“I know from my Aligarh days that Mr Irfan Habib is very intolerant by nature and does not allow anyone to air a different view in his presence”: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan
Recently Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan was speaking at 80th session of Indian History Congress at Kannur University where historian Irfan Habib tried to disrupt him and showed his “intolerance” towards a different opinion. The Hon’ble Governor was speaking on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Shri Arif Mohd Khan raised some points on CAA where Irfan Habib tried to stop him physically by breaking all the protocols.
In an email interview with Organiser Senior Correspondent Nishant Kr Azad, Shri Arif M Khan said that intolerant people like Irfan Habib have always crossed the line because their political manifesto prescribes change or revolution only through violent means. He also said that the recent resolution passed by Kerala Assembly on CAA have no constitutional validity. Excerpts:
What is your opinion on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by both the Houses of Parliament?
If we read history relating to Partition of India, then it becomes clear that Mahatma Gandhi had himself expressed great concern about the non-Muslims who were residents of the areas of British India, which became Pakistan. They along with rest in India fought for freedom but after Independence their status in Pakistan became worse than their status in British India. People right from Mahatma Gandhi to Pandit Nehru upto Manmohan Singh — promised to these people who were relegated to the status of Zimmi (worse than second grade citizens) that as and when they come to India, we will accept them and give them other facilities to live a comfortable life.
We must also remember that most of these people belong to Scheduled Castes and they were not allowed to leave Pakistan after the Partition as their services as menial labour were crucial.
"People Right from Mahatma Gandhi to Pandit Nehru upto Manmohan Singh — promised to these people who were relegated to the status of Zimmi (worse than second grade citizens) that as and when they come to India, we will accept them and give them other facilities to live a comfortable life. We must also remember that most of these people belong to Scheduled Castes and they were not allowed to leave Pakistan after the Partition as their services as menial labour were crucial"
The country has witnessed violent protests in the name of CAA by a section of Muslims and Leftist organisations. How do you see these violent protests?
It appears that a section of the groups you have mentioned is involved in these protests. But do not ignore the misinformation campaign by the vested interests who for their own reasons want to create a crisis situation. If we look back then we will find that same misinformation campaign created tremendous support for Partition before 1947, but after Pakistan was split in 1971, there was no dearth of people who acknowledged that the community was misled into believing that Partition was the solution of Hindu-Muslim problem created by the British colonialism. Similarly in 2017, when Personal Law Board in affidavit submitted in Supreme Court acknowledged that triple talaq was an enormity, an innovation and unjust, then many people questioned them on why in 1986 they did not accept the truth and demanded reversal of the Supreme Court judgment. In fact it has become part of political methodology to create fear in the minds of people by raising the bogey of ‘religion in danger’. Ordinary people become victims of such campaigns and later when they suffer and reap the consequences of such agitations then they realise that they were being misled.
In 1946, Maulana Azad had said that I do not expect people to follow me but it is not possible for me to go against the call of my conscience. People generally submit either to coercion or to the lessons of their experience. The Muslims will not hear anything against Pakistan unless they experience it.
PFI has a known history of extremist and violent activities. The cases of TJ Joseph both of whose hands were severed and murder of Vishwanath Shetty are well known. So their involvement in inciting violence should not surprise anybody"
In Uttar Pradesh, the police have arrested around 20 members of PFI along with its state president Waseem Ahmad for inciting violence in the name of CAA. How do you see PFI as an Islamic organisation?
PFI has a known history of extremist and violent activities. The cases of TJ Joseph both of whose hands were severed and murder of Vishwanath Shetty are well known. So their involvement in inciting violence should not surprise anybody.
Who is behind this fear-mongering and how can this be corrected?
It is very simple. It can be only those who stand to benefit by creating anarchy and disorder in the society.
Do you think there is an opportunity for Muslim community to introspect about the persecution of minorities in Pakistan? Do you see leadership emerging for this role?
My take is different on this. I do not accept that any community, including Muslims, is a monolithic entity. There are groups in every community who hold diametrically different opinions. But this is also a fact that some people are self-appointed champions of community interests and ape Mohd Ali Jinnah to claim that they are the sole spokesman of the community. We should not give credence to their claims by accepting their idiom and terminology.
“I am duty-bound to defend the law if it is attacked in my presence. This is what I did at Kannur”
Recently, at an event in Kerala you were misbehaved by historian Irfan Habib. Even a section of the media and liberals supported the act of Irfan Habib. What actually happened that day?
Actually Mr Irfan Habib had charged towards me first from my right side but he was stopped by my ADC whose shirt was unbuttoned and ceremonial badge fell on ground, then he went behind the chairs and tried to reach me from my left and was again stopped by the Vice Chancellor and Security Officer. So he could not touch me but he incited the delegates and they created such a ruckus that I decided not to deliver my speech and asked the organisers to play the National Anthem and end the session.
It was the event of history Congress and you were quoting the quotes from history. What is it about CAA or is it something else?
As you may know, normally the duration of any program attended by a governor should not be more than an hour and list of the speakers and those who will sit on the stage is approved by the ADC much in advance. As per the program Mr Irfan Habib was not among the speakers but was allowed to sit there as the outgoing President of IHC to hand over charge to the new President and this process was allotted a duration of one minute in the approved program. Defying this, Mr Irfan Habib started speaking. He and the new President took almost an hour. Mr Irfan Habib in his speech made extremely aggressive attacks on the Central government policy on Kashmir and enactment of CAA.
When my turn came I said that inaugural sessions are normally formal and ceremonial occasions and these are not used to air controversies. But since these issues have been raised it is my duty to respond to them. I referred to Mahatma Gandhi and several other public figures and said used their quotes to show that CAA is nothing but an attempt to give legal shape to the promise that Mahatma Gandhi had made to the non-Muslims of Pakistan. At this stage Mr Irfan Habib charged towards me but could not reach me.
Mr Irfan Habib is alleged by people who say he distorts Indian history. Do you think it is time to expose all those who distorted the Indian history and correct their wrongs?
I am no scholar of History to comment on this. But I know from my Aligarh days that Mr Irfan Habib is very intolerant by his nature and he does not allow anyone to air a different view in his presence. Secondly, he is rude and ill-mannered to the core.
"Some people are self-appointed champions of community interests and ape Mohd Ali Jinnah to claim that they are the sole spokesman of the community. We should not give credence to their claims by accepting their idiom and terminology"
These are the same historians who vitiated the entire discussion on Ayodhya. You contradicted them. Do you think that they used this occasion to attack you personally?
I do not wish to comment on this question now but before I was appointed Governor, I had spoken enough on this issue.
Freedom of speech and expression has been the cornerstone of democracy. There is a thin line between free speech and protest opting for undemocratic methods. Do you think that line is being crossed?
Freedom of expression or right to dissent is the essence of democracy. But this is understood only by those who understand and appreciate democracy. But those who want to use democratic freedoms to destroy the democracy will always deny this right to others as it is evident from the behaviour of Mr Irfan Habib and his fellow travellers in Kannur. They indulge in unfair and misleading criticism but do not allow the response to be heard, and resort to high-handed and violent methods to suppress it. If Mr Irfan Habib does it in a forum of historians then what his adherents will do on the streets can only be surmised. This line is not being crossed, these people have always crossed this line because their political manifesto prescribes change or revolution through violent means.
Some people are blaming you for getting into politics and undermining the Constitutional position. What is your take on this?
Ihave made it clear that no amount of criticism is going to deter me from performing my duties which are defined by the Constitution. I have taken oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and Law and devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Kerala. A bill becomes a Law after it has been passed by Parliament and Hon. President has given his assent to it. In the light of the oath that I have taken and as representative of the President, I am duty-bound to defend the law if it is attacked in my presence. This is what I did at Kannur and if any such occasion arises in future, I shall do my duty and shall not be deterred by the criticism of those who have no idea about the duties of the Governor as prescribed by the Constitution.