In a major development, Arif Mohammad Khan, a well known critic of fundamentalism has reportedly been appointed as the Governor of the state of Kerala. Arif Mohammad Khan, a former cabinet minister, had come to limelight after he resigned following the overturning of the Shah Bano judgment in 1986 by the Rajiv Gandhi government. In the recent past, he has been often seen as a vocal leader speaking in support of reforms among Muslims. He has also spoken in support of Modi government’s initiative to ban triple talaq. A bill was recently passed banning instant triple talaq and punishing those still resorting to the banned practice. Khan had also supported Modi government’s recent move to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
After President Ram Nath Kovind appointed him as the next Governor of Kerala, Khan said, “It’s an opportunity to serve. I am fortunate to be born in a country like India which is so vast and rich in diversity. It is a great opportunity for me to know this part of India, which forms the boundary of India and is called god’s own country.” He also said, “It doesn’t matter if the state is in alignment or not with the Central government, I hold a Constitutional post and I’ll serve my duties towards the people of Kerala.”
Khan is a well known social reformer and his appointment as the Governor of Kerala is seen as a master stroke. It is important to note that Kerala is the very state where radicalisation among the Muslims is very much at its peak. Kerala has undergone rapid Islamization recently, with ISIS and conversion factories running at will.
In the recent past, Arif Mohammad Khan has spoken against politicisation of Muslims in India and the divisive brand of politicis that has been endorsed for decades by the Congress and pseudo-seculars. In a recent interview with Karan Thapar, a journalist known for his anti-Modi prejudices, Arif Mohd Khan made an excellent remark which exposed the faultlines in the ideology of analysing the religion of the elected legislators. He wondered that when he was an MP, was he representing a particular community or the constituency as a whole.
On being asked by Karan Thapar about whether he is worried about the fact that the Modi government does not have a single Muslim Member of Parliament and it did not field a single Muslim contestant in a state like Uttar Pradesh, Khan had replied, “I don’t worry…where the question of worry comes (from). Basically, our problem is, we have got rid of the colonial rule but we have not got rid of colonial mindset.” He had added that the British had put it in our minds through several measures that only a Muslim could represent Muslims, only a person coming from a particular community could represent that community.
In yet another interview, he was asked whether triple talaq bill was a political move by the BJP to woo a section of the minority, he had diligently explained the logic behind the government’s move and also exposed the inherent discrimination in the cruel practice. “Triple Talaq is an enormity which violates the Quran and our sensibilities. Even after the Supreme Court declared it to be unlawful, more than 100 cases of Triple Talaq were reported in three months. The members of the Personal Law Board openly declared that despite the judgment, the practice shall continue — now since the Modi government has promulgated a law through an ordinance making the practice a punishable offense, not a single case of Triple Talaq has been reported.”
In other media appearances also, he has effectively articulated the cause of progressive Islam. He has shown tireless commitment towards the cause of reform within Muslims. At such a time, his appointment as the Kerala Governor carries a lot of significance.
Over the past few years, there have been several reports about Kerala youth joining the Islamic State. As per a 2017 India Today report, over 100 people from Kerala had joined ISIS over the past few years. There have also been several other cases which point towards growing fundamentalism and radicalism in LDF-ruled state. The rise of Popular Front of India (PFI), an Islamic radical organisation operating out of Kerala and having alleged links with the Islamic State has also reinforced the fears of growing Islamic radicalism within the state of Kerala. Its name has figured in several incidents of extreme violence exposing its obnoxious and extremist ideology.
Kerala has also witnessed cases of Love Jihad, the most famous being the Akhila/Hadiya case, and conversion of girls. According to reports, about ten thousand girls have been converted into Islam during the last 10 years.
Appointment of Governor of a State generally tends to be seen as something of mere symbolic value. However, the post of a Governor is something certainly more than something merely symbolic. The post of a Governor is a constitutional post and does carry a lot of importance. In fact, it is believed that a Governor of a State has greater discretionary powers vis-a-vis the President of India. The Governor performs the dual role of the head of the State government and representative of the centre in the state. He also has the prima facie discretion in deciding whether a piece of legislation proposed by the state is violative of the Constitution.
A Hindu expressing his view about much needed reform among the Muslim community has always been seen through the lens of suspicion, however, the scenario completely changes if the person happens to be a Muslim himself. As such the appointment of Arif Mohammad Khan ought to be seen as a significant move that can leave some sort of an influence upon the state of Kerala. While Kerala has been battling the rise of radical Islamism, Arif Mohammad Khan has emerged as a staunch supporter of reform within Muslims and a big critic of Islamic fundamentalism. Moreover, Arif Mohammad Khan’s eloquent personality can can be expected to bring about the kind of positive narrative that the state of Kerala badly needs in the present circumstances.