THE REASSURANCES OF RAJNATH SINGH
India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has strongly condemned the politics of communalism and rejected the notion that the Modi government is against religious minorities.
In an exclusive interview, Singh reprimanded "vested interests" and politicians, including some of his own party members for indulging in communal politics.
Since the BJP government enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which fast-tracks citizenship of persecuted religious minorities of three neighbouring Islamic theocracies, the opposition and a huge number of Muslims have been protesting in several cities of India, calling the law discriminatory against Muslims.
He said that the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has "from the very beginning attempted to replace a sense of fear which prevailed among Muslim citizens earlier, with a sense of confidence".
"There are forces which are trying to mislead them. But BJP can in no circumstances go against minorities of India. Prime Minister Modi from the very beginning gave us the slogan, 'sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka saath, sabka vishwas [inclusive development and trust].
"There is no question of discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour or religion. We can't even think about it," the defence minister said.
Blaming "vested interests" for communal politics, Singh said: "There are forces which think only about vote banks."
Warning politicians against communal politics, he said, "Politics is not supposed to be done merely for votes. Politics is done to build a nation."
Singh recalled that in his two massive public rallies in Meerut and Mangaluru, attended by thousands of people, he repeatedly said this. "Muslim citizens of India are our beloved brethren," the defence minister said adding, "No one can touch them, let alone assault them."
Even those who believe in Hindutva ideology cannot discriminate on the basis of identity because Hindutva itself means 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the world is one family – the philosophy in Hindu scriptures), the defence minister said.
However, ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections early this month, the political discourse in the country turned extremely communal with some of the BJP ministers and legislators issuing violent threats and communally provocative statements too.
"No one, absolutely no one, should make statements which are against our ideology of 'the world is one family'. Period," the defence minister said.
The Defence Minister also said that he is praying for the early release of former chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir from their detention and hoping that they will contribute to normalizing situation in Kashmir.
Dozens of politicians, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of People's Democratic Party (PDP) – were placed under preventive detention soon after the Modi government reorganized and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir state into two Union Territories on August 5 last year.
Though most of the politicians have been released since then, the three chief ministers and a dozen politicians remain detained. While Farooq Abdullah was booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) in September, Omar and Mehbooba were also recently detained under the same law. The government cited their provocative statements and threats issued before the nullification of Article 370 of the Indian constitution which granted special status to Jammu & Kashmir state.
During the interview, Singh said, "Kashmir has been peaceful. The situation is improving rapidly. Along with the improvement, these decisions [release of politicians from detention] will also be finalized. The government has not tortured anyone."
Defending the government's decision, the Defence Minister said that certain steps had been taken in the interests of Kashmir. "Everybody should welcome it," he said.
Singh said he will pray for the early release of the Abdullahs and Mufti from their detention. "I also pray that once they are out, they work and contribute towards improvement of the situation in Kashmir," the Union Minister said.
Rajnath Singh drew accolades in Kashmir while he was the Home Minister in the previous government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for his uprightness and kindness.