Former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, has had a remarkable career as an administrator. He joined the IAS in 1973 and served in various positions in the Madhya Pradesh government as well as the Government of India for many years.
As a distinguished energy expert, he was later associated with the Asian Development Bank and the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Oxford University. During 2009-13, he had been vice-chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia university.
Subsequently, he served as Delhi LG from 2013 to 2016. In a free-wheeling interview with RAKESH KUMAR, Jung spoke on a range of issues roiling Delhi and the country.
Q: You’re opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).Why?
A: I have got involved in this because students (alumni) of Jamia Millia Islamia invited me to speak. I went there because I thought that the students had been treated very badly by the police. So it was basically to offer emotional support. On CAA, I believe that it doesn’t fully conform to the Constitution. It’s a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which clearly says that nationality of India is not granted on the basis of any religion, caste, creed or colour.
Q: What’s your position on the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
A: My opinion doesn’t matter ~ what matters is how this entire exercise is conducted. The NRC is an extremely expensive and impractical exercise. We have seen what had happened in Assam, where lakhs of people had been inconvenienced. Still, there is no satisfaction and there is no closure to the issue. To replicate it across India and creating fear in the minds of people is not an ideal way to go about it.
Q: What is your prescription for resolving the disputes over the CAA and the NPR-NRC?
A: The Prime Minister has said that the NRC, at least, is not being implemented in the country. Unfortunately, a large number of people are not fully believing that. Therefore, I think, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister should come out and make the categorical statement that NRC will not be implemented.
That will put aside half of the problem or more than half of the problem. The other issue is CAA, and that’s very simple. I think that both sides ~ protesters as well as the government can agree to the court’s decision. That’ll put an end to the controversy.
Q: What’s your take on the Shaheen Bagh protest? You have said it’s a reaction to five years of cumulative fear.
A: There is a cumulative fear in the minds of minorities that things have not been entirely fair to them. Be it revocation of Article 370 from Kashmir or Triple Talaq or CAA, this perception has been building up for long. Things were waiting to come out, and they have come out in this way ~ protest.
Q: Given the prevailing scenario, do you think the (CAA-NPR-NRC) deadlock will end any time soon?
A: I think Ravi Shankar Parsad (Union law minister) has said that he was ready for dialogue. I think we should take his words. When you say there is no going back, it doesn’t mean literally not going back. These are positions you take when you confront such agitations.
But there is always give and take, there is always scope for negotiation. The government is like a mother and citizens are like its child and mother should be empathetic to children.
Q: How do you think the BJP government can win the trust of Muslims?
A: This is a very difficult question because things have really turned bitter. It will take some time to turn this clock back. There should be an immediate gesture from the government that they would not tolerate any lynching.
There should be an immediate assurance from the Uttar Pradesh government that the harsh steps taken against Muslims will not be replicated or the unfair cases on Muslims shall not be pursued. India is a growing economy and has an enormous number of young people who are in the job market. We can’t afford to have a disturbed country.
Therefore, the government should give some kind of sustained assurances through its actions that it is not an anti-minority government. That’s the only way.
Q: What do you think of alleged hate speeches of UP CM Yogi or Union minister Anurag Thakur in the run-up to the 8 February Delhi election?
A: It is really in very bad taste and these speeches should not have been made. We are a mature democracy and even during an election, temper must be controlled. People must control their language, otherwise democracy will become mobocracy.
Q: What do you make of repeated incidents of firing in Jamia and Shaheen Bagh areas in recent days?
A: It is a shame. They should understand that it is a national capital and Jamia Millia Islamia is a central university, which is hundred years old, whose roots are absolutely embedded in the Indian nationalism. Jamia Millia Islamia was formed to combat communalism, it fought against the Partition of India.
We must be really sensitive to the students who are protesting there. These incidents are just an attempt to frighten students, but you should remember that you can’t frighten students. It all started in 2016 with Rohit Vemula and now you have Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia. You can’t afford to have young university students on the warpath.
Q: What led you to say that the movement against the CAA-NRC has been secular and that Muslim clerics should be kept away from it?
A: There is a huge number of non- Muslims involved in this entire movement. You see “langar” provided by Sikhs and you have other communities going there. It is important that the movement remains secular and for it to remain secular, it’s important to keep all kinds of clergies away. Let the people remain involved in the movement, not the clergies.