New Delhi: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Saturday said he disapproved of the binary of ‘majority-minority’ when it comes to India as all its citizens enjoy “equal rights”, unlike in Pakistan where there is a “ceiling on those who are not Muslims”.
In an interaction during a conclave in Delhi, he also asserted that Indian civilisation and “our cultural heritage” have “no concept of discrimination” on the basis of religion.
Khan said he has been arguing for a long time and asking people to show him one provision in the Constitution that talks about minority rights in the religious context.
“Words like ‘majority’ and ‘minority’, what is meant by that (classification)? I have never accepted the appellation minority,” he said.
“What do you mean by that term, that I am less than equal. I am a proud Indian citizen who enjoys equal rights,” he said.
During the India Today Conclave, he was speaking on the segment — ‘Majority, Minority: The Battle of Belonging’.
“Indian civilisation has never been defined by religion, all other civilisations were defined either by religion, mostly by religion, and also before that by race and language,” he argued and quoted a few shlokas to back his claim.
On a question of whether Indian politics has moved from resorting to minority appeasement to majoritarianism in the last few decades, Khan claimed the word ‘Hindu’ is not used in any of our scriptures.
“We were ruled for a long period of time by people who are foreigners, and I do not mean in a negative sense, but in a sense that they were not familiar with Indian ethos and philosophy and viewpoints.
“The thousands of years old Indian civilisation, don’t know when this journey began, but it was never defined by religious faith,” he said.
“Their (foreign rulers’) own attitude was that this civilisation, its background was ‘defined by religion’.
“Therefore, they have to use a word which symbolised, and used more in the sense of faith, so they used it,” he claimed.
But Indian thought leaders were never satisfied with that appellation, he asserted.
“That is why in the Constituent Assembly, the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, they were included in the definition of Hinduism, making it amply clear that the term ‘Hindu’ does not mean uniformity of belief, or uniformity of practices in the matters of religion. Therefore, the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ term is nothing,” Khan said.
“It is not only our Constitution that gives equal rights to people, but more than that our cultural heritage, the Indian civilisation, has no concept of discrimination on the basis of religion, therefore to link the two, I find it preposterous,” he said.
Minority rights are needed in countries that are theocracies because there is a ceiling on growth and citizens are not treated equally, Khan argued.
“In India, there has never been a theocracy, so, when you say ‘Hindu Rashtra’, you are equating it with a Muslim theocracy or Christian theocracy, which have existed in the past, and somewhere these are still existing,” he said.
Khan also said that any citizen of India who wears a “badge of identity” other than that of Indian identity will “have a problem”. And, those who wear a badge of Indian identity may face a problem, but constitutionally and legally speaking, there is no such issue.
Reciting a shloka, he said, the ancient Indian philosophy has been that it is the duty of the political system to provide equal protection to all.
“In Pakistan, yes there is a need to have minority rights because there is a ceiling on those who are not Muslims.
“They cannot aspire for certain positions, they are discriminated against,” Khan alleged.
Khan has been a vocal critic of the practice of instant triple talaq and calling for reforms in Muslim personal laws for long.
His speech in Parliament in 1985 in the wake of the Shah Bano judgement extending the Rajiv Gandhi government’s initial support to it was much acclaimed.
However, when the Rajiv Gandhi government did a U-turn under alleged pressure from Muslim clerics and brought a bill to nullify the Supreme Court order, he resigned from the ministry.
The Uttar Pradesh politician later joined the BJP but has remained inactive since 2007.
When the Modi government had brought a law to criminalise the practice of instant triple talaq, Khan had supported it.
On the Shah Bano case, Khan said that he spoke out against the All India Muslim Personal Law Board because it used a term to refer to the case that was actually a “euphemism” which indicated that a certain section of people felt they were not part of the “mainstream of India” and “I feel elements which promote division or separatism should not be promoted”.