Yashwant Sinha: No one trusts this govt which is trying to humiliate Muslims by excluding them

Yashwant Sinha accuses the government of imposing an undeclared Emergency to crush peaceful protests against CAA-NPR-NRC, with the communal motive to divide the country

Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha (PTI)
Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha (PTI)

Annapurna Jha

Now on a journey against CAA-NPR-NRC, that started in Mumbai on January 9 from the spot where Mahatma Gandhi had landed on his return from South Africa, and which will culminate at Raj Ghat on January 30, the anniversary of Gandhiji’s assassination, the 82-year old Yashwant Sinha spoke to ANNAPURNA JHA on a range of issues.

Sinha accuses the government of imposing an undeclared Emergency to crush peaceful protests against CAA-NPR-NRC, with the communal motive to divide the country. “Today I am an old man of 82 years. However, for me the journey never ends!” he exclaims.

Excerpts from the interview:

Why are you opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019?

Because it is divisive and flawed. It is almost impossible for anyone to prove religious persecution for 10, 20 or 50 years. I can still understand theurge to accommodate illegal migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh because they were once part of India. But why Afghanistan? And why notminorities from Saudi Arabia and Iran? Why not Tamils from Sri Lanka, Buddhists from Tibet and Rohingyas from Myanmar?

But the government claims it has only made a slight amendment in the Act of 1955 and reduced the requirement of stay in this country by illegal migrants from 11 years to five?

This government’s credibility is low, and it is misleading the people. It is blaming the Congress for NPR and NRC but then both were mooted by the NDA government in 2003.

You were a part of the NDA government then. Why are you opposing it now?

Four changes have taken place since 2003. Nobody suspected the intentions of either Vajpayee Ji or of Dr Manmohan Singh. But nobody trusts thisgovernment. Secondly, Aadhaar has substantially changed the situation since 2003. Then NRC was implemented in Assam and then disowned by thegovernment. And finally, CAA was pushed through Parliament after excluding Muslims from the purview, a deliberate humiliation of a significant part ofour population.

Why do you think the government has gone into this adventure?

This government knows only three words — Hindu, Musalman and Pakistan, which form its policy matrix, and all its utterances and actions revolve around them. The government’s core belief is that if you are able to divide the society on communal lines, then it would result in electoral gains by consolidation of Hindutva forces.

What kind of a Budget do you anticipate this year?

The Budget has lost all meaning after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismantled her own Budget of July 5. Budgets deal with taxation but the government has been busy changing GST, corporate tax, etc. through ordinances which has never happened before. The Budget also doesn’t have much meaning as data have been manipulated day in and day out. Budget is also being manipulated. It shows fiscal deficit as 3 to 3.5 per cent while in reality it is 6 per cent to 6.5 per cent.Obviously, I don’t have much expectation from the coming Budget. Every government has legacy issues but one is supposed to deal with them and move forward.

However, this government has just indulged in sloganeering. Not even a single letter of the English alphabet has been left out in which they have not introduced some programme or the other. It also wasted opportunities provided by globally moderate crude oil prices.The main reason for the downturn in the economy is the “death of demand”. So, production and investments are not happening. It has become a vicious cycle. We are witnessing the cumulative effect of silly steps like Demonetisation, botched up GST and neglect of agriculture.

How do you view the situation in Kashmir, after the government is portraying abolition of Article 370 as a major achievement?

Even before August 5, people in the Valley were alienated. Now these three steps—abolition of Article 370 and Article 35(A) and bifurcation and downgrading of the state into two Union Territories have hurt the sentiments of the Kashmiri people as nothing before. However, they are wisely exercising strategic restraint. The credit for peace in Kashmir goes not to the government, but to the people of Kashmir who have decided to bide their time and not indulge in violent protests. What is clear is that the government has destroyed the middle ground in Kashmir.

Since most political leaders are still in detention in Kashmir, how do you view it would impact the situation in the long term?

Political leaders, who have been detained by the government, have been friends of India. When Atalji was the Prime Minister, Omar Abdullah was theChief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and under Modi/Shah regime, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti were CMs. If they were such undesirable people, then why did the BJP enter into a coalition with them? The entire Kashmir exercise was undertaken by the government to consolidate Hindu votes before Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra Assembly elections. However, it’s a tribute to the judgment of the people that they have shown through ballot that they could not be taken for a ride by such divisive steps.

In the past you have criticised the government with destroying institutions. Do you think the situation has changed?

Every institution has been actually destroyed by this government. The Cabinet system doesn’t exist, Parliament’s authority has been reduced,Election Commission, Reserve Bank of India and SEBI are being stripped of their independence. Media has been manipulated and even the judiciary has been under attack.

So, where does the citizen go? In Kashmir, human rights are being grossly violated but there is no forum to get justice. Recently so much violence was unleashed on people protesting against CAA and NRC in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Only the government’s point of view prevails here and citizens have no recourse. And because you are destroying the institutions of democracy, you are destroying democracy itself.

Serious doubts have been expressed about the EVMs but the Election Commission is deaf to the complaints. The BJP is losing state elections intentionally so that they could cite it as an example of the machine’s neutrality before tampering EVMs in the general election. They are only interested in capturing and retaining power at the Centre. We had approached the Election Commission on EVM tampering, but the EC refused to give us an EVM to prove that it can be interfered with. It put the onus on us to prove it. We don’t have EVMs, so the matter has remained unresolved.

You called Narendra Modi and Amit Shah Duryodhan and Dusshashan. Several people said they were disappointed at such name calling by you. Do you regret the name-calling?

I have been interested in the Mahabharata and its characters. As you know Pandavas were five brothers and most people will tell you the names of all five of them, namely Yudhishthir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul and Sahdeva. Kauravas were a hundred brothers but ask anyone and apart from Duryodhanaand Dusshashan, nobody can recall the name of any other brother. Apart from Modi and Shah, there is no third leader in the BJP, so my description is apt, I believe.

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