NEW DELHI:As it celebrates its first birthday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is turning a secular leaf, though a drastically different colour from the UPA model of appeasement secularism. The government has decided to go for a image makeover where it will look more open and secular with a clear thrust on “nationalising minorities”.
The PM has assigned the task of building bridges with “minority leaders with a nationalistic bend of mind” to his Cabinet colleagues like Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley and Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. And they are already on their job.
Last week Jaitley met 13 Christian leaders and discussed ways to improve the relationship between the government and the Christian community. “The meeting was very positive. We have devised several ways to improve relations that are strained,’’ said one of the 13 community leaders who had attended the meeting.
According to him, the minister—underlining the importance of direct communication between the government and the community—has suggested appointing pointpersons from the community to interact with the government.
The priest said Jaitley, who studied in a Catholic school, asked them to contact him directly whenever the community faces any issue. According to him, the minister also distanced himself from controversial issues like Ghar Wapasi and beef eating.
Similarly, Naqvi is busy building bridges with “nationalist Muslim group leaders’’. He had arranged a meeting between Modi and a group of Muslim leaders last month. Though not with major following, these leaders—including Allama Raza Tasleem Shahib of Barelvi Sharif, Syed Abdul Rashid Ali Shahi Darga and Syed Ali Akbar of Tajpura Sharif of Chennai, are crucial in connecting with the community.
“The strategy of the government seems to project and promote minority communities with a nationalist bend of mind. It is pertinent for PM Modi to project a minority friendly image before the international community,’’ said a source in the know.
As part of this strategy, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been told to prepare a list of national faces from the Muslim and Christian communities who have made contributions to the nation. “Their fields of contribution could be cultural, political or academic. They could be past heroes or current ones. The key is that they all must have made contributions to the nation as a whole,’’ said an official with the ministry.
The ministry is collating the names of minority leaders who were part of the national movement. The ministry has also been asked to get in touch with the community leaders regarding the collection of names.
The list includes freedom fighters Vakkom Abdul Khadir Moulvi, Ubaidullah Sindhi, Begum Hazrat Mahal, George Joseph, Akkamma Cherian and leaders of the Parsi community Pherozeshah Mehta and Bhikaji Cama. Also in the list are poet Iqbal and proponent of Unani medicine system Hakim Ajmal Khan.
“Our next step is to collate the names of those from the minority communities who have contributed to the post Independence India,” the source added.
The source said, promoting these names will work in two ways. “It will help in fostering a sense of collective national pride in the minds of minority communities and will allay their fears. It will also help in creating a secular image of the government.”