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Stress on status quo in minority panel rejig

Calcutta, Sept. 25: Status quo with a few significant changes: that seems to be the state government’s game-plan for the West Bengal Minorities’ Commission, a statutory body that is assuming increasing significance because of the radical shifts — not always for the better — vis-à-vis the socio-religious scenario.

The most significant aspects of the reconstituted commission are not any of the changes, say officials. Much more important in the present context — the chain of events which have unfolded in Calcutta (the attack on the American Center on January 22), West Bengal (the influx of Bangladeshi Hindus) and the rest of the country (Godhra and the Gujarat riots) — are the decisions to continue with some of the old faces.

The most important retention is that of Justice (retd) K.M. Yusuf, chairman of the commission since September 1999. He is the first chairman to get a second straight three-year tenure, say officials, adding that his handling of the situation following chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s comments on the madarsa system was “appreciated” by the government.

A commission team went around the “sensitive” districts bordering Bangladesh that have the largest number of unrecognised madarsas and prepared a report that helped Bhattacharjee’s government tide over the crisis during which it received brickbats from an overwhelming section of the community that had voted for the Left Front.

The government has also decided to retain two old faces, Bilqis Begum and Ananda Pathak, former CPM MP from Darjeeling. Officials say the decision to retain Pathak was “important” because he is the only “official voice of the party” in the commission and can be counted upon to act as the party’s conduit in sticky situations.

The other full-time politicians in the panel, Gyan Singh Sohanpal and Motaher Hossain, belong to the Congress and their three-year tenure have not ended.

There have been two changes, one replacement induced by erstwhile vice-chairman A.B. Rabadi’s death and an addition that increases the strength of the commission to 13.

The addition is Mohammad Abdur Raquib, a former Kalyani University teacher, and N.F. Tankariwala becomes Rabadi’s replacement. Tankariwala is the first Parsi in the panel, say officials.

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