Khursheed says Sachar report not Quran, sparks off war of words

Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed's remarks in Chennai last week questioning the Sachar report's recommendations and urging Muslims to think of national issues, not just their narrow interests, has set off a raging debate in the community.

Delivering a lecture, 'Minorities of India: Issues and Challenges,' at the Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College for Women last Saturday, Khursheed said that the Sachar Committee Report was not the Quran which cannot be questioned. "The recommendations of Sachar Committee Report are not divine like (the) Quran; they can be wrong also and that's why one must approach them critically," he reportedly said.

In 2006, the PM's High Level Committee, led by Justice (retd) Rajinder Sachar, had highlighted how Muslims trailed the rest of the country in almost all social indicators — from education to employment — and had recommended a set of reform measures. Sources said this is now being used as a benchmark by many Muslim advocacy groups and any questioning provokes a barrage of criticism.

No wonder then that the Minister's remarks in Chennai have led Abu Saleh Shariff, economist and the high-profile Secretary of the Sachar Committee, to write an open letter to Khursheed — posted in an online discussion group, USIPI — ticking off the Congress at the Centre.

He criticizes the Minister for his comments urging Muslims to "mainstream" in an environment where they are discriminated against. He writes: "The Minister has a lot to answer as to how will he eliminate large deficit in achievement levels which Muslims have encountered during the last 60 years or so. This has occurred mostly due to discriminatory practices followed by successive governments including the Congress governments both at the Centre and the many states. Sachar recommendations are sensitive to mainstreaming and...points to the areas in which discrimination has occurred and Muslims have suffered."

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