Narasimha Rao said ‘if Muslims want to stay in gutter, let them be’: Arif Mohammed Khan

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Updated: June 26, 2019 10:53 AM

Former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan said that it was PV Narasimha Rao, a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, who had said that 'it was not the duty of the Congress to uplift Muslims and if they want to lie in the gutter let them be'.

Former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan has backed PM Modi’s remark about the plight of Muslims during the Congress regime. According to Khan, it was Narasimha Rao who said that it was not Congress’ duty to uplift Muslims.

Former Union minister Arif Mohammed Khan has backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark in the Lok Sabha on the plight of Muslims during the tenure of Congress-ruled governments. He said that PM Modi’s remark that a Congress minister had said that ‘it was not the duty of the Congress to uplift Muslims and if they want to lie in the gutter let them be’, is absolutely correct. Speaking to The Indian Express, Khan, a former four-time MP, said that it was PV Narasimha Rao, a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, who had made this remark while making an effort to persuade him after he resigned from the Cabinet following the Shah Bano episode.

Replying to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address on Tuesday, PM Modi quoted a former minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government as saying in an interview that its leaders claimed that it was not the duty of their party to uplift Muslims and if “they want to lie in gutter, let them be”. He made these remarks while referring to the bill passed by the then Congress government to reverse the Supreme Court judgement on the Shah Bano case to appease Muslims. The remark drew a sharp reaction from the Congress, prompting PM Modi to say that he could share the YouTube link of the interview.

“I think what he (Modi) did was right because it exposes the intention behind all those actions, which were basically meant to divide the society,” Khan said.

Khan was a MoS in the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986 but resigned over the government’s stand in the Shah Bano case. Khan had openly opposed the government’s decision to bring a bill in Parliament to reverse the Supreme Court’s order that the victim of the triple talaq has right to demand maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which applies to all citizens regardless of caste or religion. In its order, the top court had directed Bano’s husband to pay monthly maintenance with an upper limit of Rs 500.

Shah Bano was a Muslim woman from Indore. Divorced by her husband in 1978, she then filed a criminal suit in court and won the right to alimony from her husband. Her husband had challenged the lower court’s order in the Supreme Court which upheld the lower court’s order.

However, the then Rajiv Gandhi government brought a bill — Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 in the Parliament to reverse the judgment. Many Muslim politicians including Khan and All India Shia Personal Law Board supported the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Khan told the daily that Rao had made the comment during a TV interview seven or eight years ago for a programme on the Shah Bano episode. He claimed that the remark which PM Modi referred to during his Lok Sabha speech on Tuesday was made by PV Narasimha Rao, then a Union minister.

Khan said that he resigned from the government after the Shah Bano episode. He said that Congress made efforts to retain him. According to Khan, a day after resignation, when he went to the Parliament, Arun Singh was waiting for him.

“He (Arun Singh) took me to the waiting room of the Prime Minister. He praised me and said, ‘Nobody can fault you, but can you reconsider your decision to resign?’,” Khan recalled.

Khan said that besides Arun Singh, many people including Arun Nehru, ML Fotedar, three senior ministers met him that day and showed a lot of affection and tried to persuade him, but he was adamant on his stand and presented the same argument to everyone.

“And finally Narasimha Rao came. Rao told me, ‘You are so young, bright, such a good speaker, your career is ahead of you, how can you resign?’ Then, he told me that even Shah Bano has changed her stance, which was right as she had issued a statement,” he said. According to Khan, he told Rao that he was not fighting for Shah Bano, but fighting for his personal integrity.

“For 55 minutes, I spoke in Parliament defending the judgment of the Supreme Court after Prime Minister asked me to. Now when the Bill was introduced, the Law Minister said that the purpose of the Bill is to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court given in the Shah Bano case. I said I am not Akbar’s Birbal,” he said.

“Then, he (Rao) told me that you are being foolhardy. He was not being rough or crude with me, he was very gentle. But then, he told me, ‘Try to understand. We are not a party of social reformers. If the Muslims want to remain in the gutter, let them be. Why you should resign?’,” Khan said.

Khan was later expelled from the Congress party. He then joined VP Singh’s Jan Morcha that merged later with the Janata Dal. Khan went on to join the BSP and then the BJP. He resigned from the BJP in 2007.

In his address in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that although the Congress party has missed many chances to empower Muslim women, it has another opportunity at hand and urged members not to see the triple talaq bill through the prism of religion and support it for the rights of women.

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