DEMOGRAPHICS: MINORITY REPORT
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