The Bihar State Minorities Commission has, in spite of its Constitutional status, become disabled and weak. This is that Commission which, at one point of time, had a reputation across the country of taking the lead role in safeguarding the interests of the minorities in the State. Greed of power and selfishness have changed the face of the Commission to such an extent that it has lost its identity.
The Bihar State Minorities Commission got constitutional status in 1992. The Lalu Prasad Yadav Government was in power at that point of time. It was the efforts of the Chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission, Jabir Hussain, who gave a Constitutional status to the Commission. Till the time Jabir Hussain was the Chairman, the Commission continued to fulfil its responsibilities with full competence. Jabir Hussain held the post for 2 terms which meant for 6 years. When Jabir Hussain became the Chairman of the Legislative Council, then Sohail Khan took over the responsibility. He to put in every effort to maintain the dignity and grace of the Commission and tried to safeguard the interests of the minorities of the State. During his tenure, issues related to giving justice to the minorities or any related issue used to have the backing of the Commission. When giving Constitutional status to the Commission, if care had been taken in widening the scope of the working of the Commission, making it more practical and making the executive answerable for implementation to the Commission, then the condition of the minorities in the State would have been in a better state all together.
When the Government of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in the State, then there was expectation that in this Government committed to social justice, carelessness in matters of providing proper justice to the minorities would not be repeated and the minorities would not be neglected. It was also expected that the Bihar State Minorities Commission would do its work with full Constitutional power. But unfortunately this did not happen.
As per the provisions, the Commission has to prepare its yearly report on the social, academic and economic condition of the minorities which would be presented to the 2 boards of the Legislature so that the Government can take necessary steps for the betterment of the minorities in the State. But in the Nitish Kumar Government, neither has the Commission made any report till date nor has any report been presented to the Legislature. In spite of this, Naushad Ahmad is still wearing the crown of honour as the Chairman of the Commission. Within a few days after Nitish Kumar had taken over the leadership of the State from Rabri Devi, he removed Sohail Ahmad from the post of the Chairman stating that he had not submitted the annual report that year before the Legislature.
As per the provisions, the tenure of the Chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission is 3 years. In general circumstances, it has not been a tradition to remove anyone from the post before completion of tenure. But after coming to power Nitish Kumar removed Sohail Ahmad from the post of the Chairman before his tenure was over and replaced him with his ‘favourite’ Naushad Ahmad as the Chairman on 5 August 2006. For the last three terms Naushad Ahmad has occupied the post of the Chairman while handing the post of the Vice Chairman to Sardar Harcharan Singh for the third time in the State. However, this time round social activist and Padma Shri recipient Sudha Varghese who is a Christian, has also been made the Vice Chairman. She has been provided with the status and comforts of a Minister. One important point is that Nitish Kumar keeps talking about working with a new strategy. According to this new strategy, the tradition has been that no one would be given an opportunity to hold the post for more than 2 terms. Not abiding by this strategy in the case of Naushad Ahmad also raises a lot of questions about the Nitish Kumar Government. The other question which arises is that Sohail Ahmad was removed from the post as he did not submit the annual report.
In his tenure as the Chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission, Naushad Ahmad has never been seen to put up any issue for the benefits and interests of the minorities before the State Government.
And when any incident takes place against the interest of the minorities, he immediately comes to the forefront and starts hiding the mistakes of the Government. This has indeed ensured for him the Chairmanship of the Bihar State Minorities Commission for the last 3 terms.
Then why is Naushad Ahmad who has not submitted the report even once still holding the post for the last 3 terms? Even the minority Ministers of the Janata Dal United (JDU) have been raising questions on the working and the
inaction of the Commission. These people are also of the
opinion that the Commission was in a much better position during the tenure of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi.
The situation of the Commission today is as such that even during any anti minority event, no tour is conducted is any of the districts and neither is any action taken against the issue. Instead of focusing on the interests and the problems of the minorities, the Bihar State Minorities Commission Chairman Naushad Ahmad is more focused on keeping the Chief Minister happy so that his post remains with him. He is primarily seen playing the role of an active member of the JDU. He even joins the Chief Minister on his tours and in this context attention needs to be drawn to the fact that he even visited Pakistan along with Nitish Kumar. Naushad Ahmad does not miss out on going with Nitish Kumar to any programme related to the minorities.
If we focus on the role of the Chairman played by Naushad Ahmad, then the situation which emerges is very disappointing. In his tenure as the Chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission, he has never been seen to put up any issue for the benefits and interests of the minorities before the State Government. And when any incident takes place against the interest of the minorities, he immediately comes to the forefront and starts hiding the mistakes of the Government. This has indeed ensured for him the Chairmanship of the Bihar State Minorities Commission for the last 3 terms. This trend is going to continue in the days to come and so it becomes obvious that the minorities will have to fend for themselves to come out of this drastic situation.
This is the reason that the Bihar State Minorities Commission has become so ineffective today. People have even started to doubt the existence of this Commission. The situation today is such that the rights of the minorities are being crushed but the Commission does not interfere in any manner to correct the situation. Naushad Ahmad feels that keeping his mouth shut on these issues is his prime responsibility. If any violent activity takes place against the minorities in any part of the State, then ensuring justice is a far cry – he does not even issue a statement condemning the incident.
The Commission under the Chairmanship of Naushad Ahmad has not made any tours to any of the districts till date. He has never even sent any recommendation to the State Government on any of the incidents that have taken place. He fears that if he does so then his post might come under danger.
The situation today is as such that the attitude which the State Government has for the minorities is the same that is being followed by the Bihar State Minorities Commission. As an example, the case of Forbesganj Police firing can be taken into consideration. The attitude of the State Government and the Bihar State Minorities Commission to this incident has been very shameful and unfair. Many questions were raised by the National Minorities Commission and many organisations linked with human rights in front of the State Government.
A team of these organisations visited the place and sent recommendations for justice to the affected and punishment for the criminals to the State Bihar State Minorities Commission, but the Commission neither made a tour of the place nor did it make any efforts in give justice to the affected people and punishment to the criminals. The situation is so pathetic that the affected families have still not been given compensation. The situation became the worse when the Chairman did not even give a press release on this incident. Not only this, the way in which the State Government tried to insist that the main offenders behind this incident were the minorities was adopted by Naushad Ahmad as well.
The silence of the Commission does not mean that the minorities have not been at the receiving end of injustice; in fact the reality is that the ‘injustices list’ is a long one. If we take the issue of teacher restitution, 12,882 Urdu teachers could have been provided with a job but because of a conspiracy of the Government, only 2500 Urdu teachers were given a job. In spite of the Supreme Court’s intervention, deserving Urdu teachers have not got justice till date. The Commission kept silent in this issue as well.
In spite of pressure from the Government, other Commission’s employed in the State are active they have been more or less successful in giving a strong feeling that their existence is not limited to Government papers. If we take a look at the State Women’s Commission, if any incident takes place against women anywhere in the State, the Women’s Commission makes a tour of that place and makes necessary efforts to provide justice to the affected and punishment to the culprits. In the same way, the Mahadalit Commission also comes in the forefront and puts pressure on the Government to take action once any incident that takes place against the Dalits.
For safeguarding of the interests of the Dalits and the Mahadalits, there are police stations as well in the State to lodge a First Information Report (FIR). Similarly for the protection of women and to give legal aid to women, women police stations have been opened. But if we speak about safeguarding the interests of the minorities, then there are no police stations for them.
What is the reason behind this and for how long will this continue? This is a question asked by the minorities in the State. One thing is for certain : if the credit for implementing anti minorities strategies of the Government with complete success goes to any official of the State, then this credit surely goes to the Chairman of the Bihar State Minorities Commission Naushad Ahmad.