State’s an­niver­saries list: Mus­lims think only ju­di­ciary can help

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - METRO - MANOJ R NAIR

In Novem­ber 2015, the Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment’s Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion Depart­ment re­leased a list of 26 an­niver­saries that pub­lic of­fices have to ob­serve in 2016.

Among the names in the list are Lok­manya Ti­lak; Shahu Ma­haraj, a Maratha king who started one of the first af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grammes for op­pressed castes in the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury; so­cial re­former and poet Sav­it­ribai Phule; Dr Babasa­heb Ambed­kar, and Ji­jau, Shivaji’s mother. Apart from the re­form­ers, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and free­dom fight­ers, the ta­ble men­tions ‘Mar­tyrs Day’ on March 23 and ‘Anti-ter­ror­ism Day’ — on May 21.

Other names in­clude Vas­antrao Naik — a new en­try in the list — who was Ma­ha­rash­tra chief min­is­ter for more than a decade un­til 1975; Kran­tis­inh Nana Patil, free­dom fighter and a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from the Com­mu­nist Party of India; and Valmiki, au­thor of the Ra­mayana.

The no­tice also in­structs gov­ern­ment work­ers what to do on these days. While stat­ues of Sav­it­ribai Phule have to be gar­landed with flow­ers on Jan­uary 3, her birth­day, pub­lic of­fi­cials have to read out the pre­am­ble to the Con­sti­tu­tion of India on Novem­ber 26, which is Con­sti­tu­tion Day.

There are no in­struc­tions on what is to be done on Ji­jau’s birth­day, but gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have to take a pledge on May 21 to fight ter­ror­ism.

The list went un­no­ticed by cit­i­zens, un­til some Mus­lim groups found that there was no­body from their com­mu­nity in the lat­est list.

What dis­turbed them more was the fact that the name of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the coun­try’s first ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and a re­cip­i­ent of Bharat Ratna, the coun­try’s high­est civil­ian award, who was in the last list, is miss­ing this time.

In 2015, his birth­day on Novem­ber 11 was ob­served as Ed­u­ca­tion Day.

Mus­lims feel the list ig­nores the com­mu­nity’s con­tri­bu­tion to na­tion build­ing. Last week, a com­mu­nity group pe­ti­tioned the Bom­bay high court.

They want the court to ask the gov­ern­ment to cre­ate a new list that will be more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the com­mu­ni­ties that live in the state. The pe­ti­tion­ers said the court is likely to an­nounce the first date of hear­ing on Mon­day.

“It can be ar­gued that the list means noth­ing to most peo­ple, but our worry is that this is part of a scheme to dere­cog­nise the so­cial con­tri­bu­tions made by Mus­lim lead­ers,” said Khalid Mut­tam of the All India Milli Coun­cil, one of the pe­ti­tion­ers.

“If this con­tin­ues, the next gen­er­a­tion will think that Mus­lims have given noth­ing to this state or coun­try.”

The pe­ti­tion­ers said they were up­set when they found that Azad’s name was taken off the list. “He was the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter when the In­dian In­sti­tutes of Tech­nol­ogy were set up. He op­posed the coun­try’s par­ti­tion when other lead­ers like (Muham­mad Ali) Jin­nah wanted Pak­istan,” added Mut­tam.

It is not clear how the an­nual list of an­niver­saries is cre­ated. Sar­faraz Arzu, a jour­nal­ist and a pe­ti­tioner in the case, said, “There is no transparency in the se­lec­tion process (of the names). The gov­ern­ment does not ask for sug­ges­tions and there is no prior an­nounce­ment.”

Ex­plain­ing why they de­cided to file a pe­ti­tion, Arzu said, “We think that rem­edy does not lie with po­lit­i­cal bosses; it is a con­sti­tu­tional is­sue, so we think we should get rem­edy from the ju­di­ciary.”

Apart from Azad, the com­mu­nity has sug­gested that the names of Maulana Has­rat Mo­hani, an Urdu poet and a free­dom fighter; Dr APJ Ab­dul Kalam; Ab­dul Rah­man An­tu­lay, a Ma­ha­rash­tra chief min­is­ter who was also a cen­tral min­is­ter; and Rafi Ahmed Kid­wai, a free­dom fighter and UP min­is­ter, can be con­sid­ered for the list.

While it can be ar­gued that Mo­hani and Kid­wai were not as­so­ci­ated with Ma­ha­rash­tra, the cur­rent list has names of lead­ers and his­tor­i­cal fig­ures who do not fig­ure in the state’s his­tory. “We find some un­de­serv­ing names in the list,” said Arzu.

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