India Today - - UPFRONT - By Uday Mahurkar

Are­cent de­ci­sion by the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment to set up five uni­ver­si­ties for stu­dents from mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties has set tongues wag­ging in the Sangh Pari­var. No one is will­ing to go on record, but ques­tions are be­ing asked. There was a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion when the Re­serve Bank of In­dia ap­peared to be ready to al­low Is­lamic bank­ing in the coun­try. Many in Sangh Pari­var cir­cles were ask­ing how Modi could per­mit such a thing af­ter mak­ing ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ and equal treat­ment for all the cor­ner­stone of his elec­tion cam­paign. The plan was scrapped, how­ever; the gov­ern­ment said Is­lamic bank­ing would re­quire too many laws to be changed, and would be su­per­flu­ous any­way, given the num­ber of in­clu­sive-bank­ing pro­grammes al­ready in place.

One of the ques­tions now be­ing asked has to do with why uni­ver­si­ties are be­ing set up specif­i­cally for mi­nor­ity stu­dents, given the Modi gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to grant mi­nor­ity sta­tus to Ali­garh Mus­lim Univer­sity. Are these pre-poll sops?

Well-placed BJP in­sid­ers say that they be­lieve Modi has a larger plan—he wants to en­cour­age mod­er­ate Su­fis and Wah­habis to find a place in main­stream so­ci­ety. They say that this is not his first at­tempt to do so, point­ing to the fact that just last year, he gave the in­au­gu­ral ad­dress at the first World Sufi Fo­rum, held in New Delhi. Then there is the fact that along­side the an­nounce­ment re­gard­ing new uni­ver­si­ties was an­other about the Gharib Nawaz skills devel­op­ment pro­gramme, point­edly named af­ter Moin­ud­din Chishti, the 12th cen­tury Sufi saint of Ajmer.

Ac­cord­ing to Mukhtar Ab­bas Naqvi, min­is­ter of state for mi­nor­ity af­fairs, 40 per cent of seats at the new uni­ver­si­ties will be re­served for Mus­lim girls—and nonMus­lims will also be al­lowed to at­tend. A BJP in­sider says Modi un­der­stands the “power of ed­u­ca­tion to im­prove peo­ple’s lives and give them a stake in so­ci­ety”.


TALK­ING SOP: Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi at the World Sufi Fo­rum on March 17, 2016

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