By: Syed Khalique Ahmed
The Narendra Modi government has set up a commission to inquire into the changes in demographic patterns in Gujarat since independence, and identify the reasons behind the “polarisation” and migration of population.
The panel, headed by retired Justice B J Sethna, will assess the total area in square metres occupied by people of different religious faiths as on August 15, 1947, and the patterns of “polarisation of population” and migration every 10 years thereafter.
The survey is expected to identify the areas — their names and sizes — where people of different religions live, or have shifted to.
An important aspect of the commission’s mandate is to give “recommendations and policies as a guidance” for “stopping polarisation of population in the state”.
The commission has been asked to submit its report by January 2011. Assembly elections are due in December 2012.
A copy of the notification is in possession of The Indian Express.
According to the state legal department, the reason for commissioning the survey is that “allegations have been made in courts as well as in media against the state government that polarisation of population on the basis of religion is taking place in the state of Gujarat” and “such allegations and unscientific conclusions create heart-burning and distance among citizens”.
The notification says that “the Government of Gujarat is of the opinion that the allegations so made are not based on scientific study”.
The government feels that “development of the population as a whole should take place in the context of law and order and social and economic development as well”, and “an inquiry should be held into this matter of definite public importance”.
Justice Sethna refused to comment on the matter. The retired judge had been in the news after he upheld a Vadodara fast track court order acquitting all accused in the Best Bakery case relating to the 2002 riots. The Supreme Court later ordered a fresh trial in the case by a special court in Mumbai.
Gujarat minister of state for law and parliamentary affairs Amit Shah said the study was required in view of the unfounded allegations made against the state BJP government.
“The inquiry will make it clear when, how and under what circumstances minority population shifted from one area to another,” Shah said.
State government spokesperson Jay Narayan Vyas said the matter was neither “sensitive nor provocative”, but it “will bring to surface the unfounded publicity that is being given without being backed by appropriate facts by certain NGOs and a section of the media”.
“This will also put in correct perspective a long-term change that has taken place in demography, nullifying the temporary bias a solitary incidence-based short term interpretation could bring in”, Vyas said.
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Gujarat Govt’s demography study a communal agenda, say activists
Syed Khalique Ahmed
NGO and human rights activists have reacted strongly to Gujarat Government’s move to study the reasons behind “polarisation of population” or changing demography of the state by setting up an inquiry commission, saying the move is intended to further harass the minorities.
Senior Gujarat High Court advocate and human rights activist Girish Patel said that “the move is nothing but state Government’s continuing communal agenda by perverted use of law”. “The commission will come out with a report blaming the minorities for the polarisation,” Patel said adding, fear factor owing to repeated communal tension with the successive state governments doing little to check it.
According to him, some polarisation took place after 1969 riots but it was not so sharp as in 2002.
“Today if some one in a Hindu locality wants to sell his house to a Muslim, he is attacked by the neighbours,” said Patel.
Another senior Gujarat HC advocate Mukul Sinha said it to be “political hypocrisy”. “Those who engineered polarisation now want a debate on it. If the government is sensitive to the problem of minorities, why it is not providing basic civic amenities in Juhapura, the biggest Muslim ghetto in Gujarat with no road, drainage and drinking water supply,” said Sinha. He also questioned the appointment of Justice B J Sethna (retd) as the commission’s chairman.
“The choice of judge is very inappropriate because he had been involved in several controversies in the past,” he said. The Supreme Court had reversed his judgment in the Best Bakery case and ordered fresh trial.
Gagan Sethi of the Jan Vikas Trust Gagan Sethi said,
“There are housing societies and multi-storeyed complexes where people belonging to only one caste are allowed to buy houses.” “If the Modi Government is seriously interested in mixed population localities, it must ensure that the houses constructed by the Gujarat Housing Board are allotted percentage wise to all religious communities,” said Sethi.