Sushil Kumar Shinde has an odd knack of compounding errors each time he tries to take his work as the Union home minister seriously. This time he has written to chief ministers, asking them to ensure that Muslim youths are not wrongfully detained. In doing so, Mr Shinde has almost given it in writing that the states of India’s federation do indeed follow a discriminatory policy in matters of detention, and that too without allowing any chance for the states to deny their complicity. That has obviously got him the goat of several state administrations, particularly those under the dispensation of rival parties. But what has provoked the Opposition to scream murder again at him is not his woeful lack of consideration for sentiments, but his complete lack of fairness as a public representative and a member of the government. How can Mr Shinde ask for special treatment for only Muslim youths? Of course he cannot. Each and every citizen of this country is equal before the eyes of the law. If there is a flaw in the policy of detention, any attempt to redress it should take into account the plight of all victims of its misapplication, not merely those belonging to a particular religious community. By trying to make a special case for Muslim youths — an effort that might not be entirely unrelated to the Congress’s attempt to position itself before the minority vote-bank prior to the 2014 general elections in the light of the steadily deteriorating communal situation in the country — Mr Shinde has accorded the Hindu Right another stick to beat his government with for its policy of appeasement.
The communists have promptly come to Mr Shinde’s defence, citing the lopsided treatment meted out to India’s minority community each time there is a terror attack in the country. The case is inarguable. The enormous numbers of Muslim under-trial prisoners and the steadily growing evidence that youths of the minority community have been detained and tortured for no fault of theirs show that not everything is right with the way justice is dispensed in this country. Sometimes their poverty, and sometimes deep-set beliefs and fears of the law-enforcers, make particular sections of the people easy targets when the country begins asking for prompt action from the administration. This means that the system has to be set right so that everyone, including the easily targeted Muslims, gets justice.