Free Press Journal

PM faces protest at Waqf event


New Delhi: A conference attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi was disrupted here Wednesday by a man who said benefits of none of the government schemes for the minorities were  reaching them.

As soon as the prime minister concluded his speech at the launch of the National Waqf Development Corporation Limited (NAWADCO) at  Vigyan Bhavan here, promising more steps to empower minorities, a man, later identified as M. Faheem Baig, stood up and shouted that benefits of none of the schemes were reaching the people.

“There is no need for a new scheme when government cannot ensure the implementation of the existing welfare schemes,” Baig shouted as Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries seated on the podium looked on.

“I have written 150 letters to you but my voice is not being heard,” Baig said before being gagged and escorted out of the conference hall.

Security officials initially rushed to where Baig was seated and asked him to sit down. But when he refused to heed, he was pulled out of the room.

There was a brief chaos, amidst which Minister of State for Minority Affairs Ninong Ering presented the vote of thanks.

The man, however, was not detained. Baig later said he was informed Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have agreed to meet him.

Minority Commission chief Wajahat Habibullah was also seen  pacifying the agitated man.

Talking to IANS later, Baig, who runs a non-governmental organisation, showed a file with a number of Right to Information (RTI) reports. These, he said, affirmed that none of the schemes has been implemented.

“I filed several RTI applications. They said money has been allocated for the schemes but not spent,” said Baig.

“I have not done anything to disrespect the prime minister. I just expressed my perspective. This is what democracy is about, isn’t it,” he said.

“If I wanted to show disrespect, I would have hurled a shoe, or thrown ink, I did not do that.”

Shortly before Baig’s protest, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was highlighting the steps taken by the government for minorities.

The prime minister said the UPA government has been “unwavering” in its commitment to the “protection and promotion of the interest of minorities”.

He said most of the recommendations of the Rajinder Sachar Committee have been adopted.

The Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed in 2005 by Manmohan Singh, was commissioned to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational condition of Muslims in India.

“The 15-point programme and the multi-sectoral development programmes are large initiatives focused on removing the development deficit,” Manmohan Singh said.

However, some people objected to the way the man was ousted from the conference room.

Jamiat-e Millat-e Islamiya-e Hind general secretary Mufti Afroz Alam Qasmi said: “His voice should have been heard. This is a genuine grievance.”

All India Jamiat ul Quresh president Md. Atiq Sajid said: “The way he was gagged and pulled out, it is very sad. Someone can get hurt being handled this way.”

NAWADCO is a new central public sector enterprise under the minority affairs ministry and will work towards the development of the 4.9 lakh Waqf properties in India, the largest in the world. The revenue generated from the assets would be used to benefit the Muslim community.