Mumbai: Mohammad Arif Naseem Khan is the Muslim face of the Congress party. He was Minister of Awkaf & Minority Department, and also Minister of Textiles in the last government. He claims to have replaced former Chief Minister Abdur Rehman Antulay by himself as the 'sole' and 'undisputed' leader of the entire Muslim community in Maharashtra.
In government and private advertisements, he makes tall claims and shows a long list of 'achievements' during his five-year tenure as minister. To sum it up, he claims his ministry is responsible for the socio-economic and educational empowerment of the Muslim community in Maharashtra.
A close look at these claims, however, reveals a contrasting picture.
In 2008, the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) had sent proposals to five states of the country including Maharashtra with requests to provide land for its off campus centre. On November 23, 2009 a delegation led by Noble Education & Welfare Society (NEWS) Chairman Aleem Faizee met Arif Naseem Khan on the sidelines of a function part of the National Minorities Welfare Week and wanted to know from him the status of the AMU proposal.
To their shock, Arif Naseem Khan was totally unaware of the proposal. More shocking for them was the fact that he was not interested in discussing the important project on which work was already started in Kerala and West Bengal. After persuasion, he agreed to discuss the project, and after twenty minute meeting, half-heartedly promised to work on the project.
On the same day, the delegation met Arif Naseem Khan's junior minister Fauzia Khan in her chamber. She was generous enough to spare about two hours to discuss the possibilities of making this project a success.
The delegation had said in clear terms: They neither have any intention nor have land to establish the AMU off campus centre in Malegaon. They just wanted this centre to come at any place in the state.
Later follow ups with Arif Naseem Khan and Fauzia Khan had just one reply: The government does not have land as required by the AMU.
At one instant, Arif Naseem Khan even said: Maharashtra is not (like) West Bengal or Bihar. When it is difficult to acquire 02 acres of land for Urdu Ghar, how can we give 250 acres of land to AMU? Forget this project.
Meanwhile Noble Education & Welfare Society (NEWS) learnt from then Nashik District Magistrate S. Chokalingham that there was a land admeasuring 900 acres in Malegaon which belongs to the government, and part of this land can be used for the AMU off campus centre.
After a tireless effort of more than a year, NEWS succeeded in getting the requisite sanction and clearances from respective departments. Finally in June 2011, the Higher & Technical Education Department, Govt of Maharashtra approved this land and sent a letter to the AMU asking the university to send a team for inspection.
About a month later, the ministry of minority department headed by Arif Naseem Khan in a letter signed by Fauzia Khan sent to the AMU said a land is available in Aurangabad, and the university should consider this land for the purpose.
The NEWS says it was a deliberate attempt to make controversial a project which was supposedly in its final stages. It also claims that some documents available with the organisation shows that Fauzia Khan's claim was misleading, and the land she was offering to the AMU did not belong to the government.
On October 26, 2011, an AMU team led by its Vice Chancellor PK Abdul Azis visited Malegaon and Aurangabad both the places. But, the coordination of the state government, especially of Fauzia Khan, who was personally present in Aurangabad on the day, with the team was so poor and misleading that the AMU could not take any decision till date.
The NEWS claims that Fauzia Khan and Arif Naseem Khan deliberately confused the AMU team so as to stop the university from establishing the centre in Malegaon.
This is just one example to show how Arif Naseem Khan, who claims to be behind the 'Socio-Economic and Educational Empowerment' of the Muslims in Maharashtra, blocked such an important project.
In fact, the NEWS claims, most of the work Arif Naseem Khan claims to have done, are foundation stones and hardly any of the projects sanctioned by his ministry is complete. In 2010, his ministry had issued advertisements calling for letter of interest from minority institutions to establish polytechnic and ITI in Muslim dominated cities. Over a dozen proposals were sent from Malegaon, Bhiwandi and other Muslim dominated cities. None of these proposals have so far got the government approval.
Arif Naseem Khan did the same thing to the association of BUMS doctors. The BUMS doctors were demanding job guarantee for them in government hospitals – a demand which had clear approval from the central government, and was also in practice in other states.
As minister of textiles, Arif Naseem Khan's performance is even more dismal. He formulated the textile policy of the state, and gave away permission to establish a textile park under the SITP scheme to Congress leader Amrish Patel. Patel, ignoring Bhiwandi and Malegaon – the two Muslim dominated cities that together have more than 50% of the total powerlooms of the country, established the textile park in Narana/Sheerpur.
Besides, Arif Naseem Khan is also accused of mocking the kin and wives of the Malegaon blast accused, who went to meet him when the accused were on hunger strike in jail.
The NEWS says, it did not have any objection if, like his predecessors, Arif Naseem Khan had not done anything. But here, he deliberately blocked a project which had all the potential to empower the Muslim community, and never shown the needed sincere interest in resolving the issues and demands important to the community.
Against this backdrop it is clear that his entire tenure as minister was no more than a show-off, and he was a mere show-boy of the Congress party. Does the community need such a person again in the Maharashtra assembly? Certainly not!
[Hena Farhat is Special Correspondent of ummid.com. She lives in Chandiwali, the area from where Arif Naseem Khan is contesting the 2014 assembly election as Congress candidate.]