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India: Gujarat Government Continues With Communal Agenda

by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, 7 July 2009

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In a surreptitious and secret move, the Government of Gujarat through its Legal Department has issued a notification (No. GK/8/2009/COI/102009/33/A) appointing a Commission of Inquiry to inquire and report into the “polarization of population on the basis of religion taking place in the State of Gujarat” and “the migration of the people following different religions taking place every 10 years after 15th August 1947”.

According to the Gujarat Government, this Commission is being instituted because of “allegations which have been made in the courts as well as in the media against the State Government” that the population of Gujarat is polarized on the basis of religion.

Further the Government maintains that “such allegations and unscientific conclusions create heart burning (sic!) and distance among the citizens”.

In the very institution of the Commission, “the Government of Gujarat is of the opinion that the allegations so made are not based on scientific study”.

The very nature and tone of this so-called Commission of Inquiry is bound to target the minorities of the State and add to the already existing fear among these groups. Further, it is bound to polarize even more and make the minorities sitting ducks (because of minority mapping) for the hate propaganda and violence by right wing Hindu groups who have the patronage of the State Government as is evident when the Christians were attacked in 1998-99 and the Muslims in 2001. Minorities in the State continue to be victims of overt and subtle intimidations, harassment and attacks.

Earlier in 1999, the Gujarat Government had initiated a survey of Muslims and Christians of the State. This was challenged in the Gujarat High Court and in a landmark Order (SCA/1000/1999 dated 16/02/1999), Justice M.R. Calla of the Gujarat High Court, maintained that “once this country has adopted the Constitution, we have to abide by the same, which is the fountain source of law……if any survey or census is to be made or any information is sought to be gathered with regard to the criminal activities or for other allied purposes, may be as a part of routine exercise, cannot be based on a communal footing”.

Realising that its move was unconstitutional, the then Gujarat Government, affirmed in court that it had withdrawn the survey.

It is a well known fact that most minorities in Gujarat live in a highly polarized situations. One does not need a ‘scientific study’ and much less a Commission of Inquiry (with all its biases) to prove or disprove this. What the Gujarat Government should ensure is that every single citizen of the State is treated with respect and dignity and with the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. A significant step would be to ensure the implementation in the State of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee Report.

Above all, it should withdraw this Commission of Inquiry immediately!

4th July 2009 Fr. Cedric Prakash s.j.

Director, PRASHANT

( * Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)