IOS organises lecture on “Religious Minorities in India and Legal Perspective"

March 21, 2015 at IOS Conference Hall, New Delhi

L-R: Prof. Manzoor Ahmed, Ex-I.P.S. Officer and Vice-Chancellor of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut; Prof. ZM Khan, Secretary General, IOS and Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan, Vice-chairman of the IOS

New Delhi, March 21: The Institute of Objective Studies organised a lecture on “Religious Minorities in India and Legal Perspective” at its convention hall here today. Ex-I.P.S. Officer and Vice-Chancellor of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Meerut, Prof. Manzoor Ahmad, who delivered the lecture, focused on the constitutional provisions for the religious minorities to profess and propagate their religious belief. He examined how the freedom of religion, right to equality and the right to maintain their cultural identity guaranteed under the Constitution were being allowed to be practised unfettered. He said that a sustained attempt was made by the British Raj to introduce English culture by means of education. This was more pronounced during the period 1937-45. But the post-independence period was crucial for Hindutva forces to replace the ascendency of the British culture.

In this connection, he recounted a story in which the first President of the county, Dr. Rajendra Prasad met Gandhiji in 1947 to persuade him for imposing a ban on cow slaughter. Gandhiji, in turn, counselled him not to press for it. Instead, he favoured selective restrictions on cow slaughter. He noted that this was aimed at introducing religion in the polity by super-imposing it through a legal measure. Referring to reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, he said that in 1937 reservation was based on profession. But in 1950, a Presidential Order was issued to provide for reservation to Dalit Hindus. Muslims were kept out of the ambit of the provision. In 1958 the scope of the Order was further widened by extending it to Sikh Dalits, Jains and other communities, barring Dalits who had converted to Muslim or Christian faith.

Prof. Manzoor Ahmed is delivering the lecture

Prof. Manzoor Ahmad insisted that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Justice S.H. Kapadia had in 2011 directed the Union government to file its reply regarding the Presidential order for reservation based on religion on three counts. The reply was hanging fire since then as no reply to the query of the Supreme Court had yet been made. “We were vigorously pursuing the matter, but to no avail and now there remained no hope for it”, he remarked. Commenting on conversions, he said that only Muslims and Christians were being targeted by RSS fringe groups. While Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had banned conversions from one religion to the other, the task was difficult to accomplish in states like Nagaland, Mizoram, Goa, etc., which had a Christian Majority population. That was the reason why votaries of Hindutva were clamouring for a blanket ban on conversions through a Central law. As the situation stood now, no hue and cry would be made if a Muslim was converted to Hinduism, but if a Hindu embraced Islam, a fuss would be created by Hindutva protagonists, he observed.

Prof. Ahmad said that law conferred the right on Muslims to profess their religion without fetters, but in practice, it was just the reverse. The practice today ran counter to religious freedom. He observed that certain schools imparted education that preached hatred against certain communities and felt the need for cleansing schools of such type of education. Referring to the cow slaughter, he said the word “cow slaughter” had been cleverly replaced with “cattle slaughter” to include buffalo. This appeared to deprive the weaker sections, which included Dalits in the south, besides Muslims, Christians, Phizos, Nagas, Parsis, etc of their natural food.

For these sections, this was the only source of Animal protein. While admitting that an all-India ban on cattle slaughter was not possible, the law banning slaughter of animals for meat would be challenged in the court. He opined that denying a big population of its eating preference was a fascist practice. He called for pressing for a Central law on cow slaughter, but confidently said that the government would not embark on such a measure for fear of social and economic repercussions. Referring to the proposed introduction of the Gita in schools, he said that the book had several versions. He held that the Gita encouraged war-mongering.

Prof. Manzoor Ahmad expressed the grudge that no attempt was being spared to keep the Muslims backward. Citing an illustration in this context, he said that the Aligarh Muslim University was a minority institution, but the court did not recognise it as such, despite its creation by an Act of Parliament. Calling upon the Muslim leadership and the intelligentsia to enlighten Muslim masses on the real issues, he said that if the Muslims wanted to continue as a distinct cultural and religious entity, they would have to focus on education; particularly secondary education. He cautioned the community against the clouds of desperation looming large over it and said the threat was real. Fighting for the survival of cultural identity was the only option, he concluded.

Prof. Eqbal Husain is sharing his views

Prof. Eqbal Husain, Associate Professor of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia said that while on one hand Maharashtra and Haryana passed stringent laws on cow slaughter, the Goa chief Minister refused to ban cow slaughter in his state, on the other. He sought to know if it was not contradictory.

Prof. ZM Khan, Secretary General, IOS is delivering presidential remarks

Former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Secretary- General, IOS, Prof. Z.M. Khan, who presided over the function, voiced concern over the current scenario and advised the Muslims to tread cautiously. He said that one would have to go through the Constituent Assembly debates in order to understand the purpose for which the judiciary was created and estimate of it was serving the very purpose. Without naming, he said that a party came to power after creating much hype. It created an artificial environment in which the party was voted to power by 31 per cent votes. This should spur us to realise our electoral strength. Today, the area was wide open to work for immediate gains. He said that if it was not possible to form a political party, at least an NGO could founded to work in the field of education and the media, adding that an NGO would be more effective than a political party. He pointed out that the system was open and what was needed was to plan out and work hard in that direction.

Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan, Vice-chairman, IOS is delivering introductory remarks

In his introductory reference, former Dean, faculty of Humanities, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Vice-chairman of the IOS, Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan said that Prof. Manzoor Ahmad served both the country and community. His field was wide and varied. As head of the Punjab Waqf Board, he explored areas to generate resources for the community’s welfare. His contribution in the field of education had been noteworthy, he added.

Earlier, the function began with the recitation of a Quranic verse by Hafiz Athar Hussain Nadwi, who also read out its Urdu translation. Dr. Nakhat Hussain Nadwi, an Arabic scholar, very ably conducted the proceedings.

A view of audience

The lecture was well attended by the university teachers and students, prominent citizens and social activists, notably among them being editor of the Milli Gazette, Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan, retired bureaucrat Haseeb Ahmad, Professor of Law, GGS Indraprastha University, Prof. Afzal Wani, S. Haja Shahabuddin, Abdul Haq Falahi, Shakil Ahmad Adv., Dr. Tariq Ashraf, Khalid Nadeem Khan, Zafar Sadiq etc.


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