A BJP parliamentarian, Harnath Singh Yadav, has told The Telegraph he plans to raise in the Rajya Sabha a demand for the removal of Islamic Studies as
a subject from the Union Public Service Commission exam.
His decision coincides with a pro-Hindutva campaign against the purportedly rising number of Muslims clearing the civil services exam, although the MP
denied any such link.
He, however, insisted that Islamic Studies — which covers the history of the rise and spread of Islam as well as Islam’s contributions to science, philosophy, art and architecture, among other things — shouldn’t be part of exams to select future civil servants and police officers.
“I have strong objections against Islamic Studies being part of the UPSC,” the Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh said.
Asked why, he cited platitudes usually heard in Right-wing echo chambers and suggested “incompatibility” with “Indian culture”.
The MP added: “I shall gather more information on the subject and raise it during the upcoming session of Parliament and demand its removal (from the UPSC exam).”
Parliament is expected to be convened in mid-September.
Harnath’s comments come against the backdrop of a controversy over a television channel chief posting a teaser for a news programme on the “infiltration” of the civil services by Muslims, which he labelled “UPSC jihad” and “bureaucracy jihad”.
Several IAS officers and the IPS Association have expressed outrage at Sudarshan News editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke and demanded action against him for the “communal” teaser.
Chavhanke is followed on Twitter by many key BJP leaders. The channel is widely perceived as peddling blatantly communal campaigns that BJP members cannot raise directly, with the objectives of testing the waters and influencing public opinion.
Harnath’s name had figured in one of Chavhanke’s tweets in which he claimed the parliamentarian had agreed to raise the subject of “UPSC jihad” in the Upper House.
The MP acknowledged having spoken to Chavhanke recently but denied he had anything to do with the “UPSC jihad” or “bureaucracy jihad” posts.
“My issue is limited to demanding the removal of Islamic Studies from the UPSC and I will do it,” he said.
Harnath denied any bias against Muslims and underlined that he had consistently been raising issues related to the UPSC exam in the Rajya Sabha.
“I have been demanding that the UPSC papers be prepared primarily in Hindi and the regional languages. They shouldn’t be translated from English,” he said.
Harnath said the quality of the translation tended to be poor and handicapped rural students who chose to read and answer the questions in Hindi or the regional languages.
Officially, the BJP has refrained from commenting on the Sudarshan TV controversy.
Several retired and serving civil servants have condemned the campaign and demanded action.
“A news story targeting candidates in civil services on the basis of religion is being promoted by Sudarshan TV. We condemn the communal and irresponsible piece of journalism,” the IPS Association tweeted.
A post from retired IPS officer N.C. Asthana said: “By casting doubts on the integrity and impartiality of a constitutional body like the UPSC in selection of officers for All-India Services, he is spreading disaffection for the constitutional scheme of governance.”
Serving IPS officer Niharika Bhatt has castigated the “despicable attempt at hate mongering” and demanded the use of “the strictest legal provisions” against the campaign.
“Why don’t police arrest him and why SC or HCs or minorities commission or UPSC don’t take suo motu cognisance now?” tweeted IAS officer Prabhjot Singh.
Some Twitter users have demanded that the social media platform suspend Chavhanke’s account.
An official from a government coaching centre for the UPSC exam said the results of the 2019 exam, announced a fortnight ago, showed that Muslims accounted for only 5 per cent of the successful candidates, up from 4.5 per cent last year.