Waqf Act dispute could be reason for Khurshid's Sachar antipathy
Times of India | 30th June, 2011 | Avantika Ghosh
NEW DELHI: Festering differences between the government and some sections of the Muslim community on the Sachar Committee recommendations on Waqf properties — especially the recommendation about a separate Waqf cadre — may have shaped the government's new-found disdain for the report, prompting minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed's provocative statement that Sachar recommendations are not "divine like Quran".
In a conversation with TOI, Khurshid conceded that the main point of divergence between the government and Sachar authors was the management of Waqf. "We have implemented 90% of the report but we're opposed to some recommendations like the Waqf cadre because we do not want to create a different world for the Muslim citizens of our country."
Khursheed's statement in Chennai questioning Sachar has elicited a strident reaction from economist Abusaleh Shariff, who was the secretary of the committee. In his strongly worded retort, Shariff makes no bones about his contention that Khursheed's statement is because of the heat he is facing on the Waqf issue. "Note that many ministers have told me that indeed the Sachar report is used as a bible for charting out pro-poor, pro-deprived and minority empowerment strategies," Shariff has written, scarcely mincing words in holding the Congress responsible for the "discrimination" practised against Muslims in India. He has called for an independent review of the "inclusive development reforms in India which have been undertaken post Sachar".
Shariff is offended that the minister chose to question the entire report merely based on his opposition to a small part of it. "We had said that there is no point in having senior officers with little knowledge of Muslim ways and the religion manage Waqf so there should be a separate cadre selected through a test. Government does not like the idea. But that does not give it any right to question an empirical research based report. Waqf after all is just one-twelfth of the report. What is wrong with making a suggestion?" a peeved Shariff asks.
Appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005, the Rajinder Sachar Committee was a high-level committee for preparation of a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community in India. The issue of Waqf has of late assumed greater proportions as there is proposal for amendment of the Waqf Act presently before the Rajya Sabha Select Committee and many Muslim organizations including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have expressed their reservations on it in various forums.
Khurshid had also said in Chennai that blindly following the Sachar report may lead to short-term gains but in the long term would lead to further ghettoisation of the Muslim community. "Dr Shariff's statement gives away his own confusion. He did not speak to me before issuing it. But there is no disagreement about Sachar's emphasis on mainstreaming. I agree with 90% of the letter. What I do not agree with is his points on discrimination because there are historical and consequential reasons for it. We can sit down and talk about it."
Shariff had written: "The minister has a lot to answer as to how he will eliminate large deficit in achievement levels which Muslims have encountered during the last 60 years or so. This has occurred mostly due to discriminatory practices followed by successive government including Congress governments both at the Centre and in many states."