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Citizenship Amendment Act: I will be first to go if single Indian Muslim is deported, says Shahnawaz Hussain | India News


NEW DELHI: At a time when several parts of India are witnessing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and the yet-to-be formalised National Register of Citizens (NCR), BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain appeals to the protestors to trust him that not a single Indian Muslim would be driven out of the country. He says there cannot be a better country than India, a better friend than Hindus and a better leader than Modi for Indian Muslims. Excerpts from the interview.

Q: Do you think the Modi government committed a mistake by not including Muslims in CAA?

A: Not at all. Our leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had also promised to take care of such persecuted people. India was partitioned on the basis of religion. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islamic nations. But the religious minorities in these countries started getting persecuted in the name of faith. They had thought, based on what (Pakistan’s first prime minister Md Ali) Jinnah had said that Pakistan would remain a secular country. However, Jinnah broke the promise. The minority communities, which constituted 23 per cent of the population, have reduced to just 3 per cent. Some went to Europe and other countries. But the poor, particularly the Dalits and the downtrodden, stayed behind. They came to India when their religious freedom got threatened. Where would they have gone? Earlier also we gave citizenship whenever Indians abroad were harassed. But followers of Islam cannot be persecuted in the name of religion in Islamic countries because their state religion itself is Islam. However, those who were persecuted in the name of religion took refuge in India and we gave them citizenship. In Afghanistan, statues were demolished. Think of what would have happened to human beings. Therefore, this CAA will not take away anyone’s citizenship but will give citizenship.

Q: Then why does such an atmosphere pervade against CAA?

A: Those who lost to Narendra Modi in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections have been spreading rumours. After 2014 defeat, award wapsi gang, tukde-tukde gang and Urban Naxals got united but still could not trounce Modi in 2019. They thought they could not criticise the government on the banning of instant triple talaq, nullification of Article 370 and the Ayodhya verdict because it was pronounced by the Supreme Court. After CAA was passed, they thought this was an opportunity — by playing the Muslim card. We do give citizenship to Muslims. Adnan Sami, Salma Agha and 600 other Muslims have been given citizenship by the Modi government. We are not ending the existing parameters and laws for giving citizenship. If we are give citizenship to those who have been persecuted in the name of religion, why are some people having problems?

Q: The problem arises because CAA is being seen with NRC (National Register of Citizens). While discussing the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in both houses of Parliament, home minister Amit Shah reiterated that NRC would be implemented in the country by 2024. Viewed along with what all happened in implementation of NRC in Assam, CAA is being viewed as anti-Muslim.

A: NRC in Assam was implemented according to the guidelines of the Supreme Court. But the implementation of NRC on the national scale has not been discussed on any forum of the party. I can say this because I have been working in the BJP since 1986 and am a member of the party’s high-powered decision-making central election committee besides being the national spokesperson.

Q: But PM Modi and Amit Shah had spoken about NRC in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Moreover, NRC was mentioned in the 2019 election manifesto as well besides Amit Shah said it with conviction in Parliament.

A: We want Bangladeshi infiltrators to be driven out of India. There is no intention on the part of the government to make genuine citizens, whose ancestors were born in India, stand in queue. I appeal to the people not to be misled by anyone. This is your country and you are ours. Dharna and protests are fine. We are not against them. But we are against violence. It is unfounded fear that Muslims would be put in detention centres after NRC.

Q: But detention centres do exist.

A: Detention centres are built in all countries. If 50 people come to the airport from somewhere without a visa, they will not be sent to jail but to a detention centre. These detention centres are not for Indian citizens. My question is why are Indian citizens, who have passports, whose names exist on the voters’ list, who have driving licence and who have all the documents, afraid of anything? Why are they protesting?

Q: They are protesting because there were flaws in the Assam NRC due to which family members of eminent personalities such as former president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed were omitted from the list.

A: All such people are being given an opportunity. The point here is that there is a difference between refugees and infiltrators. The refugees come to protect their religion and self-respect but the infiltrators come to earn money. Therefore, the latter should go back to their respective countries. The Congress government had declared that it deported 70,000 Bangladeshi infiltrators.

Q: Now this NPR is also coming. What is its significance?

A: NPR is a part of the national decadal census. It had been implemented earlier too in 2010 when P Chidambaram was home minister. But there was no objection at that time.

Q: However, there are some extra questions in the upcoming NPR.

A: No problem. People can give whatever information they can and leave out the rest.

Q: CAA protestors have declared that they will not show documents – ‘hum kaagaz nahi dikhaengey’.

A: Who is asking anyone to show documents? The government is seeking information to decide and implement different schemes on the basis of the data collected.

Q: Do you think whatever is happening in Shaheen Bagh is motivated or genuine?

A: Our sisters who are protesting in Shaheen Bagh are from our own country. They are ours and we are theirs. They are free to protest and sit on dharna. It is their right. But they should not obstruct another’s path and should not fall victim to any rumour-mongering. What they have been told is wrong. PM Modi said in his speech at Ramlila Maidan that Muslims of this soil whose ancestors belong India should not feel threatened at all by CAA. Amit Shah said in Karnataka and Lucknow, and I have also tweeted, that the country belongs as much to Indian Muslims as to him. No one can either drive them out nor does anyone want to do that. Defence minister Rajnath Singh said no one can even touch the Muslim brethren with a tong. Then what is there for anyone to feel afraid? Don’t feel afraid. Trust your country and your government.

Q: If people are being inconvenienced due to the blockade, why does the government not remove the protestors from Shaheen Bagh?

A: The Delhi Police has appealed several times and the Delhi Lt Governor (Anil Baijal) has also talked to them. I appeal to them again not to get misled by politicians who want to carry out their agenda. Trust me, not a single Indian Muslim will be driven out of the country. If someone is an Indian Muslim and he has to be deported, Shahnawaz Hussain will be the first person to go.

Q: Is BJP benefitting out of the Shaheen Bagh protests and, therefore, not removing the protesters? Does BJP think that commuters who are getting inconvenienced because of the road closures are cursing the protesters and will vote against the parties which are supporting Shaheen Bagh dharna?

A: No, we do not do any politics of profit or loss.

Q: Ever since the Modi government returned to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, instant triple talaq was banned, Article 370 was nullified, Ayodhya verdict happened because the new dispensation expedited it, CAA has been implemented and talks of NRC are also taking place. If you view all these in totality, aren’t these anti-Muslim moves?

A: Being anti-Muslim is not in our DNA. We are a party which believes in ‘Sarv dharm sambhav’ (all religions are equal), ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ (the world is one family) and ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’ (together with all, development for all, the trust of all). I am Muslim and I am in BJP. If BJP had been anti-Muslim, I would not have got so much respect in the party.

Q: But you were not given a ticket to contest the last Lok Sabha election. Moreover, you were neither sent to the Rajya Sabha nor made a minister at the Centre. Are you not unhappy?

A: I am not at all unhappy. That ticket from my constituency in Bhagalpur in 2019 went to our alliance partner JD(U). It is my party’s decision to decide the kind of work it feels fit – whether in the organisation, government, Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. Modi ji, Amit Shah ji, Rajnath ji and the top leadership have always seen me as a party worker and not as Hindu or Muslim. I am not a showpiece, like what happens in the Congress party. I regularly put forth issues of the Muslim community before the central leadership.

Q: You are the Muslim face of BJP. In the prevailing atmosphere, how do you defend yourself, BJP and the Modi government in the Muslim community?

A: I am BJP’s spokesperson. I am not BJP’s Muslim spokesperson, though I face such questions on a daily basis.

Q: The section of the society, including Muslims, which is against the Modi government, BJP, PM Modi, Shah, RSS and CAA are angry with you and Union minorities welfare minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. They write all kinds of abuses for you both on social media. Do you feel you are in the wrong party?

A: They consider me as their own and, therefore, they also abuse us. At the moment, they are angry and misled. I do not feel bad about them abusing me.

Q: BJP’s Conclave was held at Goa in June 2013 in which senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi had reportedly protested elevation of Modi, who was the then Gujarat chief minister, as the party’s face for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. His reported argument was that Modi was a polarising figure and also that BJP was against the culture of cult personality. Though Modi was appointed as the party’s election campaign committee chairperson and later as PM candidate, do you think that the country is facing an acutely polarising atmosphere?

A: There is no polarisation in the country. Out of 130 crore Indians, how many people are sitting at the dharna? People in the Muslim community understand the situation. After partition, Indian Muslims chose to stay with their Hindu brethren. They did not accept partition of the country on the basis of religion. They chose India despite the option of going to Pakistan. BJP does not have an iota of doubt over their patriotism. BJP respects such Muslims. We will visit each and every house and remove the apprehensions of those who are misled. But we will not go to places where sit-ins and protests are taking place because they are staying put without any valid reason. We appeal to them to end their protest and return to their homes as no one will bother them.

Q: Don’t you think PM Modi and Amit Shah should hold a press conference to remove the doubts of the people?

A: PM Modi has spoken on the issue at least three times. He doesn’t talk much about Hindus and Muslims. When he was Gujarat CM, he would say five crore Gujaratis. Now when he is PM, he says 130 crore Indians. But for the first time he named the Muslim community and said that they do not have to fear anything. Amit Shah ji also does not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims.

Q: But Amit Shah does talk about Alia, Malia, Jamalia. Doesn’t he?

A: No, he does not see that there is Shahnawaz and there is Ravi Shankar Prasad. He sees all of us with the same vision. Whenever I have met Modi ji and Amit Shah ji, I have received their affection and blessings. I did not join BJP when it was in power. I am here since 1986 when we had only two Lok Sabha MPs and now there are 303. Therefore, I am BJP’s tried and tested worker. I have seen all kinds of phases of the party, including the Ayodhya movement. But I did not get disturbed or distracted. One who swims against the tide is the real swimmer. At the moment, Muslims are against BJP. It is also true that there are some people within us who make irrational statements. I do not agree with their statements. I do not agree with those who divide Indians between Hindus and Muslims.

Q: Do you think the goodwill of Muslim women which BJP had earned after banning instant triple talaq has been lost due to CAA?

A: No goodwill has been lost. For Indian Muslims, there cannot be a better country than India, a better friend than Hindus and a better leader than Modi.

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