Appointment of Amit Shah as India’s home minister sparks concern among minorities

Home Minister Amit Shah
Updated 01 June 2019

Appointment of Amit Shah as India’s home minister sparks concern among minorities

  • The announcement on Friday that the BJP president had been appointed home minister was widely criticized on social media

NEW DELHI: Amit Shah’s appointment as India’s new minister of home affairs less than a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for his second term in office on Thursday has sparked concern in India’s political circles.
Shah — a close confidant of Modi and president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — is a controversial appointment, not least because of his alleged links to extrajudicial killings during his tenure as interior minister in the western state of Gujarat.
In 2010, Shah was named as the “prime accused” in the “fake encounter” killings of a Muslim couple — Shohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Ishrat Jahan — accused of being terror operatives. The Supreme Court banished Shah from Gujarat that same year to protect the witnesses and evidence in the case. In 2014, the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
In this week’s general elections, Shah was in news once again, this time for statements he made regarding the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Bill. He announced that the NRC — a controversial register that is being prepared in the state of Assam to identify genuine citizens of India — would also be extended to the eastern state of West Bengal, which shares a border with Bangladesh of more than 2,200 kilometers.
Many Muslims in Assam see the NRC as an instrument to disenfranchise them and to classify them as illegal Bangladeshi migrants.
Shah also gave his backing to the Citizenship Amendment Act, which aims to give Indian citizenship to Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi and Sikh minorities from neighboring countries.
Critics say that if the government succeeds in amending the 1956 Citizenship Act, it will officially declare India a Hindu state. There are fears that Muslims would be then be relegated to second-class citizens.
The BJP leader was also vocal about removing Article 370 from the constitution. That article grants autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The announcement on Friday that the BJP president had been appointed home minister was widely criticized on social media.
Journalist Rana Ayyub, who has covered Gujarat extensively, wrote on social media: “Amit Shah, the first serving Home Minister of state to be arrested for extra judicial murder and extortion, declared tadipaar (banished from state) by Supreme Court, is now the Home Minister of India. Let this sink in.”

HIGHLIGHtS

•In 2010, Amit Shah was named as the ‘prime accused’ in the ‘fake encounter’ killings of a Muslim couple — Shohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Ishrat Jahan — accused of being terror operatives. •The Supreme Court banished Shah from Gujarat that same year to protect the witnesses and evidence in the case.

Writer Mitali Sharan tweeted: “Amit Shah is Home Minister. What a time to be alive.”
The appointment of BJP National Executive member Pratap Chandra Sarangi as a minister of state has also drawn criticism.
Sarangi was leader of the hardline, rightwing Hindu group Bajarang Dal in the state of Orissa when a Hindu mob burned Christian missionary Graham Steins and his two sons alive in 1999. Many alleged that Bajarang Dal was behind the killings, but an official enquiry found no evidence that any single group was responsible.
“I am not surprised by the appointment of Amit Shah and Sarangi as ministers,” said Prof. Apoorvanand of Delhi University. “The message of the electoral mandate is that you have to accept people like them. You have to accept a terror-accused Pragya Thakur as your leader. You have to accept people who praise the killer of Mahatma Gandhi. You have to accept the majoritarian ideology. We should not be surprised at all.
“The prime minister’s words, ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka viswash’ (together with all, development for all, and inculcate trust in all), do not carry any meaning with individuals with clear anti-minority track records occupying high office,” he continued.

Social activist Harsh Mander, who works with survivors of mass violence, told Arab News: “It’s a worrying signal both in the context of defense of the rights of minorities and the rights of liberals to dissent. I am not optimistic today.”
He went on to describe the government’s plans to extend the NRC to other states and to amend the Citizenship Act as “a complete subversion of the constitutional framework, which is cumulatively worrying.”


Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Updated 7 min 8 sec ago

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.