Conversation with Justice Sachar
Muslims must fight for their rights
Justice Rajindar Sachar has become the most familiar name being quoted in discussions concerning the situation of Muslims in India, their past, present and future. The report submitted by the Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on the socio-economic condition of Muslims headed by him is historic because it is the most comprehensive official study of the subject ever since independence. Sachar Report was submitted in December 2006 to the then UPA government headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh and it has become instrumental in announcing certain welfare schemes for minorities like scholarships for students and Minority concentrated Districts Development Programme. On the occasion of the 10th year after the Sachar Report, Team India 2047 of Empower India Foundation (EIF) met Justice Sachar at his residence at New Friends Colony in New Delhi and had conversation with him about 75 minutes. E. M. Abdul Rahiman along with Adv. Mohamed Yusuff and P. Abdul Nazar discussed with him varied topics such as post-Sachar scenario, implementation of Sachar recommendations, opportunities and challenges before the Muslim community and the nation at large.
EIF: We have the pleasure to meet you again after the programme on last August 15, the National Conclave of Empower India Foundation, in which you released our project document India 2047.
Sachar: What are your activities now?
EIF: Now we are moving in different states and regions of the country with India 2047 document and arranging discussions to explore implementation of specific action plans suited to each locality. And building action teams are also in progress.
Sachar: While addressing people, you should have with you latest facts and figures like that contained in Prof Kundu’s Post Sachar Evaluation Committee report and also other data that have come out. What is important is that we should now be more concrete and specific because generally the communal forces make the people hate Muslims. They try to do this as we have seen in the case of Muzaffar Nagar riots. We have sent a fact finding team on behalf of PUCL there and we could collect all the documents. The very bad thing happened was that the police did not come to the help of the victims because they were Muslims. My point is that you must be able to convince people with the support of sufficient facts and figures.
EIF: Any remedy to stop this police bias?
Sachar: In Muslim dominated areas, the Inspector of Police in the local station should be a Muslim. This is not yet implemented or is uncared by the government. It is not that he be in favour of Muslims. Nor is it that he be partial. Rather, he may be able to maintain a human nature and approach. It will have psychological impact. It will give a little more confidence to Muslims. You see, in UP only 4% Inspectors of Police are Muslims, while there is 18% Muslim population. In Delhi, somebody did a survey. What they did was interesting. They sent identical qualifications, say M.A., L.L.B., M.Tech., 5 years experience etc. to about 60 firms, to relate with identical names like Mohamed, Rajinder, Aslam, Gopal etc. The response for calling for an interview was thought provoking. While 50-60% Hindu names were called for interview, only 10-15% Muslim names got response.
EIF: So, the central point is the representation in police and administration?
Sachar: Yes. I told it many times. One of the vital recommendations of my report was Equal Opportunity Commission. Central government, unfortunately, did not implement it. And, very less chance now under Modi government. But state governments can also do it at their level. So, states like Karnataka, which is ruled by Congress, can think of it. You have to explore it. If the non-BJP state governments cannot act on this, it is hypocrisy. And, that is the problem.
EIF: The public response to such demands for justices here is so poor.
Sachar: Trump is talking non-sense; but American public is on the street. Their writers are writing against hate. A district judge there has stopped his visa ban-order. Is it a small thing? But, here in India no such things happen; we cannot do anything.
EIF: Even the judiciary has now going prejudiced….
Sachar: It is true. But there we can’t do anything. People hold on to some convictions. They are not trying to come forward. I told some advocates of Delhi who came to meet me in this regard. I asked why they don’t write for Kejriwal. In Delhi also, figures came. Muslims in services, to my notice, are 5% in Delhi. This is not only the case of Muslims. The condition is also same for Jains, Buddhists, and Christians. But in education and other areas Jains, Christians and Buddhists are better than Muslims.
EIF: Many important recommendations of your committee like National Data Bank, Assessment Monitoring Authority and Equal Opportunity Commission are still remaining on paper. Why were they ignored even by the UPA government?
Sachar: None of them have been implemented. This is not a question of favouring anybody. There are facts and figures. They are authentic. They are factual. Figures speak for themselves. So, this is not a question of oratory from either side.
EIF: Regarding Equal Opportunity Commission, a draft was prepared?
Sachar: What good is that if the wrong elements may not make use of it? Frankly speaking, Muslims have to fight themselves for their democratic rights, fight peacefully and with little more effectiveness projecting their case to the general public. I think you need probably to be more active in utilizing the press or any form of media.
EIF: That means, there should be more effective utilization of media.
Sachar: And, this task is, of course, more than the conventional media. You cannot ignore even the social media. And I think if you lose that new media which nobody controls, it is a great missing. The thing special and important you see in the social media is that it will reach a large number of people, who don’t read the newspapers.
EIF: Though Sachar report has identified identity, equity and security as prime issues concerning Muslims, equity issue only is dealt with in it.
Sachar: This has been emphasized many times from my side. You know our limitation in preparing the report. Our task was presenting the condition of the Muslims. The terms of reference was confined to this issue. Our report gives the existing position of Muslims. But the data about the existing position of Muslims and the treatment they deserve, was given in comparison with the data related to all other communities. Sometimes this propaganda is being carried. Why you are supporting Muslims? There are Dalits, there are OBCs. Why their condition is not to be attended by the government? No. We did not have any Muslim bias. The fact of the matter is what our terms of reference said and so where we have asserted. Hence we have to select Muslims, their education level, their poverty level, their public service level etc. We always compared the Muslim status with the condition of OBCs, dalits, and caste Hindus in all fields. And we have presented statistics. So, this is a very vicious propaganda.
EIF: And you have taken only official facts and figures.
Sachar: Yes. Government could have asked us. All right, please give us the statement of all the communities. Not specifically about Muslims. Or, about all minorities. We were asked to study the condition of Muslims. Regarding special provisions for minorities, you cannot ignore the fact that they are universal. It is part of UN mandate as well.
EIF: Now when it is 10 years after Sachar Report, what we Muslims……..
Sachar: Frankly, to the Muslim community, my message is this. The Prophet himself taught you this Divine rule of social change. “Even God will not help those who do not help themselves”. So, you have to fight yourselves for your rights. Muslims are not those who come from outside India. They have not come from Afghanistan or any other country like that.
EIF: So, you make one point that we Muslims must put pressure on the government, we must demand, agitate. But, other than seeking from the government, what the community should do from their side? Our project India 2047 is not merely a vision document, but an action plan, which the community should undertake. So, in that context, what should be the priority?
Sachar: You know better. But I should emphasise only about one resource. There many other institutions which we also have suggested. Here my particular point is that Muslims themselves could work for effective utilization of Wakf. I think you are not paying attention to it; there is very little literacy about Wakf. Don’t treat Wakf as a Mosque. That it is not merely related to Mosques. You have only 112 crores (one hundred and twelve) worth Wakf at present. If you maintain and properly develop it, you will get about 10,000 crores (ten thousand ) out of Wakf every year.
EIF: One problem is mismanagement and another is encroachment.
Sachar: Mismanagement is possible only because you don’t take interest in it. There is no public interest and intervention….. Incidentally, I find that you are too much caught up in issues like Uniform Civil Code. The fact is that no government can bring it so easily.
EIF: Not possible?
Sachar: I think impossible. This is an emotional issue. So, the tension goes up. The propaganda for Uniform Civil Code can be countered more logistically. In fact, there is no uniformity in the personal laws of Hindus living in different parts of India. In Tamil Nadu and some parts of Andhra, it is the right of the uncle to wed his niece, his sister’s daughter. Hindus in other parts cannot even think of it. Though marriage between cousins is common in many societies, it is forbidden for most Hindus in Punjab and Haryana. It is possible to bring all these Hindu customs merged into a uniform code?
EIF: They are also bringing to forefront the Ram Mandir along with Uniform Civil Code.
Sachar: Look, my views on that issue is very clear. I remind what I wrote in an article in January 1993 immediately after the Masjid demolition on Dec 6, 1992. There I said that India should observe Dec 6 as “Repentance Day” for the sin that was done to Muslims. The matter is in the court now. So, no contempt of court.
EIF: But Babri Masjid was demolished, in spite of the court order, ignoring the court.
EIF: Now the courts are also becoming lenient. Hence the need of representation in judiciary, reservation ….
Sachar: No chance. Not possible. There is no reservation in judiciary even for dalits. Muslims came to this profession very late.
EIF: All together, shall we still have some hope?
Sachar: Certainly. We are very hopeful. But you have to intervene for your rights and fight it out. Not a passive hope.
EIF: Active hope.
Sachar: Yes. We will fight it out. If a Hindu can say I am an Indian, a Muslim also should have courage to tell that I am an Indian while I am a Muslim. I am an Indian and that is the spirit. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad told it with boldness long back. It has to be reiterated. That’s what young generation should say now, with the same spirit. That is the hope.