Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

No nation can allow millions of foreigners to stay

aajkibaat_frame_28745 (002)On Monday, when the second and final draft National Register of Citizens was made public in Assam, more than 40 lakh applicants found their names missing. Though the Centre and state government has allowed these people enough time to file their objections, one thing stood out clear. Several million foreigners may have to leave India.

Just think: can any nation in the world allow millions of foreigners to settle? It would amount to encroaching the rights of our own citizens. That is why, if foreigners are being detected, nobody can oppose it in principle. Whether the Congress, or Trinamool Congress, or Badruddin Ajmal, nobody is opposing this exercise, but most of them are busy finding out lacunae. Somebdy is alleging that a particular religion is being targeted, another is alleging that people speaking a particular language is being targeted.

This citizenship issue should have ended 70 years ago. The first work on NRC began in 1951, but was not completed. More than 100 tribunals were constituted. When Bangladesh became free, a huge imbalance was noticed in Assam’s population. In 1983, the then PM Indira Gandhi brought in the IMDT (Illegal Migrants Detection Tribunal) Act to detect foreigners in Assam. In 1985, the then PM Rajiv Gandhi signed the Assam Accord with All Assam Students’ Union, but it was implemented in such a haphazard manner that the then AASU president Sarbanand Sonowal went to court.

In 2005, the Supreme Court quashed the IMDT Act and ordered completion of work on the NRC. When nothing moved forward, the apex court decided to monitor the work, which began in March 2013 and has now come to a conclusion. The final NRC will be published on 31 December this year. The government has made it clear that any Indian residing in India before 24 March 1971 has nothing to fear.

Take my example. I was born in Delhi, but if somebody asks my origin, I will say that my father migrated from Rajasthan to Delhi in 1950. Our family hails from Sadas village of Rajasthan. My grandfather’s name was Pandit Gouri Shankar. The same questions are being asked from people in Assam. Those who are outsiders, those who do not have roots in post-Partition India, those who have migrated from Bangladesh, will have tough questions to answer. Therein lies the problem.

The question is: where will these 40 lakh people go? One cannot expect our neighbour Bangladesh to take them back. Where will they reside? The government has not yet revealed its reply. This question needs an urgent reply.

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Death of cattle at cow shelters is nothing short of cow slaughter

akb 2 (002)The death of 36 cows at a cow shelter run by a private trust in South Delhi on Friday exposes the hollow claims of those who are advocating cow protection day in and day out. Fringe groups have been lynching individuals in the name of cow slaughter and cattle smuggling, triggering fierce debates on social media. Leaders who indirectly condone lynching often cite cow slaughter as the main reason for such attacks, but I personally feel that death of cows in cow shelters is nothing short of cow slaughter.

The cow shelter in South Delhi was being run by a trust, and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation staff used to dump stray cows at this shelter. These cows were not being fed at all at the shelter. When India TV reporter visited the cow shelter sprawling on 20 acres of land, he found the conditions pitiable. It was surprising how cows were alive without food in such conditions.

Those who proclaim themselves as ‘gau-rakshak’ and consider cow as their mother, frequently speak out against cow slaughter, but they fail to notice the number of stray cows walking on the roads, dying after consuming plastic bags from heaps of garbage.

The first and foremost duty of such people should be to ensure that the cow shelters are run properly. This work is more important than stopping trucks carrying cattle and bashing up the drivers. If ‘gau-rakshaks’ look after the cow shelters properly, they will be doing a great service to the nation. They will be saving the lives of thousands of cows, and mob lynching incidents will come to an end.

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Imran Khan as PM, backed by the army, can normalize relations with India

aakbImran Khan’s life has been a turbulent one, full of struggles. He struggled a lot, but never bowed. I remember Imran Khan was at the height of his popularity after winning the World Cup, and then he suddenly took retirement from cricket. In 1994, he came to my show Aap Ki Adalat, where he revealed, for the first time, his intention to join politics. I had then asked him how he would play on a political pitch, where all things are surreal and are not what they appear to be. Imran had then replied that when he was first selected for the national team, he went to the field to play with high hopes, but crashed. He was thrown out of the team for three years, but he did not relent. He toiled hard, made a comeback and the rest is history. Citing this, Imran told me, I will fight to the last in politics, and win.

For 22 years, Imran Khan toiled hard in the political wilderness, and at last he won. After his victory, Imran spoke about Kashmir, about China, advocated an open border with Afghanistan, also spoke about US and Saudi Arabia, but spoke only a few words about India. He particularly mentioned Kashmir. If what Imran said about Kashmir during his campaign speeches are true, then it is quite clear that he has the support of the army, and the army played a role in his victory. For India, an elected and stable government in Pakistan, backed by the army, should be a better situation, because at least Indian leaders and bureaucrats will know whom to talk to. There is a chance that this could help in normalizing relations.

During the press conference, Imran smirkingly spoke about a section of the Indian media, saying he was being portrayed as a Bollywood-type villain. Imran may be unhappy with the Indian media, but the fact remains that the amount of love Imran has got from people in India, could make any Pakistani envious. No other Pakistani has got the same amount of affection that Imran has got in India.

Imran is a newcomer to governance. He has practically no experience of governance. He was an MP, but was never a minister or a Chief Minister. The people of Pakistan have high hopes from his leadership. Imran has promised to fulfill their expectations, but the road ahead is not so easy. My best wishes to Imran Khan on his new journey.


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Let us keep the Rafale deal above politics

aaj ki baat_frame_3099 (002)Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his party have been demanding details of the Rafale aircraft deal from the government for the last several months. The opposition party is planning to make this a big issue eight months before the Lok Sabha elections are due. Rahul Gandhi has been asking why the Modi government agreed to a price much higher than the price fixed by the previous UPA government.

On Wednesday, sections of media accessed a document prepared by the Defence Ministry and the Indian Air Force, which clearly shows that each Rafale aircraft being bought by the NDA government was Rs 59 crore cheaper than what the UPA government agreed to pay. After taking into account, the cost of aircraft, weapons, systems, simulators, maintenance, repair support and technical assistance, each Rafale aircraft bought by the present government would amount to Rs 1,646 crore compared to Rs 1,705 crore that could have been paid during the UPA regime.

The entire issue relates to national security. Secrecy is the essence of any defence deal, and the Congress party clearly knows that the government would abide by the secrecy clause of the agreement. It will not make the details of the deal public, as it would harm our national security.

To speak more about the finer points of the deal, as to the state-of-the-art systems that will be fitted to the aircraft, will amount to playing with national security. The sooner this controversy is put to rest, the better. There are many other issues for politicking and it would not be proper to politicize the Rafale deal. Let us keep national security above politics.

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Maratha reservation is a complex issue

Aaj-ki-baat (002)The Maratha Krantikari Morcha’s state-wide agitation in Maharashtra has entered the third day today with a bandh call in Mumbai and its suburbs. On Tuesday, several vehicles, including ambulance and fire brigade vehicles, were set on fire by agitators in several parts of the state. When the Maratha reservation agitation began last year, I had praised the peaceful manner in which rallies were brought out, but this time, the protests have resulted in violence and arson.

It is sad to note that the agitation leaders have chosen the violent path in order to get their demands accepted. The Morcha is demanding that the Maratha community be declared Other Backward Class (OBC). It is not demanding reservation because if 16 per cent reservation is given to Marathas out of the 27 pc OBC reservation, other backward communities may start agitations. The Maratha leaders feel that getting OBC status will give a tool to their community to get reservation benefits in jobs and education.

Moreover, the agitators should understand that granting of OBC status to Maratha community does not lie with the state government alone. The only way out is talks so that a solution can be found. Setting fire to vehicles, smashing up ambulances and stoning media vehicles and public properties, will not yield anything. It will only tarnish the image of the community. The leaders should understand that it is a complex issue and a way has to be found out.

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On mob lynching issue, all political leaders should first refrain from igniting passions

akb 1On Friday last, a Muslim man Rakbar Khan was lynched by a group of self-styled cow vigilantes in a village near Alwar, Rajasthan. This incident took place even as the Centre and the Supreme Court were grappling with the issue of mob lynching in several parts of the country. Friday’s incident in Alwar resulted in the Congress and BJP leaders trading accusations through harsh tweets and statements.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that ‘hatred has replaced humanity in his (Modi’s) brutal New India”. Union Minister Piyush Goyal hit back tweeting “You (Rahul) divide society for electoral gains and then shed crocodile tears. Enough is enough. You are a merchant of hate”. Several other senior ministers like Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad too hit back at the Congress.

Last evening, the Centre constituted a Group of Ministers to deal with rising incidents of mob lynching. It also formed a high-level committee, headed by Home Secretary which will submit its recommendations to the GoM headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The committee will study the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last week, speak to state governments and then submit its report to the GoM.

All this will surely take time, but for the time being, one immediate step can be taken. All leaders of major political parties like the BJP and Congress, should stop issuing statements on this issue, because their remarks can ignite passions and encourage ‘mobocracy’. For example, if an MLA says that a war has been waged against cattle lifting and cow slaughter, and if another leader speaks on ‘Hindu Taliban’ , and if a third says that those advocating cow protection are ‘terrorists’, then all such remarks can give rise to undue tension, and this must be curbed at the earliest.

It has been noticed that in most of the mob lynching incidents, fake news spread through social media play a major role, and government alone cannot stop this. Local leaders will have to step in and timely prevent such mobs from going on a rampage. Social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook have taken some steps to curb the spread of fake news, but there has been no favourable impact on the ground level. It is surprising that fake news circulate fast and mobs gather to bash up the victims, but the local police intelligence units are blissfully unaware of this. The local intelligence machinery has to be on its toes to prevent such incidents from occurring.

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No-confidence motion in LS will test Opposition unity

rsOpposition parties in Lok Sabha gave notice for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and the Speaker, on the first day of Monsoon Session of Parliament, has allowed a debate on Friday, which will be followed by voting. Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi was later asked by reporters whether she was confident of getting the required numbers to topple the government. Her reply itself was in the form of a question. She asked, who says we don’t have the numbers? Nobody knows on what basis Sonia Gandhi said this, but the numbers speak for themselves.

In a House of 543, ten seats are presently vacant, and a support of 264 MPs is required to get the motion through. The ruling BJP has 273 MPs, and its allies add up to 313. Probably, the Congress leaders assumed that many of the NDA allies, particularly Shiv Sena, were unhappy with BJP, and the main ally Telugu Desam Party has left the NDA. The Congress wanted to use this tool to embarrass the government, at least to show to the world that Prime Minister Modi does not command the majority that he used to in 2014. Probably the Congress leaders are unaware that BJP chief Amit Shah had been meeting almost all the NDA allies recently, and the ruling party is not at all worried.

There is no doubt that the no-confidence motion will fall through. On the other hand, the voting on the no-confidence motion will prove to be a test for Opposition unity, and Prime Minister Modi will get the chance to reply to all questions and criticisms that are being made against his government.

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Stringent law needed to curb lynching

aaj ki baat_frame_540 (002)The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Parliament to come up with a stringent law to curb incidents of lynching that are taking place in several parts of the country. In the last one year, 27 individuals have been lynched in nine states, with Maharashtra leading the other states of Jharkhand, Tripura, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Assam. Different political parties are in power in these states, and, therefore, a single political party or a government cannot be blamed.

The apex court clearly said, “horrendous acts of mobocracy” cannot be allowed and “extra-judicial acts, such as cow vigilantism” have to be nipped in the bud. The trend began with self-styled cow vigilantes, who were then warned of stern action publicly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but now there has been a spate of mob lynchings targeting people believed to be child snatchers, usually on the basis of fake information spread through WhatsApp messages.

The Supreme Court has recommended that Parliament should create a separate offence for such crimes and install the fear of law in the minds of offenders. The court set out elaborate guidelines for the Centre and states to follow in such cases, and also asked them curb circulation of inflammatory messages. Both the Centre and state governments should understand the spirit in which the apex court has issued these stringent guidelines. The sooner a law is enacted by Parliament, the better.

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Why Congress is on the defensive over Rahul’s ‘Muslim’ party remark

Aaj Ki Baat 16th JulyLast week while speaking to a group of Muslim scholars and intellectuals, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress is a party of Muslims. This was reported in an Urdu daily Inquilab, but was promptly denied by the party spokespersons. I have information that at that meeting, Rahul Gandhi said, the Congress fights for the Muslims, just like it fights for Sikhs, for Dalits and for farmers. He added, if anybody tells me Congress is a party of Muslims, let them say, I do not fear. Congress is a party of Muslims. The newspaper headlined this remark.

The BJP then went to analyse this on its own, and attacked Rahul Gandhi. This controversy would not have gained currency if Rahul Gandhi had come forward and given his clarification. But the problem is: Rahul cannot publicly and emphatically say that Congress is not a party of Muslims alone, nor can he say that Congress is a party of Muslims.

To put it briefly: Rahul used to take out half-phrases from Prime Minister Modi’s remarks and make it an issue in public. This time, the BJP has repaid him in his own coin, and the Congress party is scrambling for answers.


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Nawaz Sharif plays a masterstroke

Aaj-Ki-baat_frame_62779On Friday night, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were arrested the moment their plane landed at Lahore international airport from Abu Dhabi. Both of them were whisked away to Islamabad, from where Nawaz will be sent to Adiala jail near Rawalpindi, while his daughter will be lodged in a rest house converted into a sub-jail. Nawaz and Maryam have been sentenced to 10 years’ and 7 years’ imprisonment by the Accountability Court.

The arrest and detention comes at a time when Pakistan will be going to general elections 10 days from now on July 25. Nawaz Sharif, an astute politician, knows that if he and his daughter stayed away from the country after being convicted on charges of corruption, it could end his political career. The former Prime Minister played a masterstroke, which the current Pakistani establishment and army never expected. Nawaz Sharif’s wife Kulsoom is lying in a critical condition in a London hospital. Nawaz Sharif took a big political gamble, leaving his ailing wife in London, and decided to return to his country alongwith his daughter. This political gambit has raised the morale of his partymen, and his party leaders now hope to get emotional support from the electorate. There is a possibility that Nawaz’s party could score good results in the upcoming elections, and this has left the current Pakistani establishment and army flummoxed.

On Friday evening, massive arrangements were made to prevent Nawaz’s supporters from reaching the airport. Internet and mobile services were suspended, and orders were issued to state-run TV channels not to carry any news about Nawaz Sharif. Despite all this, Nawaz managed to convey his message to the Pakistani people through the social media. Politically speaking, this was a success for the former PM, and all eyes are now on the results of the forthcoming general elections.

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Shashi Tharoor raises the bogey of a ‘Hindu Pakistan’

akb (002)The voluble Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor had a jibe at BJP when he said that if the BJP retained power in next year’s general elections, it would alter the Constitution, which, in turn, would create conditions for, what he called, a ‘Hindu Pakistan’. The BJP has demanded an apology from the Congress MP saying that it was nothing but an attack on ‘Indian democracy and Hindus’.

The Congress, on its part, distanced itself from the controversy and advised its leaders on the need for ‘responsible phraseology’. Chief spokesperson of the party Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “India’s values & fundamentals are an unequivocal guarantee of our civilisational role & set us apart from the divisive idea of Pakistan. All Congress leaders must realise this historic responsibility bestowed upon us while choosing words & phraseology to reject BJP’s hatred.”

The surprising thing about Tharoor’s comment is that he quoted remarks made by Veer Savarkar and Deendayal Upadhyay on Hindu Rashtra to justify his stand.

The Congress party is often embarrassed by comments made by its own leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shashi Tharoor. In such circumstances, the party spokespersons find themselves on a sticky wicket. They have no way out but to distance the party from such individual remarks, and advise their own leaders to think before they speak.

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Parliament must pass law to ban triple talaq

akb 2 (002)The custom of ‘triple talaq’ has become the bane of Muslim women in India. The Supreme Court has already declared triple talaq as unlawful, and the Centre prepared a legislation to stop this social evil. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha, but was held up in Rajya Sabha, because the main opposition parties like the Congress opposed several of its provisions.

On the ground level, triple talaq continues unabated. The cases of divorced Muslim women like Nida, Sabina and Nisha clearly illustrate the torment Muslim women have to go through. On Tuesday in Bareilly, UP, a Muslim woman Razia died of starvation. She was given triple talaq by her husband over phone, but Razia refused to leave her home. She stayed inside her home, and her husband refused to give her food. A month later, she died of hunger.

Such incidents shock all of us when we hear such stories. We should, after all, think about the society in which we live. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took the initiative to legislate banning of triple talaq, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board objected saying that the government should not interfere in the community’s affairs. The Board had then promised that it would eradicate such social evils on its own. The AIMPLB must now answer what happened to its promise.

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