosque? The history of prayers in this structure is in the name
of only Ram.

Four prime ministers dealt with the issue but none of them
bothered to find out from Muslim scholars whether the structure
could be called a mosque at all. The Imam of Kaa, who is a
saint to us, said recently that the Muslims of India have been
misled on this issue. A mosque cannot be constructed on a usurped
piece of land. When the mosque was demolished, out of the debris,
a statue of [Lord] Vishnu and remains of a temple were recovered.
What more proof do you want?

All this is brought up time and again because parties want to
keep alive the differences between the Hindus and the Muslims.
BJP wants to demolish them.

Recently, Kalyan Singh withdrew cases against the karsevaks in
Uttar Pradesh? Wouldn't it jeopardise the BJP's attempts to woo
Muslims, especially when this move came in the wake of Congress's

Karsevaks were ordinary Hindus and not BJP's volunteers to
demolish the mosque. They were fighting to retain the Ram
Janambhoomi which is most sacred to them. Mulayam Singh killed
them so he becomes the benefactor of Muslims. Is it logical?
Nobody realised that he was actually precipitating communal

Karsevaks are not criminals but only men who are only displaying
religious frenzy. Everybody is entitled to do so in a secular
state. In a secular state, the government has no religion and the
people are free to adopt and practise any faith they like. If
people try to denigrate the Hindus just because they are in
majority, I would not call it secularism.

And if the Muslims are denigrated, is it within secularist norms?

The Muslims denigrated themselves when they created two separate
states in 1947, their one being a Muslim theocratic state. But
it was the great ethos of the Hindu community which kept alive
secularism in India.

How would you then justify the role of Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which preaches Hindu

Vishwa Hindu Parishad is an independent organisation which
supports the BJP. As for the RSS, although there is no
constitutional relationship between us and them, most of our
leadership comes from the RSS, Therefore, the RSS is the BJP's
backbone. If an organisation welcomes only Hindus to its fold, it
cannot be labelled as fundamentalism. Lately, they have taken
even Muslims within their fold. What is so wrong with it? Where
have they been pitted against the question of secularism?

The entire world is suffering from Muslim fundamentalism today,
but no serious thought is being given to it. What is the plight
of migrant Muslims in Pakistan? Does anyone talk about it?

Your alliance partners George Fernandes and Jayalalitha have
shown serious reservation to the issues of Ayodhya, Uniform Civil
Code and Article 370 which have figured prominently in your
manifesto. How do you think a common minimum programme will be
worked out with such difference of opinion?

These are the issues which makes BJP what it is. Nobody can
dictate terms to us. These issues on which they are differing are
not of governance. To be brought about, they require two-third
majority in the Parliament. So unless we secure that kind of a
majority, eve cannot implement them.

Do you see Sonia Gandhi's campaign a serious threat to BJP's

It is her bad luck that she has jumped into the election fray.
And each time she apologises, she makes a fool of herself. There
are innumerable issues the Congress has to apologise for. Would
she apologise for her mother-in-law burying the real Congress or
for burying democratic principles by imposing Emergency? Would
she also apologise for the rampant corruption during the Congress
rule or turning the entire period into a dynastic rule? Or for
leading a party with which she has a far-fetched relationship?
Would she apologise for killing inumerable Muslims during the
Emergency at Turkman Gate [in Delhi]?

Would she apologise for the Bofors scandal in which her entire
family is involved? She is not a regular leader of the Congress
party. She would therefore not be able to create any impression
on the Indian voter.

But the BJP does look threatened. So much so that your manifesto
carries warnings hinted at Sonia Gandhi like "beware of the
foreign hand, free yourself from mental slavery."

Sonia is a political non-entity. She does not hold any office. We
are dealing with an organisation in which Sonia Gandhi is a
nobody. She is just an actress. We have asked the entire Congress
to free itself from mental slavery. The Congress party is
registered in the Election Commission as Congress Indira. The
original Congress did not even belong to Mahatma Gandhi. They did
not have party elections when Indira and sons were alive. It was
their personal property. Is it not mental slavery?

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