Published: 30th January 2018
Beef Ban is not a Hindu-Muslim issue at all: Urdu Univ chancellor Zafar Sareshwala
Sareshwala says that Urdu is wrongly considered to be an Islamic language just like beef is assumed to be a meat largely consumed by Muslims
Zafar Sareshwala has always been a hardcore businessman and his appointment as the Vice-Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University was criticised by many Muslim groups who claimed that he had been given the position because of his support for Prime Minister Modi. But here, he talks about all the issues that have risen in the last three years with regard to Muslims and the current ruling government.
What do you think about the government's view of removing the minority tag from institutions?
Take Benaras Hindu University- what is so Hindu about it? Or take Aliharg Muslim University-what is so Muslim about it? The name of an institution doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the academic standards of the University.
There is still a back and forth on the triple talaq issue, what do you think about the whole controversy?
I think the decision is a blessing in disguise. A lot of Muslims were unaware of the fact that giving talaq over WhatsApp and other such means is completely un-Islamic. Many don't know that at the time of the Nikah, a contract is made between the husband and wife and any conditions can be put into that contract- the wife can also demand that she would have the option of giving talaq instead of the man. To that extent, both parties have the power. So these days, Imams are putting this into the contract- they are forbidding talaq over WhatsApp and other unreasonable ways.
Is the government's decision to take away the Haj subsidy going to impact the Muslim population?
I have always believed that the Haj expenses are my religious obligation so I don't want a subsidy. Instead, the money can be used to build schools in Muslim dominated areas and increase access to Muslim female children.
Making a point: The Chancellor speaking at the ThinkEdu Conclave earlier this month
Cases of lynching are on the rise because of the beef ban. Do you think the government is doing enough to stop it?
Modi has made a clear distinction between gau bhakts and cow vigilante. There are criminal elements who are 'so-called' vigilante, but it's all about the money. The perpetrators of the crime should be given exemplary punishment. But people are confusing cow and buffalo and it's sad that it is becoming a Hindu-Muslim issue. See, hide is used by tanneries which are owned by non-Muslims, the bones are used for gelatine, which again are companies mostly owned by non-Muslims. For Muslims, eating beef is not a virtue and beef is mostly consumed by non-Muslims. So it is dangerous to make it a Hindu-Muslim issue.
So the beef ban is clearing affecting a section of the population regardless of whether they are Muslims or not, so do you think the ban was really necessary?
The sentiment of the people should be protected but there should be a balance in the way that the issue is handled. I've read the Babarnam, where Babar tells Humayun that if he wants to rule a country he must protect the religious sentiments of the people, so they never slaughtered cows. It only started after the British came. But we also have to have a system to take care of questions like what happens to dead cows or what a farmer with an old cow would do? Need to find a balance.
What do you think about the student unrest in Universities and the government's hastiness to brand them as anti-national?
I've been a student myself and now a Vice-Chancellor, there is unrest in my campus too. We need student politics but it should not come at the cost of academics. Political parties sometimes use and misuse the youth and the students are not mature enough to realise it. Branding will be there, anti-national or national, but we need to have some kind of balance, students can't forget about their academic.
Can you tell us a little about your university and the state of Urdu in our country today?
People think that Urdu is the language of a religion but it is a rich Indian language. A language derived from Indian languages, it has got nothing to do with Muslims and it is also majority spoken by non-Muslims. Under this government's tenure, a lot of contribution has been made towards enriching the language- a lot of courses have been recognised this year, we opened up polytechnics and schools, we have campus recruitment. We also had a convocation this year for the first time in four years and we gave off honourary degrees to Shah Rukh Khan and Sanjeev Saraf, who again is a non-Muslim but has made some of the biggest contributions to Urdu. It was great to have Shah Rukh interact with students. Besides that we have a lot of initiatives especially to do with entrepreneurship, we have a triple-A NAAC rating and also opened up a UPSC training academy.