Muslim community tells Rahul they arenít benefiting from minority schemes

Rahul GandhiCongress vice-president Rahul Gandhi interacts with members of minority communities in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

The Congress's exercise to draft an all-inclusive manifesto through public consultation saw party leaders including AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi fielding tough questions on Monday from representatives of minority communities who asked why a new manifesto was needed, when there is clutch of unfulfilled promises from 2004 and 2009.

Several Muslim representatives told Rahul and ministers present that when it comes to schemes earmarked for minorities, Muslims lose out to communities like Sikhs and Parsis who "are not as much in need of welfare schemes."

"Several people made the point that...designating schemes for Muslims for fear of a BJP backlash is only hurting the community. Even when minorities are targeted, the charge of appeasement comes. Why not then call Muslims that, rather than minorities? Some of the biggest lawyers of the country are Parsis, we have a Sikh general ó it is not right to bundle all minorities together," said Hamidullah Bhatt, ex-director of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, who was present. Others said Sikhs being a more enterprising community "cornered" bulk of the loans meant for minorities.

Sikh community representatives, on the other hand, raised the issue of rehabilitation of victims of 1984 riots.

Rahul admitted that security was a major concern for Muslims but said development of the community could not wait. He said, "Kranti with shanti (transformation with peace)" instead of "pehle shanti fir kranti (first peace then transformation)" was needed.

Rahul spoke about his interaction with an 8-year-old child at a relief camp for riot victims in Shamli who told him his biggest problem was fear. Rahul said at the meeting, "fight politics that thrives on creating fear".

The meeting is second in "Your Voice Our Pledge" series of the party to frame its manifesto for the 2014 general election.

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