The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia strikes at Sangh via Kalam

New Delhi, Sept. 28: Sonia Gandhi has sought President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s help to get the Madhya Pradesh government to reverse its order allowing employees to participate in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s activities.

On August 27, the state’s BJP government had revoked a ban imposed in 1993 by the then chief minister, Congressman Digvijay Singh, banning employees from attending the Sangh’s shakhas (camps).

Sonia today wrote to Kalam saying it would not be in the nation’s interests to let government staff participate in the activities of an organisation that has a “long record of stoking religious prejudices, inflaming religious passions and polarising our society”.

“We firmly believe that this order... is illegal and violates both the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” the letter said.

The Congress president also argued that the order went against the principle that the country’s administrative machinery should be “independent and unbiased”.

Sonia mentioned a similar order issued in January 2000 by the Keshubhai Patel government in Gujarat and said she had immediately written to the then President, K.R. Narayanan. The letter told Kalam that Narayanan had taken the matter up with the Centre, and the state government was persuaded to withdraw its directive.

A 22-member Congress team, led by party treasurer Motilal Vora and Digvijay Singh, met Kalam with Sonia’s letter. Sources said Kalam described the matter as “interesting” and promised to look into it and “do whatever is necessary”.

The Congress expects Kalam to bring his moral authority to bear on the Madhya Pradesh government.

The BJP rejected Sonia’s arguments. Arun Jaitley said: “So far as the government rules go, affiliation to an organisation is restricted only when it is engaged in unlawful activity or is political in conduct.”

The decision to go on the offensive against the Madhya Pradesh order was taken by Sonia herself, sources said. Sonia felt it was the right time to “reaffirm the party’s secular credentials” after the criticism heaped on the Maharashtra government for alleged harassment of Muslims after the Mumbai train blasts.

Acting on the same principle, home minister Shivraj Patil has reportedly told Gujarat governor Nawal Kishore Sharma not to ink the amendment to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003. The amendment classifies Jainism and Buddhism as Hindu sects and says a person needn’t seek permission to convert from one sect to another within the same religion.

This means a Dalit will still be a Hindu if he converts to Buddhism. It also allows the Sangh parivar affiliates to convert Buddhists to Hinduism without trouble while continuing to resist conversion of Hindus to Christianity.

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