Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

Sachar Committee Diary

Syed Zafar Mahmood, OSD to the Sachar panel, on the study that changed India's perceptions, and the man behind it who believed in God, justice and humanity.

Sachar Committee Diary Sachar Committee Diary

Unpopular Frontier Tales

It was 2005-06. I recall the scene clearly: it was I who’d asked that young IPS officer to tell us how they identified a “foreigner”. God must have put a curtain over his wisdom (to translate literally from the Urdu!) for he seemed to forget who he was talking to. One man in particular. Well past 80 then, but in the middle of a project that was, in scope and intent, perhaps one of the biggest of his life. One he would be known for, and to which his name would be given...Justice Rajindar Sachar. Along with Sachar sahib, who passed away last week, there were Sayyid Hamid, Abusaleh Sharrif and me. We were surveying India’s social reality, no less, in particular the socio-economic status of its Muslims, for what would become the Sachar Committee ­report. This was Assam, hence the “foreigner” question. To this curious bunch of surveyors, that young IPS officer blurted out the unspoken rule, “Lungi, daadi aur topi”. In short, if you’re Muslim, you’re a foreigner. It was exactly as people had told us. Other policemen jumped to their feet, going red in the face trying to deny it. Sachar sahib lost his cool at this point, but what could he do? We were in search of reality, and it stared us in the face everywhere.

Mind is the Beacon