INTERVIEW | DR ZAFARUL ISLAM KHAN
The outgoing Chairman of Delhi’s Minority Commission has had an eventful tenure. In a chat with Clarion India, he speaks his mind saying that religious minorities and all marginalised classes are at the receiving end under the current regime. “Attacks on Muslims and Christians continue unabated. Dalits and Adivasis are reeling under the Hindutva s attacks. Even Sikhs are extremely angry at present. This is a very serious matter for the country.”
Waquar Hasan | Clarion India
Dr Zafarul Islam Khan demitted the office of Delhi Minority Commission as its chairman on July 19. In an exclusive interview with Clarion India, Dr Khan talks about his eventful experience as the DMC chief, hurdles in the Commission’s functioning and the condition of minorities in India. Excerpts:
How was your experience as the chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission?
In my tenure, we were able to achieve a lot which we have shown in our three annual reports presented to the Govt of Delhi. The problems of hundreds of individuals were sorted out after the commission’s intervention. Around 14,000 OBC students got admission in Delhi University in 2018 after we issued an order that the university could not demand to produce fresh certificates from the students if the applicants held valid OBC certificates at the time of application.
Erring police officers, hate-mongers in the media and social media users were taken to task. We started an awards scheme to honour exceptional achievers in minorities communities. But, at the same, we could not implement some plans and ideas due to stonewalling by bureaucracy which considered itself as supreme whereas we think that the Act which created the commission is supreme and it alone should be the point of reference to decide the mandate and powers of the commission. We have asked the Delhi government to clarify this point.
You might have set some goals when you had joined the office. Did you succeed in achieving those goals?
We raced against time and despite the outbreak of Covid-19, we completed all our assignments and days before the end of my tenure presented to the Delhi government four reports, including our annual report for our last year and a fact-finding report on North-East Delhi riots.
Did you face any hurdles in working at the DMC?
The biggest hurdle was to get the Government of Delhi to clarify who is supreme: bureaucracy or the commission’s Act. This will solve many problems and let the commission act according to its mandate specified in its Act.
How would you describe the present condition of minorities in India?
Minorities and all marginalised classes are at the receiving end under the current regime. Attacks on Muslims and Christians continue unabated. Dalits and Adivasis are reeling under the Hindutva supremacist attacks. Even Sikhs are extremely angry at present. This is a very serious matter for our country.
The central government should set up a high-level commission to inquire into how we reached this impasse and how Hindutva forces have come to think that they can so fearlessly take the law into their hands and the whole system is dancing to their tunes. The commission should suggest a way out. The current Hindutva March is following the path the Nazis and fascists strode in Germany and Italy
What would you like to suggest to your successors?
I would like to tell them that their institution is very powerful, their Act is not ideal but still it gives them lots of powers to discharge their mandate which the bureaucracy continuously tries to scuttle. They must stand their ground and insist that the Act is supreme and not the babus’ dictates. If need be, they should approach the High Court to decide this matter for ever. Let the Chairman rule the Commission and not the Secretary, who, as per Act, is there to work as per directions of the Commission but in reality, the role is reversed.
What advise you would like to give to India’s minorities for protecting their rights?
Be united, cultivate good relations with all, especially the majority community, know the laws, raise your voice systematically and approach courts for redress of wrongs.
What are your future plans?
I will devote myself to writing and completing a number of books which are left unfinished in various stages.
What would you like to say on the sedition case lodged against you for tweet thanking Kuwait for taking up the persecution of Indian Muslims?
It is a frivolous case. The tweet did not deserve all this attention. Looking at it with hindsight, I would say it was unnecessary.