Making the claim that the number of communal incidents has come down in the past two years, Rajnath Singh takes wide-ranging questions on his tenure as Home Minister. Excerpts from the interview:
You have been accused by Congress president Sonia Gandhi of wasteful expenditure on the Modi government’s second anniversary bash when there is a drought.
We are going to the people with the work that we have done, it is the government’s moral responsibility to do so. We don’t advertise daily, and in States where we have no presence. It’s not like we have been elected to a corporation or a Union Territory and advertising in newspapers in Chennai, Assam, Nagaland, and Sikkim.
It is strange that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal never attacks you. He always blames the Prime Minister for his troubles.
The Prime Minister does not represent a particular political party; he is a representative of the whole country. Every institution has its own dignity and if people don’t respect the dignity of those institutions, it affects the whole system. I don’t know why he takes the Prime Minister’s name and not mine since everything to do with the Delhi government happens in the MHA. The Prime Minister has never said anything.
Former Delhi Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi has been made UPSC member. Is it a reward for how he handled the JNU protests?
Many bureaucrats and retired officers whose service records were good have been given assignments post-retirement. This is not a new tradition started by our government.
But to reward somebody whose tenure ended in a controversy… how is it justified?
How can you say that everyone criticised him? People praised him as well.
What about the violence that happened in the Patiala House courts complex under his watch?
Law took its own course, FIRs were lodged. If there are provisions under which bail was given, what can be done? Nobody is above the law.
Any move to introduce an anti-conversion law?
Some States have this law. Himachal Pradesh, a Congress-ruled State, also has it. It was the Congress which introduced it. Right now there is no such proposal.
Are you considering it in the future?
We have freedom of religion in our country, yet we must guard against forcible conversions or through pecuniary enticements. Everyone should take precautions about this and there should be no attempts at mass conversions. If it happens on an individual basis, freedom for that is guaranteed under the Constitution.
What about the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign by fringe groups?
I am against mass conversions.
The Home Ministry also looks at two key departments: Centre-State relations and communal harmony. Your government has been attacked in the last two years on both subjects — for example, the Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh crisis.
It is the policy of the government as well as my party that we don’t destabilise governments which are working well on their own. Whatever happened in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand was due to the Congress’s inability to handle its internal crisis. In Arunachal, it is the breakaway faction of the Congress which is heading the government, not the BJP. In Uttarakhand, nine MLAs had broken away when the Appropriation Bill was discussed in the Assembly. Our concern is that there should not be untimely and repeated elections.
What about communal harmony? Your government has been accused of asserting a majoritarian sentiment.
Please tell me one incident of its kind. Communal violence cases have come down. Earlier the incidents were virulent and there were deaths due to communal tensions; that is not so now. Since the time our government came to power, some people thought they should defame the government. We don’t play politics of caste or creed, we don’t polarise.
Why are there such misgivings when the BJP comes to power?
The so-called secular political parties want to instil fear among the minorities with regard to the BJP to harvest their support.
The heightened communal temperature around cow slaughter and beef led to heinous incidents like Dadri and Jharkhand lynching.
It’s the State government’s responsibility. It’s not the Centre’s job. I certainly have not stopped anybody from acting as per law.
The ban on cow slaughter and the fear around movement of cattle has hit the economic interests of certain communities.
In Mughal emperor Babur’s vasiyatnama (will), which is a set of instructions he left for his son Humayun to rule India, he had clearly written, Ya to riyaya ke dil par hukumat chala sakte ho ya khuleaam gay kaa maas kha sakte ho (either you can rule the hearts of your subjects in India or you can openly consume beef). That is all I want to say.
Your ideological cohort group, the Bajrang Dal, has been openly flashing weapons and imparting weapons training in the name of self-defence.
It’s not about ideological family or anything, whoever promotes violence or flashes weapons publicly, I don’t support it. You can’t do this to instil fear in the minds of people. If somebody is doing self-defence training, then do it privately, not by exhibiting weapons publicly. There should be no flashing of weapons. It is the State government’s responsibility to stop it.
Anand Joshi, an MHA under secretary, has been arrested and accused of pilfering files and corruption. How could that happen?
It was not just in our time, we are the ones who detected the theft. Look at the Ishrat Jahan files, some are still untraceable. You should praise the government that we are so alert that nobody could take key files away.
Do the investigating agencies need reforms?
Investigating agencies should get maximum autonomy. We don’t misuse agencies. We don’t try to politicise the system. There should be no political interference. I will give you an example. A file of the NIA came to me, they wanted to send it for legal opinion to the Law Ministry. I asked officers: “Why me?” If they want to seek a legal opinion, the NIA should send it directly to the Law Ministry. The Attorney general or SG, send it directly to them. I gave an order to that effect.
Did that file pertain to the 2008 Malegaon case? What is the story behind watering down of the case?
We should wait for the court’s judgment to ascertain it. Under us, the charge sheet was filed in a year and a half, while it had been pending for eight years under the UPA. If you interfere in NIA’s working, there will be delay in investigations.
In Chhattisgarh, civil society activists, lawyers and journalists are being hounded, jailed, are under threat.
Nobody should carry a weapon. If someone wants to put across his point in a healthy democracy, then they should use the democratic process. If they are lawyers, they should go to court against the Chhattisgarh government. We are not stopping anybody. They should write to the Chief Minister and meet him.
Have we got anything in return for including China under the electronic visa-on- arrival scheme? They still give stapled visas for Arunachal, and Jammu and Kashmir residents?
We have excellent trade relations with China. We don’t recognise stapled visas given by China. We reject it.
What about the NIA’s visit to Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack?
Whatever decision had been taken on allowing the Joint Investigation Team of Pakistan to visit here was on the basis of reciprocity. Pakistan should fulfil its commitment. They should allow the NIA to visit their country.
What about action against Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar based in Pakistan?
The government of the country where an international criminal is staying should act on him. International criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and Masood Azhar are present in Pakistan. If Pakistan cannot take action against them, it should take the help of the international community. There have been talks at the Foreign Secretary-level; we should wait for results. We want to give more time to Pakistan.
Are there plans to look at ways to regulate mischievous and offensive content on social media?
We are improving the Information Technology Act. This is being done to stop mischief through social media. Anaap shanaap bola jaata hai (all sorts of nonsensical things are said) which is not good for the country. Soon we will be putting out the draft Act in the public domain for comments. We are in talks with foreign search engines and App providers like Google, WhatsApp, Yahoo on ways to regulate illicit information. There is no curb on freedom of expression. People say a lot of things about the Prime Minister, we haven’t put any of them in jail.