New Delhi: The Delhi Minorities Commission chief Zafarul-Islam Khan expressed relief at the Delhi High Court granting him interim protection from arrest until 22 June but continues to stand by his controversial tweet.
He, however, told ThePrint that in his official capacity as the head of a minority panel, the tweet could have been avoided and was ill-timed.
Khan has been booked on sedition charges by the Delhi Police for a tweet on 28 April in which he put out a statement thanking “Kuwait for standing with Indian Muslims”, warning that Indian Muslims should not be pushed to reaching out to the Arab and Muslim world, while also praising the controversial preacher Zakir Naik. He has since apologised for his post.
In an exclusive interview with ThePrint Tuesday, Khan said the Delhi High Court order was a relief in that police “won’t gather in large numbers” outside his house.
“I am not afraid of these things but relieved in the sense that cops won’t gather outside my place in large numbers to take me with them to the station,” he said.
Khan added that last week, Delhi Police officials spent two hours trying to convince him to go with them to the police station, insisting it was for his own good, but he knew that wasn’t the case.
The minorities commission chief said he told the police he won’t accompany them until he was sent a written notice. The police later sent a notice asking Khan for his device/laptop that was used to share the Twitter and Facebook posts.
“I submitted my laptop to the police, but I have said in writing that I am doing it under duress, as I fail to understand why they need it as there is a record of the tweet or social media post available online,” he told ThePrint.
He added that there was “nothing in the case” and that the FIR was malafide.
In its order Tuesday, the Delhi High Court, which heard Khan’s plea for anticipatory bail through video-conferencing, had made it clear to the Delhi Police that prior notice should be given to Khan well in advance if he has to be called for an investigation.
Forgot country under lockdown
Explaining his comments on social media, Khan said he simply thanked the Kuwait government in his post.
“I do stand by my tweet but I apologised about the timing of it, and maybe the insensitive way I put it,” he said. “I just forgot that our country at that time was reeling under a lockdown… I should not have… later I said, it was ill-timed. It was insensitive. I maintain that.”
He further clarified that Twitter’s character limit didn’t allow him to elaborate. “Indian Muslims are not like Rohingyas or like Chinese Muslims. We have our standing, our history, our civilization, which is very well respected, all over the Muslim world,” he said.
On whether the tweet perhaps went against him given his official position, Khan said, “I do understand that,” adding that being a writer himself, he forgot that he was the head of a statutory body and shouldn’t have said what he did.
“But if lynchings are taking place, if mosques are being attacked, I have to speak up and I will continue to do so,” Khan said.
“The main message is that I despise hate-mongers and the pervasive hate politics in India. I said it in my second tweet,” the minorities commission head said, adding that people who engage in such politics spark riots and are the ones who tarnish the country’s reputation. “That was my message, not the tweet. The tweet was very innocuous,” he said.
He also referred to BJP minister Anurag Thakur’s provocative “goli maron salon ko” jibe and said that he was now being threatened and told that he would be cut into pieces or sent to Pakistan. “But nothing will happen to them as they are protected,” Khan told ThePrint.
Khan defends L-G
On reports that the Delhi L-G issued him a showcause notice, Khan defended LG Anil Baijal. “He was doing what someone in his position would have — forward a complaint — which came to him from a group of BJP leaders. As per protocol, he forwarded it. I don’t think he himself particularly demanded action against me,” Khan said, adding that he was yet to receive the show-cause notice and once he does, he will send a detailed reply.
Khan also said that the “Vasant Kunj resident” who filed the case against him was a BJP supporter who “regularly files such cases at the behest of his superiors”.
“Eight Delhi BJP MLAs went to the LG demanding my sacking and prosecution. They were followed by an army of former army, judiciary and bureaucracy officials who are co-travellers of BJP and RSS,” Khan said. “The BJP employed its IT army and professional trolls in their thousands; they trained all their guns on me on 28-29 April. They are still active, threatening, fabricating, humiliating and dehumanising me.”
He also acknowledged the group of academicians and writers who issued a public statement protesting the charges levelled against him.
On those who trolled him, Khan said, “The people who are indulging in all of this (those who attacked him) are not of the highest calibre. You won’t find professors, senior politicians or philosophers,” he said. “I don’t mean to demean anyway but it is what is happening. Social media might be a boon, but it demolishes a lot of lives. People who have attacked me don’t know me to form an opinion.”
Unfair to target Tablighis
Khan also said it was unfair to target the Tablighi Jamaat community, which has been accused of spreading Covid-19 across the country.
“Some people did not like it as I intervened at once when Tablighis were being blamed,” Khan said, who also filed a plea before the Delhi government to remove the separate category for the community in health bulletins about cases spread due to them. The plea was accepted by the government.
Pointing towards authorities in the government, he said they had a lot of explaining to do as well given so many people from Malaysia and other countries were let inside in February end, even though there was enough scare of a pandemic.